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How to Stain and Paint an Unfinished Wood Door

Posted by: Raj Kain

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Published On: Feb 13, 2023

A person staining a wood door

Did you purchase an unfinished wooden door hoping to cut costs or DIY your way to a beautifully curated masterpiece? Many property owners go down this route only to get frustrated with the execution, endlessly searching “how to paint a wooden door” or trying to find the time to actually do the work.

If your reasons for getting an unfinished door are to cut costs or because there’s a lack of customizable options online, then Burano Doors is the solution. With a wide variety of fully customizable doors, no paint colour or finish is off the table. While buying an unfinished door may be a more affordable option, DIY isn’t for everyone. In that case, the added cost is always worth it.

However, if you’re up for the home improvement challenge and need to learn how to stain a wooden door, or are still deciding your best course of action—you’re in the right place!

In this guide, we’ll dive into: 

a new home being built with an unfinished wood door

Staining vs. Painting a Wooden Door

Before you head to your local hardware store, you should first learn the difference between staining and painting a wooden door.

The Look

When it comes to aesthetics or the design of the finished product, a painted door and a wooden door have distinct looks.

Wood paint comes in a wide variety of colours—it can be as neutral and as striking as you want. Striking, vibrant hues such as blue, yellow, or red tend to complement modern-looking houses. While subdued or neutral tones, like navy blue, whites, browns, or greens, look best if you want your house to exude a more elegant or classic look.

On the other hand, wood stain emphasizes the natural beauty of the wooden door’s surface. Although usually neutral in colour, wood stains with bolder shades like red, mahogany, and ebony create a dramatic effect on a door. Vibrant colours are available as well, such as blue, yellow, green, burgundy, bright red, and pink.


Wood paint and wood stain both offer added protection against natural elements, which prevents the wood from cracking and warping. Wood paint coats the surface and shields the wood, while wood stain penetrates the wood, preserving it on a deeper level.


Paint and stain will wear off after some time but in different ways. Paint tends to peel and chip, and by that point, you’ll need to scrape it off completely and repaint the door. Meanwhile, stain gradually wears off, and the door can simply be re-coated.

A variety of wood stain shades

How Do You Prepare a Door For Staining and Painting?

When painting or staining an unfinished wooden door, you have the option of painting it horizontally or while it hangs vertically. If you paint or stain the door while it is laying horizontally, the finish will level out more evenly. But by painting or staining doors while hung, you’ll be able to paint both sides at the same time.

Step 1: First, cover the surrounding areas of the door with paper to avoid getting paint on these surfaces. Don’t forget to cover the hinges with masking or painter’s tape. Additionally, if the door has glass, cover the glass panels with paper and tape.

Step 2: Next, remove the doorknob, deadbolt, and metal guard on the bottom of the door completely and set these aside for now.

Step 3: Sand the door with 120-grit sandpaper to improve the adhesion of the paint or stain. This also helps remove any bumps on the surface of the door. 

Step 4: After sanding, wipe or brush away the powder that formed on the surface.

Before you reach for the paint or wood stain, make sure that you’re working in an area that’s well-ventilated to avoid breathing in an excessive amount of fumes.

How to Paint a Wooden Door

Here are the steps on how to paint an unfinished wood door:

Step 1: Using a brush, spread a coat of oil or water-based primer on the door. Let the primer dry, and then sand the door by hand with 220-grit sandpaper to smoothen the wood.

Step 2: Using a clean brush, spread the first coat of paint with long, even strokes, starting from the top of the door and moving toward the bottom. Make sure to apply paint to both sides of the door. Also, don’t forget to paint the side and top edges of the door.

Step 3: Allow the first coat of paint to dry completely. After it dries, sand the first coat lightly with 220-grit sandpaper.

Step 4: Next, apply the second coat of paint and sand the door with 220-grit sandpaper once more.

Step 5: Apply the third coat of paint and let it dry for about 48 hours.

Step 6: 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 these accordingly. 

Step 7: Allow the finish to be completely dry before reattaching the hardware (such as doorknobs, deadbolts, etc.) onto the door. 

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

A door being painted white

How to Stain A Door

If staining your wooden door is more your style, then here are the instructions you need to follow: 

Step 1: Using a brush, spread the first coat of stain using long, even strokes. Make sure to apply the wood stain on both sides of the door and the top edges as well.

Step 2: If you want to create a more even look, use a rag and spread the stain around the surface while it’s still wet. 

Step 3: Allow the first coat of stain to set within the time recommended by the manufacturer, and then sand the first coat lightly with 220-grit sandpaper.

Step 4: Next, apply the second coat of stain and sand the door with 220-grit sandpaper once more.

Step 5: Apply the third coat of stain. While repeating the process above, feel free to apply more coats to have a more pronounced colour stain.

Step 6: Now, allow the door to dry based on the stain’s recommended time.

Step 7: Apply a coat of polyurethane finish to protect and seal the stain. Similar to painting wood doors, different finishes would have different instructions based on the manufacturer. Make sure to follow those directions.

Step 8: Allow the door to dry completely before reattaching the hardware.

And there you have it! Now you’ve got a beautiful stained door to add a natural charisma and welcoming feel to your home.

Where Can I Get a Custom Door for My Home?

Whatever your reasons are for wanting to paint or stain an unfinished wooden door, we can all agree that this DIY project can take a while to finish. So, if you want to spend less effort and time upgrading your home, simply opt for stylish and durable custom doors from a trusted manufacturer like Burano Doors.

Aesthetics is something that we take very seriously—along with energy-efficiency, durability, and security. Our doors are reasonably priced and boast top-tier craftsmanship; you’ll have no doubt that they’ll serve you well for many years. 

We design each of our doors and windows to simply have it all. Contact us today—we’ll be more than happy to answer your questions and give you a free in-home estimate.

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