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Old 10-14-2009, 12:00 PM   #1
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1920's Interior Door Refinish

My home was built in 1926. The interior doors are solid painted wood.

I am contemplating stripping the paint off of the doors and refinishing the hardwood for a more antique look.

Has anybody done this, and how did it work out? If I did the doors, would I have to do the trim as well to make it look right? What type of wood are my doors most likely made of?



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Old 10-14-2009, 01:13 PM   #2
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This is not that hard a project, just a bit tedious. Remove the doors, lay them flat on sawhorses above newspaper, apply paint stripper. Let it sit; the paint will bubble up. Strip it off, ideally with a plastic lifting tool so as not to gouge the wood. You'll likely have to do multiple treatments to get all the paint off. It's a messy job but the stuff works. Work in a well-ventilated area. I find the Citristrip product (orange) works well and doesn't smell as horrible as some other strippers, but some of those others are more aggressive and might need fewer treatments. Up to you. Make sure you get the paint out of any narrow grooves or other detail; you might have to experiment with different tools to do this. After it's all off, afterwash (sold alongside the paint strippers) and lots of disposable rags will remove the residue. Use chemical-resistant gloves during all of this.

After that, thoroughly clean your work area and apply your stain according to the directions specific to whatever product you choose. Impossible to guess what species of wood you might have.


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Old 10-14-2009, 02:06 PM   #3
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I work a lot on antique homes and the first thing I would encourage you to do is determine what kind of doors you have. There was a trend for awhile to paint over nice hardwood and if this is the situation you have you are in luck and your stripping efforts should pay off nicely. I have come across some gorgeous old oak pocket doors and staircases that were painted over, for example. You may be able to strip the doors just with sharp scraping tools depending on how much paint is caked on. If you are really lucky there will be a nice coat of original varnish to which the paint never stuck that well. Taking them off will make them easier to work with.

If you find that your doors are some sort of softer wood like pine or other conifer and that they were always painted, you are likely to be disappointed with your stripping and refinishing project if your goal is to return them to natural wood and stain them. You will never get them to look decent---at least from my experience. You might still want to strip them to get their details back if they have layers of paint but don't be hopeful as far as having a natural wood look.

You don't have to do so but especially if you find you have nice hardwood, I would strip or scrape the door trim too.

Do consider redoing the door hardware when you do the doors especially if the hinges and knobs are vintage. You can get them sandblasted and even plated for not a whole lot of money. Here is one company I have used for this but there are certainly folks around you that would offer similar services.


Do be careful with paint strippers and use with adequate ventilation. The older types are explosive and the vapors are heavier than air so travel along floors toward pilot lights and such things. The newer paste and gel types work well and are safer.

Last edited by user1007; 10-14-2009 at 02:12 PM.
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Old 10-14-2009, 07:56 PM   #4
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I'm going to remember that plater!!
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Old 10-15-2009, 06:57 AM   #5
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Keep in mind that any coating that old could very well contain lead. Protect yourself from any dust producing process like scraping or sanding.
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