I moved into my 1870 built house in South Croydon almost four years ago. The previous owners renovated it half a year prior and in my opinion it lost some of it’s period feel. I carried out a front door restoration to introduce some natural woodwork and add a little character.

To achieve a rustic feel, I settled on an oil finish and new period fixings. This post gives you an idea of the steps and time involved. It’s slightly light on pictures so please get in touch if you’d like to know anything specific.

The Door Frame

I removed the majority of paint with a heat gun, paint scrapers and scalpels. The same tools, paint stripper and wire wool completed the paint removal. I experimented with Nitromors and ScrewFix No Nonsense Paint & Varnish Stripper and found the latter to be superior (result and cost wise).

The frame was washed with water to remove residual stripper and left to dry before filling holes with the nearest matching Brummer filler. The last step pre-oil was to sand the frame with 80 and 120 grit aluminium oxide paper. I wanted a non-perfect finish so didn’t work my way down to super fine grades. Sanding the intricate mouldings was tedious and the only thing that kept me going was LBC!

Despite using the correct heat gun attachment, I managed to crack the glass in the top of the frame. I sourced a replacement pane from a local glazier, fitted using a bed of glazing silicone and finished with a brown linseed putty. To keep the pane snugly fitted whilst the silicone set, I used panel pins gently nailed into the frame.

The final step was to finish with five coats of pure tung oil. This stuff is fantastic (thanks to my brother in law for the introduction) and is now my wood finish of choice. It’s durable, waterproof, leaves a stunning finish, and is easy to apply. I thinned the first two coats with white spirit (50/50) and applied the remaining three neat. Excess oil was wiped off after ~30mins and super fine (0000) wire wool used between coats (which should be applied after a few days).

With over 145 years of paint, I can categorically confirm that this is a laborious process. It took me over three months of ad-hoc work to complete!

 The Door

After spending so much time working on the door frame, I had hoped that the door itself would take less time. Wishful thinking!

I used a same day service from a local dipping company to remove the majority of the paint. The only prerequisite was the removal of all fittings before an early pickup / late drop-off.

Note to self: next time do this when it’s warm outside!!

I’ve read mixed reviews on dipping and some say that doors never fit quite as well post dipping due to warping. This wasn’t my experience, probably due to the thickness of the pine and overall construction of the door.

The easiest way to work on the door was to remove it, carry it outside and re-hang once I’d had enough. My very own version of weight lifting!

I followed the same process as the frame to remove the paint left in the mouldings and scrapers to remove the remains of the putty around the panes of glass. As a result of damage sustained during dipping, three new panes replaced cracked items. However, instead of putty, and to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing finish, I used beading to complete the pane installs. I cut slots in the back of the beading to aid installation around the curved apertures.

The door received the same filling, sanding and coats of tung oil as the frame before being re-hung with new ball bearing hinges and packers. As a result of the dipping I had to fill a couple of small holes with clear silicone. 

Completing the front door restoration

To complete the restoration, I installed a few new pieces of ironmongery: fleur-de-list door close, letterbox and internal flap.

I stripped the night latch, letters and mortice lock finishing plate back to bare metal with aluminium oxide grit in a media (sand) blasting cabinet. They subsequently received a coat of satin black powder coat, applied using my electrostaticMAGIC powder coating system. I usually use this kit for vehicle restoration, however in this case it saved me having to replace all locks and keys!

The final step involved reducing the amount of cold air that creeps into the house using P shaped draft excluder and a door brush. I used a wood stain thinned with white spirit to colour match the latter to the rest of the woodwork.

The front door took an additional two and a half months to complete.

Total project time = five and a half months.


Job done!


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