Exterior Door Re-Finishing In Place

Is it possible (or advisable) to re-coat a wood entry door on site? January 18, 2011

I have been trying to narrow down the best option for recoat/refinish of a couple of solid oak entry doors for a customer. This is not something we normally do, but this is a very good customer.

The pair of entry doors is in the main entrance to the facility. The finish has started to degrade at the bottom of the doors. We do not have the option to remove the doors to the shop for multi-day finishing. I can only assume 2-3 coats of oil based poly or spar varnish was applied when the building was constructed, and some of it will likely remain in the profiles (raised panel).

I have been looking for a finish that will allow us to complete these doors in a day or at least allow for reinstallation at the end of a day to secure the building overnight. Been looking at MLC EuroX, General Finishes Exterior 450, Target EM9300, etc.

I am leaning towards the Target or General although I am not confident about the life of these products. Bonus is these doors are northwest facing and are under a covered vestibule, so sun exposure is about as minimal as it can be.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor D:
You can strip, sand, and stain the doors in about 6 to 8 hours. Strip doors by hand, let dry two hours, then sand, stain. The stain you need to use is call Sikkens. It comes in different colors. Put the doors back up and the next day you can put on the finish coat, using Sikken clear finish. It works very well. That's what I use if I can't take the door to my shop.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I looked at Cetol (I am assuming that is the Sikkens product you are speaking of). In the application sheet it says not to run Cetol over other finishes. This concerned me because I likely will never get the profiles to bare wood, as I hadn't planned on a chemical strip. I was hoping to get away with a sand/recoat even though it's likely the rails and stiles will have to come down to bare wood. Also, the application sheet states three coats with a 24 hour dry time between coats. This was my main issue in that I was hoping to find either a waterborne or post cat finish that would allow me 1-3 hours between sand/recoat.

I was just hoping for this to be a two day process. One day to sand and perhaps first coat, then second day is coats two and three (or all three if I don't get to a first coat on day one).

I think I have ruled out MLC EuroX as it has a pretty long window between coats. It goes without saying that the better, longer lasting finishes are all that way, so I guess I will have to make a decision between GF Exterior 450/Target EM9300 or something like the Sikkens.

From contributor M:
Door recoating 101: Only recoat if you were the one that put on the finish in the first place! If you charge the customer for a recoat (about 2/3 less than a refinish) and you get a reaction or a bonding problem, you just gave away a refinish job because that is what you are going to do to fix the problem. Even if I did the finish originally and the finish has breached (peel or iron oxide damage), it will get a refinish job. I would far rather recolor and recoat. The profit margin is far better than a refinish or even doing the unit originally.

We never take double doors off the hook since the frame and casings are normally finished also. Masking, stripping and sanding/oxalic/final sand takes two days. Homoclad stain takes a day to cure. Iso takes two days to get 6 coats on, but so will your waterborne.

I just finished my gates, garage doors, eave vents and corbels with Cetol 250 then Door/Window and it looks great for construction grade fir. Would I refinish my oak entry or a customer's 8' double Honduras mahogany unit with Cetol? No. As great durability as the product has, it is not fine furniture grade material. There is no room for error. Even if you get it to look payable, six months out in the sun and it could cost you your reputation.

From contributor L:
I have had good luck with the EM9300. I find it pretty durable. I have a door in a protected area like you have and it is going on 3 years and it still looks very good. The door is fully exposed to the air and is situated about 3' in from the exterior of the home. So it gets some sun, but doesn't get the full brunt of the rain and snow.

From contributor N:
You can also check out Bristol Finish, which is a two part marine grade acrylic urethane. We've done a number of exterior doors with it, and it has held up very well (here in the Northeast).

From contributor A:
I use the 450. Here is the finished product:

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