Stains and Finishes for an Exterior Wood Door

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Stains and Finishes for an Exterior Wood Door

Gorgeous, custom wood doors are one of the key features on the front of a home. There are many material, style, and color options available to today’s discerning homeowner, but what if you are after that look and feel of traditional wood, but still want the ease of more Modern finishes? With the right know-how and advice, you can get a front door as worry-free as possible.

Penetrating Stain Finish

Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain

It can be tempting to go with a conventional clear coating on your door, after all, they keep the rain out, right? But don’t let the temptation of easy keep you from the durability and longevity of other finishes. Typical urethane, marine varnishes, and spar coatings are susceptible to UV light and prolonged moisture exposure. A front door requires not just a coating, but a penetrating substance to help preserve the wood from the inside out.

Carpenter staining wood with a penetrating wood stain with a large brush

Choose a penetrating stain finish, one that is specially made for exterior surfaces. These stains typically contain a mildewcide and are water-repellent. Follow the manufacturer’s application instructions to ensure that your stain color is even. Be sure to coat the exterior surface, including the sides, top, and bottom of your door, completely.

This finish is fairly simple to maintain. Simply wipe your door clean and reapply your stain once every year or two.

Multi-Coat Varnish

Minwax Polyurethane One Coat Waterproof

Varnish on its own doesn’t have enough protection to keep your beautiful door from being adversely affected by the weathering effects of heat, cold, sun, and rain. But if combined with a wood preservative and stain it can give you long-term protection. This method is very similar to what wooden boat owners do to protect their watercraft.

  1. Your first coat should consist of a water-repellant, wood preservative. There are several on the market, make sure that it says water repellant on the description.
  2. Second, follow this protective layer with your choice of varnish-compatible furniture stain. Remember that stain color is more difficult to change than paint color. Be sure to choose a stain that goes with your overall home color and décor. The pigment in this stain actually helps to protect your door from UV damage. Be sure that the stain you choose is compatible with multiple layers of varnish.
  3. Third, create a sealing coat by mixing varnish and solvent (like turpentine) in a 1:1 mix. Paint it on, allow to dry and then sand lightly.
  4. Lastly, follow your sealing coat with at least three coats of varnish, sanding lightly between each, to achieve a good, water-proof finish.

Environmental Protection

Rustic Farmhouse Knotty Alder Wood Door with Glass Sidelites

Rustic Farmhouse Knotty Alder Wood Door with Glass Sidelites

The last method for preserving your front door isn’t a stain or finish, it’s just good advice. To get the greatest longevity out of your door you need to protect it from the elements that destroy it. Direct sun and overexposure to rain are the two most damaging elements a door can endure. You can help by building a porch, using an awning, and planting trees to provide shade and protection to your front entrance. Not only will your door last longer, but your yard will be more beautiful as well.


Image sources:

Adobe Stock Photo

Customer Photo


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