renovating wooden doors

Sometimes it seems like people did their best to make things look ugly. I know that taste is something personal but look at the picture below… it’s hard to believe that someone can like some pink and green doors!


The good news is that doors like these can be repainted and/or brought back to the original wood so that pink and green will be forever forgotten.

In renovation, when old parts are recuperated, it is important to know that the final result will not be perfect. This applies to wooden floors, to wooden works and to all those elements where time and use have left their traces. It is a very important point because some of my good builders have difficulties in accepting to work on something for a less-than-perfect result. So it is my task to understand if the client will be happy with a renovated-old-but-charming door and to reassure the builder that his work will be appreciated.

Bear in mind that, although the result will be far from perfect, renovating a door implies a lot of work and is therefore more expensive than you would expect. Let’s see why.

For painting: the first thing is to remove the handles and if possible, the lock. Then doors and frames have to be slightly sanded so that a first layer of old paint is removed. If the door and  frames has mouldings like the ones in the pictures, you can imagine that this will take quite some time. In fact, for some parts it has to be done by hand. The following operation is to take away the rest with a solvent and then to repair cracks and big imperfections using wood filler. Once that is done, these parts have to be sanded again. Finally it is possible to start the painting, with one first layer of primer and (minimum) two layers of paint (lacquer or other).

Here is the before and after of that terrible door!

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For sanding: there are two possibilities.

1. Doors and frames can be dismounted and taken to some atelier for complete removal of paint through special baths. This means that the whole door will be put into a bath of acids and solvents which will remove the paint completely. In the atelier they will then finish the operation by taking away the last bits and putting filler here and there. The price of this work is not too high but the removal, transportation and putting back in place have to be also added so that the total amount can be quite expensive.

2. Sanding can be done directly with the door in place. As before, if the doors and framed have a lot of moulding, sanding will have to be done partially by hand. Once this is done and the wood is brought back to the surface, the cracks and imperfections will be filled with wooden filler and sanded. The final operation is to treat the door with varnish or other finishes. The price of such an operation will most of the time be an hourly price as it is impossible to know how difficult this operation will be.

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Changing colours of doors is one of those operation that can have a massive impact on defining your house style and look.