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How to Finish and Seal a Front Entry Door

Wednesday July 17th, 2019

Sealing the Deal

There is nothing quite like a real, solid wood front entry door. There is something that we consider as deep and meaningful about the relationship that has existed since the beginning of time between mankind and the tree. Forever a resource that has provided shelter, heated humankind, and served as a tool for the advancement of the human race. Through it all, the tree has offered a natural character and soul and all the while offers an undeniable function, while shining through with beauty and art.

That said, when choosing a solid wood front entry door, it is critical to accept the fact that along with its inspiring natural characteristics and charm, comes some considerations for proper care. If you care for it, the wood door will serve far better than any other on multiple levels.

The Composition of Real Wood

So, how do you care for a solid wood front entry door? It’s all about the seal. Wood is a porous surface and the fibers in wood are designed to absorb and release moisture. This is not a good thing to have happening once the tree has been milled into lumber. As moisture releases and is absorbed into the wood, the grain acts like joints and moves as outer fibers absorb moisture and inner fibers remain the same. Swelling occurs and sends a shockwave as it were through the wood until the air from the outside dries behind the wave of moisture and reverses the swelling and contracting action. This is actually a really cool trait in wood. However, when talking front entry doors, you want to have a good seal all the way around the door slab against your stop and weatherstripping. This is what will keep your home climate controlled.

Steps to Properly Seal a Door

Sealing your door is easy. There are a few options of what type of product to use to seal the wood as well as a few options for what type of applicator to use. Here are some simple steps to follow to seal the deal with your solid wood front entry door:

1. Prep

You need to make certain that you do not wait very long to seal your door. This is actually a simple thing, but can cause some of the greatest issues. The longer your door remains unfinished, the higher the chance it will have to absorb moisture or to dry out. Either is equally bad. Temperature and humidity will dramatically effect the door when unfinished. So if you have the door staged in the garage in the middle of summer when it gets really hot during the day and then cools off at night, there is a high risk of the door warping, bowing, checking, cracking, etc. So, it is best to have a climate controlled area to store the door while you are waiting to finish it. You will want to make sure to "finish sand" (which means you have sanded the door down nice and evenly) the entire door with a minimum of 120 grit sand paper. You need to look very closely at the wood grain to insure that there are no swirling marks from a heavier grit sand paper or linear marks from a belt sander. These will stand out a lot more once you apply a stain and or a clear coat. Once you’ve sanded it then blow it off with compressed air or wipe with a clean rag. If you leave any saw dust, it will contaminate the product you apply and cause a rough finish.

2. Color

You may choose to apply a color with a stain before you apply a final clear coat over the door. The best way to apply a stain is with a rag. Make sure to wear a latex glove. The stain will penetrate deep into the fibers of the wood and give it a preliminary seal. Make sure to wipe any excess stain off with a clean rag and take care to apply evenly throughout the entire surface of the door including the door edges, bottom and top of the door. End grains found at the top and bottom edges of the door are the most critical areas as that grain acts like a straw for moisture. Make sure to let the stain have adequate dry time before re-applying or applying any other product.

3. Clear

To properly seal in the stain that you have applied, you will need to apply a clear coat. For exterior doors, it is highly recommended to use an outdoor rated polyurethane 2 part clear coat. This will cure very hard and will protect against water and sun very well. The first coat should be applied very lightly and using either an airless sprayer or a gravity fed HVLP (high volume low pressure) gun with an air compressor. Either of these applicators will deliver a consistent, fine spray that will evenly coat and seal the wood.

4. Scuff

After the entire door has been coated and after a proper dry time (usually 15-30 minutes), use a˜roe 180 grit sanding sponge and lightly “scuff” the entire surface of the door. This will knock down all the fibers that were raised up on contact with the product. This step is the most critical to insuring a smooth final product.

5.  Final Seal

Once you have scuffed the entire door, it should feel very smooth to the touch. Now wipe the door down with a clean rag as it will have a chalky dust from the scuffing process. Apply a medium to heavy final coat to the entire door and allow to dry. Curing time actually takes more than 24 hours and continues at a very slow rate to harden more and more over the next few days and even weeks. Avoid too much abuse until it has had 2 weeks to fully cure.

This finish when done properly and in a climate controlled environment will endure harsh weather for years. It is all worth having the warmth and real soulful beauty that a solid wood entry door provides. Click here to view our entire line of barn doors, Dutch doors, front doors, and interior doors.

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