Choosing the right finish for your front door

Submitted by Blake Olson

A lot of homeowners who buy houses with beautifully finished front doors will face issues several years down the line. The problem is a production process not intended for outdoor use – lacquer. Clear lacquer is not capable of withstanding the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Virtually all interior furniture is finished with lacquer, and it works great. It facilitates production because it dries fast. It is hard and durable. Lacquer can be repaired with some ease.

Front doors are different. The people who make front doors, mostly offshore, use the same techniques as with furniture. They put the colored dye in the lacquer and spray it on bare wood. The result looks great, but it won’t last due to the damage caused by UV rays. Dye can't withstand UV rays, and the lacquer won’t protect the wood.

Homeowners with south or west-facing front doors will see that the parts of the front door most exposed to sunlight, usually the bottom, will deteriorate. The door will look progressively better on the upper section. East and north-facing front doors are subject to far less direct UV but will succumb to the much slower process of expansion and contraction and ozone.

A properly finished front door will be stained with UV-resistant pigment and coated with three coats of marine grade polyurethane. A front door with color loss really can't be refinished well on its hinges. It is better to take the door off the hinges, lay it flat, strip it, sand it, stain it and apply the polyurethane while horizontal. About every five years, lightly sand the bottom parts of the door and apply a light coat of marine grade polyurethane.

If you are buying a front door, ask about how it is finished. If it is done with lacquer, reject it. A properly finished front door will last many years with some simple maintenance.

Olson performs furniture repair and refinishing, carpentry, plumbing, tile and wall paper work in the San Antonio area. As of July 1, 2011, this service provider was highly rated on Angie’s List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie’s List.

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