Stripping Garage and Entry Doors

Advice on tackling a big architectural stripping and re-finishing job. July 14, 2010

I have a client that bought a foreclosure. They have 3 garage doors and 5 mahogany entry doors that were finished incorrectly not once, but twice! So there are several coats of incompatible finish and they are flaking like crazy.

They want to look into stripping and refinishing. I am not really set up to do on site work and I don't do stripping often. Are there companies out there that strip large pieces like this on a routine and efficient basis? I am in the Atlanta area.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor C:
You should be able to find a furniture strip shop in that area that can strip these items for you if you bring them in. Make sure that they are stripped in a flow over type stripping system and not dip stripped. Dip stripping doors could damage them depending on the materials that they are made with. Some doors are not solid wood like advertised.

From contributor D:
If you decide to strip these pieces yourself, don't mess around with the non-toxic soy and citrus based stripping chemicals; use the tried and true methylene chloride strippers that will cut through the finish in minutes and not hours. Hood and Besco make many to choose from. It's not as difficult as many would have you think.

From the original questioner:
Thanks. I am a bit overwhelmed by the thought of doing it myself. I have done good work for these folks and I am in very good standing. I would hate to mess it up with a crappy or slow refinishing job. I really don't even know the best steps to do something like that. The panels, rails and stiles are easy, but what about V grooves in the panels and the profiles of the panel and rails/stiles. What's the best way to get the stripper sludge out of there? Wire brush attachment on drill? Should I scrape the pieces first?

On top of that, all of my finishing is done in a large booth with an airless Kremlin. I don't finish on site at all. Would I rent a sprayer and spray the doors on site or is brushing the way to go? Ugg... I don't know if I want this.

From contributor M:
I recently had a customer request a refinish on exterior mahogany doors. They liked our other work and didn't trust this project to the painters. We don't do onsite finishing either, so we made arrangements to bring the doors to our shop. Stripped them, applied the new stain, sealed the doors and then put on the first coats of the finish. We applied (brushed) 2 final coats after the doors had been installed. We covered the door openings with fitted sheets of plywood until we could rehang the doors. The fake doors were ugly, so we did not pick up the real doors until we knew we could get them done ASAP (1 week). Maybe you could split the job, do the doors separate, then do the garage doors after the other is completed. Be honest with the customer. I told mine this was not my usual type of work and they were more than willing to work with me. It worked out really well for everyone. I made a nice profit and learned something new, and the customer is happy with the result.

From contributor R:
You can take a Kremlin on the job site. We rarely do anymore, but we have ours mounted to a board so we can pull the board off the booth, temporarily fasten it to a dolly and spray away.

I try to avoid the stripping-refinishing scene as well, so I understand where you're coming from; however, I think you'll most likely find the customer to react as contributor M's has; I know mine almost, if not always, do.

As far as the new finish, I don't have years of history to back this up, but I would strongly consider the Cetol Sikkens Door & Window. I've used a certain brand's exterior 2K poly, but it didn't hold up and it's expensive. The cheaper exteriors don't hold up. I have had good success with Waterlox Marine, but I don't like the looks of it. The Cetol so far is holding up as long as the others and supposedly is easy to rejuvenate.

From contributor K:
Stripping garage doors by hand will not be a gratifying experience. Nor will it be well done. There will be a number of shops in the Atlanta area who will strip it all for you. Use their expertise.

A strip tank versus a flow-over system is not an issue. Either one is just a method for getting the stripper on the piece quickly. The pieces do not soak in the tank, they are dipped in and out.

Like contributor M, I created a plywood barrier to put in place of the doors while they were being processed. The barrier was constructed in such a way that it could not be removed from the outside.