A finished wooden door with a silver handle
August 13th 2020

How to Stain & Paint an Unfinished Wood Door

Many property owners purchase unfinished wooden doors to cut costs, to have creative freedom regarding how the door will look like, and/or because they love DIY projects.

Unfinished wooden doors are typically cheaper than prefinished doors. Of course, this also means that you will have to apply the finish yourself – but for some homeowners, that’s part of the appeal.

Of course, if your sole reasons for getting an unfinished wooden door is merely to cut costs and/or to get it in the exact aesthetic that you want, we ought to tell you that there are reasonably priced custom doors out there in the market. But granted, these may still not be as low-cost as unfinished wooden doors – but if you are really not all for DIY or you don’t have the time for DIY, the added cost is well worth it.

Whether you’re reading this article as a DIY enthusiast, looking to know the steps – or as a pragmatic or highly-specific homeowner, looking to weigh your options – you’re in the right place! This article covers the steps on how to stain or paint an unfinished wooden door.

Let’s get started!

Red mahogany wood-stained door

What’s the Difference Between Painting and Staining an Unfinished Wood Door?

If you haven’t quite decided whether to paint or to stain your door, this section will help!

The Look

Most doors are entryways to important space – and therefore, they should look the part! Paint and stain have distinctly different results when it comes to aesthetics.

Wood paint comes in every colour imaginable. It can be as neutral and as striking as you want. Striking, vibrant colours (blue, yellow, red, etc) are more aligned with modern designs; while subdued colours (white, navy blue, black, etc.) are chosen to exude a more elegant or classic look.

Wood stain, on the other hand, is better at emphasizing the natural beauty of the wooden door’s surface. Though typically neutral, wood stain can be used to create a dramatic effect with bold shades like red mahogany and ebony. You may also find wood stains in more vibrant colours like blue, yellow, green, burgundy, bright red, pink, and etc.

Protection

Wood paint and wood stain both offer a degree of added protection against the elements to prevent the wood from cracking and warping. Wood paint coats the surface, purely shielding the wood while wood stain penetrates the wood, preserving it from a deeper level.

Maintenance

After some years, paint and stain will wear off – but in different ways. Paint tends to peel and chip and then it needs to be scraped off completely when the door is to be repainted. Meanwhile, stain gradually wears off and the door can simply be re-coated.

How Do I Paint or Stain My Wooden Door?

Preparations for both Painting and Staining

  1. When painting/staining your unfinished wooden door, you have the option of painting it horizontally or while hanging vertically.

    If you paint/stain the door while it is laying horizontally, the finish will level out more evenly. But by painting it vertically (or while hung), you’ll be able to paint both sides at the same time.

  2. Make sure to cover the surrounding areas of the door with paper to avoid getting paint on these areas.
    You would also want to cover the hinges with masking or painter’s tape.

    If the door has glass, cover the glass panels with paper and tape.

    Remove the doorknob, the deadbolt, and the metal guard on the bottom of the door completely and set these aside for a while.

  3. Sand the door with 120-grit sandpaper to improve the adhesion of the paint or stain. Make sure to wipe or brush away the powder that forms on the surface.
  4. Before painting or staining, make sure to work in a well-ventilated area so you won’t breathe in the toxic fumes.

Painting Your Wooden Door

After you’ve done all the necessary preparations, here’s how to paint wood:

  1. Using a brush, spread on a coat of oil or water-based primer on the door.
  2. Let the primer dry then sand the door by hand with 220-grit sandpaper to smoothen the wood.
  3. Using a clean brush, spread the first coat of paint with long, even strokes, starting from the top of the door and moving towards the bottom.
  4. Make sure to apply paint to both sides of the door. Don’t forget to paint the side and top edges of the door.
  5. Allow the first coat of paint to dry completely.
  6. Sand the first coat lightly with 220-grit sandpaper.
  7. Next, apply the second coat of paint.
  8. Sand the door with 220-grit sandpaper once more.
  9. Then, apply the third coat of paint.
  10. Now, allow the door to dry for about 48 hours.
  11. Next, apply a coat of urethane finish to protect and seal the paint. Different finishes would have different instructions based on the manufacturer – so make sure to follow those instructions.
  12. Allow the finish to be completely dry before reattaching the hardware (doorknobs etc.) onto the door and closing it.

And there you go! A freshly painted door to adorn and protect your home.

Staining Your Wooden Door

Barn wooden doors stained dark brown

How Do I Stain My Wooden Door?

After you’ve done all the necessary preparations, here’s how to stain wood:

  1. Using a brush, spread the first coat of stain using long, even strokes, with the grain of the wood.
  2. Make sure to apply the wood stain to both sides of the door. Don’t forget to apply the wood stain on the side and top edges of the door as well.
  3. You can go over the stain with a rag while it’s still wet to create a more even look.
  4. Allow the first coat of stain to set within the time recommended by the manufacturer.
  5. Sand the first coat lightly with 220-grit sandpaper.
  6. Next, apply the second coat of stain.
  7. Sand the door with 220-grit sandpaper once more.
  8. Then, apply the third coat of stain. Repeating the process described above, you can choose to apply more coats to have a more pronounced colour from the stain.
  9. Now, allow the door to dry based on the recommended time by the manufacturer of the stain.
  10. Apply a coat of urethane finish to protect and seal the stain. Different finishes would have different instructions based on the manufacturer – so make sure to follow those directions.
  11. Allow the door to completely dry before reattaching the hardware (doorknobs etc.) onto the door and closing it.

And voila! You’ve got a beautiful stained door to add beauty and security to your home.

Where Can I Get a Custom Door For My Home?

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, your reason for wanting to stain or paint an unfinished wooden door yourself could be because you want to be in full control of how your door will look like and/or because you are looking to cut costs. Well if that’s the case, then you’ll be happy to know that you can get a beautiful and durable custom door for your home through a trusted door manufacturer like Burano Doors.

We understand that the right shade of paint or stain is very important. The aesthetic is something that we take very seriously – along with energy efficiency, durability, and security. Our doors are reasonably priced for their quality and so durable that they’ll serve you well for years, with very little to no maintenance needed. Additionally, you’ll be able to save in the long run – thanks to the multi-layered, energy-efficient design of our doors.

We design each of our doors and windows to simply have it all. So what are you waiting for? Contact us today! We’ll be more than happy to answer your questions and give you a free quote.

Posted by Raj Kain
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