Restoring a front door on a period house


In this blog post, we will show you a step-by-step guide on how to approach restoring a front door in a period house using a heat gun and stripping agent.

Doors on period houses may be one hundred and fifty years old, and in some cases even older. In many cases, there are layers of paint applied over decades. In most cases, it is necessary to begin by stripping the paint from the door. This can be done in a few different ways, but for those who want to do it properly, one of the best ways is with a heat gun. Using a heat gun to strip paint off a door gives off a lot of noxious fumes, it is always best to do this outside if weather permits, or a very well ventilated area if not. Wearing a mask while using a heat gun is also recommended.

So to begin, you need to have the following items.

  • A mask suitable for fumes, not a dust mask.
  • Eye protection
  • A heat gun
  • A power supply
  • A paint scraper
  • Paint stripper solution
  • White spirits
  • Lint-free cloth
  • A cheap paint brush
  • Grade 100 sandpaper
  • Grade 00 wire wool

Click on photo to show full image.

Step 1 is to plug in the heat gun, and put on your mask and eye protection. The heat gun heats up the instant you pull the trigger. Holding the gun between 3 and 5 inches away from the surface, gently move it up and down over a space about six inches square. The paint will bubble and soften, and then you can draw the scraper across the soft paint. Every door is different and some can have lots of layers., so you’ll have to use your own judgement knowing when to use the scraper. Once you are down to bare wood, you can move on to the next section, and continue until the door is removed of all paintwork. Don’t be concerned about little bits of paint left, as these will be covered in the next step.

Step 2 should have you with your door down to bare wood, having removed a few layers of different colours from years gone by. You then need to use some 100 grade sandpaper to remove any loose bits of paint left on the door. If you encounter a stubborn piece, this is where the paint stipping solution comes in. Ensuring that you have eye protection on, use your cheap paintbrush to dab paint stripper onto the last remaining areas of paint. Check the tin for how long to leave it on, but it’s usually about ten minutes or so. Then use the wire wool (which is very effective for all manners of restoration), to rub over the now softened remaining bits of paint. This should lift the paint and give you bare wood. We always recommend to do this part of the process section by section, not the whole door at the same time. You can apply paint stripper to the next section to work, while you work on the first section, and in no time you’ll have a completely paint free door.

Step 3 is important, as you need to use a lint-free cloth to clean the entire surface with white spirits. This is important as it neutralises the chemicals in the paint stripping solution.

Your door will now be back to bare wood, and you can choose whether to varnish your door, or repaint it.

Step 3

Using a lint free cloth, clean surface with white spirits, this will also neutralise paint stripping solution. Next we will look at how we repaint a door, such as the front door in a period house, after we have stripped it back to bare wood.

So assuming that you have a bare wooden door or other woodwork, step 1 is to prime the wood. We do this using an aluminium primer.

Step 2 is to rub the door down with emery paper. Once this  is done, you then need to clean it with white spirits, and apply an undercoat. In this example, we are using oil-based undercoats and finishes.

Step 3 is to flush fill all the imperfections on the door or woodwork. An epoxy filler is best suited for this. Make sure to read the instructions carefully. Once this is dry, then rub the wood again with emery paper, and apply another undercoat.

Step 4 is to use caulk to fill gaps in the woodwork. Run the caulk gun along the panel work, filling gaps as you go. Smoothen it using a damp cloth, and it can take a bit of practice to get the right finish. Once this is dry, it’s best to leave it for about 24 hours before doing the last step.

Step 5 is to retouch any areas that need it with an undercoat, and when the undercoat is dry (it’ll say how long on the tin), you can then finish the door with your desired finish, such as a gloss or egg shell finish.

We followed the same steps with another door which has photos below.

If you like what we have done on this job, and would like to enquire about how we at Impressions can restore your front door to match your dreams, call Paul on 0872704879 or contact us for a quote.