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Door Finishing

Many interior doors are sold pre-sanded and unfinished to allow your choice of paint or stain colors. Wood doors can be painted or stained; Masonite doors must be painted. Buy only better quality paints or stains--finishing doors is much easier and the results noticeably better. Don't rush the job--take time and pay attention to details.

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Prepping for Painting or Staining

Assemble these supplies in a well-lit, well-ventilated area, at a comfortable work height:

  • Sawhorses
  • Drop cloths
  • Really good paintbrushes, foam brushes, or sprayer
  • Clean, empty, hand-sized, wide-mouth cans for working with small batches.
  • 200 and 600 grit sandpaper
  • Clean, lint-free rags
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paint or stain and appropriate sealer
  • Recommended brush cleaner (paint thinner or water)
  • Vacuum, compressor, and tack cloths

Finishing Doors That Will Be Stained

For finishing doors, remove hardware, separate door from frame, and set a door on a sawhorse. Practice on the back side of closet doors. Remove pet birds--fumes are quickly lethal. Practice on the back sides of closet doors.

  • Lightly sand even pre-sanded door surfaces with 200 grit sandpaper.
  • Clean door with vacuum or compressor, and tack cloth.
  • Put on gloves. Apply stain only in the direction of the grain. Use a clean rag to spread the stain as needed.
  • After it dries, apply a second coat for a darker color.
  • After stain dries completely, apply a brushed coat of varnish or sealer in grain's direction.
  • Lightly sand with 600 grit sandpaper after first sealer coat dries. Clean, then apply second sealer coat.
  • Stain and seal all edges to prevent swelling.

Painting Interior Doors

When painting wood or Masonite doors, the steps are similar until after the initial sanding. Once the door is sanded:

  • Apply a coat of primer to seal the door, using a brush or paint sprayer. Brush away any paint runs immediately. Brush only with the grain.
  • Sand with 600 grit sand paper after prime coat dries. Clean with brush or vacuum and tack cloth.
  • Apply your top coat of paint.
  • Most interior doors have finish coats of semi-gloss or gloss paint.

Take your time when painting or staining. Attention to detail when finishing doors results in the professional look your careful work can achieve.


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