The door that came with our 1958 house was in bad condition
I once heard someone say the front door is the soul of a house, and I have to agree. What we have is original but over the years I seriously considered scrapping it and getting a new fancy door. I was almost talked into buying a McMansion-type door with all of the fancy scroll work with panels and brass trim several years ago before I knew what MCM was — thankfully, I passed on that one! They just don’t match the MCM aesthetic and we would have wasted a lot of money. I visited Crestview Doors’s website to ooooooooooh and ahh over their fab MCM designs. However, they are in Texas and I am in Michigan and I was reluctant to make such an expensive purchase sight unseen. I also recently read some poor reviews and that the price of the doors has jumped dramatically into the $3,000 to $5,000 range. Plus I would need to work with a carpenter, another cost eating my budget, in order to get one of these coveted doors.
I just can’t afford something like that, especially when I saw on their website the EXACT same style of door I already have attached to my house. I’ve been getting braver about doing repair work on items and wanted to take a crack at that door.
Here is the story of our door
Before we moved here, the previous owner hired someone to spray paint everything beige. I mean everything. I’m talking about walls, ceilings, trim, the brick on the fireplace, and the front door. I cannot and will not live in beige world. So, in newlywed bliss, we painted what we could (bad idea since we are both not suited to the task of painting) and we kept the outside of the front door beige and I painted the inside bright white. Big huge mistake. It looked super shabby, especially with the door open against our wall which was yellow at the time (beige and yellow look real icky next to each other) and even with a new paint color (gray blue) it still looked shabby because the paint had peeled over time in several places. The white on the inside was gross because white shows every greasy finger mark and every smudge possible. Who knew we were so dirty! Plus, it was peeling as well. I thought about repainting the whole thing, but knew I would have to sand it down to even out the many layers of paint and I just couldn’t decide on a color that would match the exterior and the interior.
Here’s some before shots:
I have yet to come across an uglier front door. However, can you hear it screaming to be saved?
So very very very blah (if it wasn’t for the cute baby, this picture would be a total waste)
Close up shot of the front, where the weather managed to crack and peel and chip the old paint down to the bare wood. After seeing this small sample, I decided what lay beneath may not be so bad.
I decided to go with the idea of staining the door. A natural wood color will match everything, inside and out. I will never have to worry about clashing and I’m on this real big MCM natural wood kick. I just think it looks good, with just the right amount of retro thrown in. I also had the added challenge of replacing the long rectangular glass insert that cracked when the door slammed shut during a vicious wind storm. Everyone I talked to about my project gave off the impression of doom and gloom about how I was never going to get the paint off and it was just too much work.
That just fired me up!
I did some internet research on what I needed in terms of supplies. I already have a sander and purchased paint stripper, plastic scrapers, more sandpaper, gloves, a breathing mask, stain (cherry), stain conditioner, mineral spirits, topcoat, rags, a nice brush, and went to work.
Earlier in the week I worked on getting the moldings off from around the window. I wanted to reuse them simply because my husband and I do not have any wood cutting tools, getting someone we know to do it for us is always a touch and go situation, and I feared it would just be too hard to get the measurements exact.
After taking off the moldings, the wood looks rather damaged and aged and crumbly. This made me a bit nervous but I forged ahead anyway since the door was already ugly.
I got them off from the inside, and saw that the old glass was held in place by some sort of bonding sealant. I measured the glass and went to a local glass shop, Merry Go Round Stained Glass Inc. where the nice sales lady helped me choose something suitable. One of the big issues with my door is that the glass was clear and anyone could walk up onto our porch and see right inside. I wanted some light to filter in, but still be able to block busybodies. I found a swirled gray and black pattern that I thought would reflect nicely from the gray in my dining room wallpaper. After purchasing the glass and paying for the cuts, it cost me $32. What a deal!
Now the fun part. My husband was really excited to see what we could do with this door and he took it off the hinges and took off all of the hardware. We went right to work pouring paint stripper down on the front side. I bought the jug that came with a spray bottle and this stuff did not work as well as advertised. It took a lot of work scraping up the bubbles and it didn’t help that we found layers of beige, peach, turquoise, another slightly weird turquoise, and a layer of stain. I went out and got some thicker stuff, which did the trick.
Once the paint was off, I could see the wood was in decent condition. I’m not an expert on this type of thing, but it looked good. Some wear was visible since this door stood guard against the harsh Michigan weather for nearly 60 years. I went to work sanding the front and it came out as smooth as butter.
The inside of the door went much faster since there were only layers of white, beige, and a stain. Again, gave it a hearty sanding and wiped everything down with Mineral Spirits.
I conditioned the wood with Minwax Pre-Stain and after a bit of patting myself on the back for getting the old paint off and keeping the door in one piece, I started the actual staining. I like this process much better than painting! It was easy to do and the wood started to glow. It took a few coats the next day and after drying for a few hours we put the door back up so I could leave the house! Vic put the stained glass in and nailed in the old moldings, which were looking a bit…rough. Ok, so maybe saving them wasn’t the best idea but it got the job done. I figured I could repair them during the week.
This is a shot after sanding and conditioning. To me, the wood looks good.
After 3 coats of stain. I wish all of you could have been here in person to see what the door truly looked like with all of the layers of peeling and cracked paint, versus this natural beauty. Pictures do not do it justice.
Over the next few days, I did just that. I bought some wood filler and showed those moldings who was boss. I sanded it down when dry, which didn’t turn out the best. They were still bumpy and I just couldn’t get into those teeny tiny spaces all that well. But, they looked better. I didn’t stain the moldings because I would also need to strip the paint and these moldings were starting to crack. Instead I painted them gray. Gray is my neutral color of choice and I feel like it’s a very forgivable and flattering color – neutral without being too boring or too harsh. I bought paint samples from Home Depot and they tinted them for me, which only cost me about $6 for the two bottles I bought.
This filler worked well and dried quickly.
This is the topcoat I put on the door, inside and out. It was recommended from the instructions on the can of Minwax stain, and so far so good.
Here’s a pic of the filler drying before I sanded it down.
Finally, the moldings have been filled, sanded, and painted. It’s hard to see in the photo, but there are still some rough spots. Two layers of paint really smoothed it out.
Here is the finished product. The door has transformed my living room and I love the natural wood color. I did put two coats of topcoat on each side, which made it shiny and should protect the wood from snow and rain. I am proud that my husband and I spent under $200.00 and kept the door we had instead of having it sent to a landfill and spending about $5,000 on a new door. I don’t mind the imperfections either, because this door is about 60 years old and has a history embedded into the wood.
Overall, we spent about 12 hours stripping the paint, sanding, and conditioning the wood. I spent the next day adding four layers of stain with dry time in between. Vic spent another hour inserting the glass and nailing the moldings in. I spent about three hours repairing the moldings, sanding them, painting them, and doing two coats of topcoat to the whole door. So, while a large project, I feel like it was wasn’t that much time when the end result is exactly what I wanted and would have cost us thousands if we went with Crestview.
I will be on the lookout for a MCM doorknob backplate in a starburst pattern, or escutcheon as it is usually called. But, that’s another project for another day!