DIY Front Door Makeover – Blah to Wow

8 12 2013

This post is to share a quick tip on updating a door by giving it a faux-wood look in just a few hours. But first a little background leading up to this project.

The homes in our neighborhood were built after the war in the late 1940s to early 1950s. A mixture of small 3 and 2 bedroom generic ranches about 900 – 1400 sf. I’ve heard Douglas Aircraft built many of the homes for its employees, both executives and factory workers. A few houses like ours were built by the government for returning veterans.

These days many of these houses have been remodeled to update and add more living space as we have. I’ve always noticed the first project nearly every new homeowner does is replace the front door. Not us. We kept the original painted solid wood door and periodically gave it a fresh coat of paint. Now that the master suite addition is done and the whole house got a fresh coat of grayish green stucco, the plain white front door stood out like a sore thumb.

After months of investigating options to replace our door, last weekend on the spur of the moment we decided to stop at the paint store. Having watched countless hours of home improvement shows over the years and getting input from the sales associate, I decided to try creating a wood-look with paint. I bought two quarts of latex paint, one a warm tan color to mimic natural wood and the other a blackish brown to simulate walnut–the thought being if the faux-wood look doesn’t work out just cover it with the dark brown.

Here are photos of before, during and after. A summary of the application process follows.

20131208-111106.jpg “During”

20131208-111119.jpg “After”

20131208-111127.jpg “Before”

-1st step: wipe down the door with deglosser to help the new paint adhere. We prefer deglosser to sandpaper, because old houses have lead paint. If you sand paint, always wear a mask or respirator.

-2nd step: Apply the lighter tan paint over the entire door using a large brush, e.g. 3-4″ angled

-3rd step: After allowing the paint to dry according to the directions (1-2 hours) apply narrow blue painters tape vertically in places where the door’s horizontal sections intersect the vertical sides. This helps maintain the look of wood grain. (Watch a few how to videos on YouTube to help grasp this concept. You’ll see a lot of professionals with complicated faux-wood graining techniques, but you really just need to understand what direction the woodgrain naturally goes on your door–usually horizontal across the top, middle and bottom sections and horizontal along the sides. Decorative trim moulding on the door can be painted normally.)

-4th step: Apply the darkest color to each of the horizontal sections one at a time using a Chipping Brush (short bushy bristles $1 or so apiece or any old scruffy brush will work-just don’t use a good brush or you’ll get too much paint) going in the same horizontal direction of the woodgrain. Avoid applying too much paint by wiping both sides of the brush off on both sides. Drag the brush straight across the section purposely leaving lines of dark and light to mimic woodgrain. Quickly follow that with another clean dry brush–either another chipping brush (have a lot of these on hand) or I used a large wood staining brush that I already had. Do not dip it in the paint, just press this dry brush over the area always working in the same direction to simulate woodgrain. After painting all the horizontal sections using this technique, remove the painters tape.

-5th step: Follow step 4 to do the same process for the vertical sections of the door being careful not to brush over any of the horizontal sections previously painted. I opted not to use the tape this time, but if you want to use it again wait 1-2 hours for the horizontally painted sections to dry.

It was easier to do than it sounds. Like anything else, you can make it as simple or complex as you have time and patience to do.

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