Q. My wood entry door was beautiful about 10 years ago but has been dried out by direct sun and is now unsightly. It had a stained, wood-toned finish. How can I restore it?
A. The best bet, by far, is to paint the door. Paint will hold up much better under outdoor conditions than a wood-tone finish. Restoring to a wood tone would also be much more difficult and require more frequent maintenance.
It is always better to remove a door from its hinges when refinishing, and to lay it flat on a work surface such as a pair of sawhorses. This is often impractical with an entry door, since refinishing can take two or more days. It is possible to refinish the door in place, but it is a lot more difficult.
This is also a fair-weather project, but even if you live in a cold climate region, this is a good time to gather all the materials and read the directions.
Start by removing the old finish. A paste-type paint-and-varnish remover is best because it will cling to the vertical surface long enough to soften the old finish.
A powerful remover such as Strypeeze will save time, but be sure to follow all the cautions on the label. Mask or cover all surfaces that might be damaged by the paint remover.
When the old finish is completely stripped, clean the door’s surface following directions on the paint-remover container.
If you plan to paint, sand the door with 150-grit sandpaper and repair any defects with exterior wood filler. When the wood is smooth, apply an exterior primer and let that dry thoroughly.
Choose high-quality acrylic enamel for the finish coats. Suitable enamels are available in many colors at paint stores and home centers. You will also need a good-quality paint brush.
Apply two coats of enamel, sanding lightly after the first coat.
If you want to try a wood-tone finish, strip the old finish, clean the wood, then apply a pigmented oil stain in the wood tone of your choice. When the stain coat is dry, apply multiple coats of a high-quality marine or spar varnish.
At least three or four coats of varnish are needed. Do not use polyurethane, which will not survive long outdoors.
Q. A few years ago we installed new windows in our home and sealed them tightly as directed. Since then we have been getting heavy condensation on the windows and mildew is forming under them. What’s wrong and how can we stop this?
A. I think you are having a problem that is not uncommon in homes that have been tightly sealed with energy-saving improvements.
In some cases, homes are so tight that there are no gaps or cracks to allow moisture-laden indoor air to escape. The trapped moisture condenses on any cold surface, often windows. It is comparable to eyeglasses fogging up when you enter a warm house on a cold day.
The remedy is to provide outlets for the moist air, generally by using ventilating fans in bathrooms, kitchen and laundry rooms, where moisture production is high. You should also make sure your clothes dryer, central heater, range and any flame-type heaters are properly vented to the outdoors.
In some cases, dehumidifiers might be needed to wring some of the excess moisture from the air.
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