How Do You Maintain a Finish on an Exterior Door?

DoorBeauty, functionality and security are the benefits when you maintain a finish on an exterior door to your home. Knowing the signs of when your doors need maintenance and how to maintain them is vital to the upkeep of your home. You can keep your doors beautiful and safe with some basic knowledge and tips.

The Right Finish

Choosing the best finish for your exterior door is the first step to maintenance. Finish is necessary because exterior doors are exposed to the elements constantly and are affected by sun, hot and cold temperatures and rain. Proper sealing helps reduce water damage and make it easier to clean the door. To select the best finish you will need to consider your climate and which elements the door will be exposed to. Heat and sun cause different damage than damp and cold. One excellent option for most situations is a penetrating oil-based stain designed to be water repellant and containing a mildewcide. A semi-gloss paint is recommended if you choose to paint rather than stain. Semi-gloss paints are more durable and make the door easier to clean than other paints. You can treat the wood prior to painting for additional protection. A multi-prong approach can be used to varnish the door. This method begins with treating the wood using a water-repellant preservative, followed by a paintable stain to protect the wood from UV rays. This is followed by a coat of sealer made by mixing a high quality varnish with mineral spirits or turpentine. After this coat is dry it should be sanded. The task is completed with at least three coats of the varnish and sanding in between each coat. You may also consider hiring a professional to finish the door if you are concerned about selecting the best finish for your needs.

Cleaning The Right Way

Once you have the appropriate finish on your exterior door it is important to maintain the finish by providing appropriate care. Cleaning exterior doors is a hands-on task that should be done twice a year or when the door is dirty. Jeld-Wen Windows & Doors provides an excellent guide to exterior window and door maintenance that includes cleaning guidelines, such as:

  • Don’t use power wash gear or a garden hose on the door as this can lead to excess water causing damage.
  • Avoid using sharp or metal objects on the door to clean.
  • Do not use abrasive cleaners as they can strip the protection of the finish.
  • Avoid cleaning in extreme temperatures.
  • Clean and rinse the door in small sections.

You should choose the appropriate cleaning solution for the type of finish you have selected for the door. Although there are commercial preparations available, you can simply use a mild soap or vinegar with water. A sponge should be sufficient, but if necessary a soft bristle brush may be used carefully.

Signs Your Finish Needs Updating

Part of maintaining your exterior door’s finish is re-doing the finish when it starts showing wear. How long your finish lasts varies depending on the elements it is exposed to, the quality of the finish used and how well you have taken care of it. Eventually you will need to refinish the door even with the best of care. Doors that are better protected from sun, rain and extreme temperatures may have finishes that last several years with basic cleaning and upkeep. Exterior doors exposed to more damaging elements will show wear and tear and may need to refinished every two-three years even with appropriate care. In extreme conditions, such as places with long and severe winters, you may need to refinish the door every year. Signs it is time to refinish your door include:

  • Dull surface
  • Dry feeling to the door
  • Raised grain
  • Color changes, such as a whitish cast or dark streaks
  • Obvious visual cues like chipping paint or cracks

You should thoroughly inspect the doors for signs of damage at least twice a year when cleaning so you can address the issue right away. If you notice signs in between those scheduled inspections you should not put off the refinishing.

Protecting an exterior door requires preparation and ongoing effort, but it is worth it. Your exterior door is the beautiful entry to your home and first thing most people notice. It is also your first line of security, so water damage, cracking and other deterioration can impact your family’s safety. Knowing how to maintain a finish on an exterior door can give you a sense of confidence and empowerment in the value of your home and the well-being of your family.

Related Resource: How to Finish an Exterior Door