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Do It Yourself: Strengthen natural finish on hardwood doors

Sun., Dec. 2, 2012, midnight

Q. We recently bought a beautiful hardwood entry door that we want to give a natural finish. Several people have told us these finishes don’t last long outdoors. Is that true and what do you suggest?

A. It is true that most clear finishes don’t last long outdoors. The main reason is that they have little or no resistance to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays, unlike paint and pigmented finishes, in which the pigment helps filter the UV. This is why clear finishes on decks seldom last more than a year or two.

If you want a clear, natural finish on your door, there are a couple of strategies that can help make the finish last longer.

One is to use marine varnish or spar varnish, which usually holds up better than a finish such as polyurethane.

Another strategy is to apply multiple coats – not just two or three coats, but four or more.

One clear outdoor finish that some users swear by is Epifanes. This is a marine varnish developed for yachts but often used on doors and similar outdoor surfaces. For more information, vist The bottom line is that applying a lasting clear finish to your door will take a lot of time and effort.

Q. We have a lot of double-glazed replacement windows on our house that are more than 20 years old. Two double-hung windows have developed a foggy appearance between the two panes of glass in the bottom sashes. We haven’t been able to remove the fog. Is there a way to fix this?

A. The short answer is that I don’t know of any practical way to fix the foggy areas, which are caused by moisture getting between the panes of glass as the result of a leaking seal.

Your question used to be one of those most asked of this column, but manufacturers have steadily improved the seal on so-called thermal windows so that fewer leaks occur.

The best bet is to replace the fogged-up sashes, which isn’t as big a project as it might seem.

The first thing you should do is check the warranty on your windows. Even as far back as 20 years, some manufacturers offered long-term warranties against seal failure, sometimes lifetime warranties.

It isn’t necessary to replace the entire window, just the damaged sashes. Information needed to duplicate a sash is usually printed on small stickers on the edge of the top sash.

Window warranties don’t include installation of a replacement, but once you have the correct replacement sash it is not difficult to correct the problem.

I encountered this same problem a few years ago when a window bought at a home center – one of many I installed myself – developed a foggy sash. The manufacturer quickly sent a replacement sash, with no charge and no red tape. The replacement fit perfectly and I have had no problems since.

Send questions and comments to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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