Refinishing Red Oak Exterior Doors - ROOKIE factor = Extreme

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Forum topic by PESCAHOLIC posted 04-03-2016 02:54 PM 394 views 0 times favorited 3 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 206 days

04-03-2016 02:54 PM

Topic tags/keywords: exterior door beach finish stain coat oil base alkyd red oak rookie

I’m a rookie with wood but was tasked to refinish this door-set at a beachfront home for a good friend in southern California.

I have stripped and/or sanded most of it already and have been trying to find a good match for the stain, but I still have many questions about the proper process in general.

The wood appears to be Red Oak and the wood on the left side of the door-set is darker and seems to have heavier grain than the door face itself and the wood on the right side of the door-set. The original color before I removed the finish was much heavier on the left side, too. You may be able to see a bit of what I’m referring to in the difference between the bottom of the doors (darker) and the top of the doors (lighter).

The final color is preferred to be at least as dark as the current finish and the customer prefers to stay away from red tints. As for a finish, I intend to seal it with a varnish of sorts, but remain uncertain of which specific product to use and how many coats. The customer prefers as flat of a finish as possible so I will be using a satin finish.

Meanwhile, there are a few steps in the process which remain unclear to me. I have asked around at numerous paint and woodworking stores and receive different info from each facility.
So far I have tried several colors and have used both oil and water based stains (General Finishes-oil, Zar-oil, Sansin EOS), but 2 of the 3 say they are interior stains which I’m uncomfortable using given the environment and have basically used them to find a color match.

The Sansin EOS [URL=””][/URL] was recommended as the product used on the high-end garage doors in the beach areas. This is the 3rd one down in the photo and the supplier says they can add color to the stock color if the 2nd or 3rd coat in my test section doesn’t get it dark enough.

Here are my questions:

[]What is the heaviest sandpaper I should scuff with? I have been told that 120 is sufficient so the old hard wood will absorb more color, others have advised sanding to 220. Is there a “right” answer???

[]Should I wash the wood with denatured alcohol or acetone before applying stain?

[]If I do wash the wood, how long to dry (75 degree beach weather) before applying stain?

[]Is there a way to lighten up the wood on the left side? If so, is it something a rookie like myself can handle and which products and steps are recommended?
[]Is there a preferred brand and/or type of stain to use in this environment? Keep in mind that California is environmentally unfriendly to high VOC products so we may not have some of the options available elsewhere in the country.

[]Is there a downside to using interior stain since it will be coated with a UV finish, or is that an absolute no-no?

[]How many coats of stain is the max?

[]Do I use a sealer or no-wax shellac in between coats or before or after stain? If so, which type and in what process?

[]Do I seal old nail holes and seams before or after stain and with which product?

[]Same question on finish Is there a preferred brand and/or type of UV finish to use in this environment? Remember that California is chemically challenged…

[*]How many coats of finish is the max and how long in between coats?

Thank you in advance for any and all assistance and recommendations!


3 replies so far

View Aj2's profile


632 posts in 1220 days

#1 posted 04-03-2016 03:12 PM

Hi Rob, I am also in So cal,So I am in the same boat when it come to finishes.
There’s way too many variables when it come to the right approach.Building a good long lasting finish and controlling the color are every bit as a challage as completing good woodworking.
I do like General finishes if I have to stain that’s what I use.
I do see the difference between door and the side lights.
This could be a numbers of reason one is the doors may had a skin of Red oak and the side lights maybe solid.Or maybe it’s just the wood.
In the end a experienced finisher woodworker would have the experience to deal with it.
Pick your poison and go for it.
My vote is GF.

View PESCAHOLIC's profile


2 posts in 206 days

#2 posted 04-03-2016 07:26 PM


Thanks for the feedback. All of the wood is solid, it just seems that the wood on the left has substantially heavier grain and I’m assuming absorbed much more stain during the initial construction/finishing process. But that’s just an inexperienced guess…

I will try to get some additional color out of it and see how it goes – any recommendations on a ‘deeper’ cleaning to lighten it up?

As for the GF stain, I have only found and applied for color testing the INTERIOR stain. Do you use interior stain on exterior doors?

View Aj2's profile


632 posts in 1220 days

#3 posted 04-03-2016 07:47 PM

Hi, Rob as far a cleaning deeper cleaning goes. Sanding or scraping is your best bet. Unfortunately Red oak has big open pores.So the original stain and possible sealer are down deep.
If you use stripper chemicals your most likely will push the color down further and close out the cells.
That’s will make it harder to get a new stain in there.
The good news is there’s a lot of glaze type finishes that lay on top.
That’s what I’d be looking at as a option.
I’m not sure about color fastness for Ext.
It’s really hard to say what’s best too many variables.
Good luck.And test test test on scraps of red oak.

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