Sharing the process I used to strip the paint from our wood front door.
Well, let me just start out by saying, I thought this was going to be a fairly quick & easy DIY project. Boy was I wrong. Stripping the paint from our front door turned out to be quite the process, but in the end (now that I’m on the other side of it all anyway), there’s no doubt it was worth it.
When we purchased this old house (read more about that story here), it came with a purple door. A bright, eye-catching, awful purple door that not only wasn’t my style, but even more, looked so incredibly out of place on our pretty tudor style home.
I really hated it. So much so, that I got right to work getting rid of it just three days after moving in. We still had boxes lining the walls, whole rooms to unpack even and renovations to get started on, but I just couldn’t live with that purple door for another minute. Considering just how much we had on our plates, I considered painting it a more neutral colour for a hot minute – it would have been SO much faster and easier. But, knowing there was a beautiful, solid oak door hiding underneath, it seemed such a shame to cover it with paint. And so, in keeping with our choice to work with the oak in the rest of our home (you can read more about why here), I decided I would strip away all that purple paint and restore this big, beautiful door to all its former glory (more on that below!).
I ordered up a few supplies and got right to work. I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos on Instagram along the way. I had so many questions about what I was using and how I was using it that I figured it would be worth putting together a blog post to share the process for you. So, if you’re curious about the process of stripping paint from a wood door, this one’s for you my friend!
How to Strip Paint from a Wood Door
- Chemical Paint Stripper (I used Citristrip because it’s biodegradable and non-caustic, making it one of the safer options)
- Inexpensive Paint Brush (something you can just throw away when you’re done)
- Container to hold the paint stripper while you’re working (I just grabbed a plastic container from our recycling bin)
- Paint Scraper
- Chemical Resistant Gloves
- Garbage Bags & Plastic Wrap
- Mineral Spirits
- Sanding tools (we used an orbital sander and this oscillating multi-tool to get into all the corners)
- Wire brush
While Citristrip is one of the safer options for stripping paint, you’re still going to want to do a bit of prep work to contain the mess. For me, this consisted of laying a few garbage bags around my working area. You may also choose to remove your door from it’s hinges – I didn’t take it down to use the stripping agent (that door is insanely heavy!), but we did take it off to do the sanding afterwards.
I started by painting a very thick coat of Citristrip onto our door. I learned very quickly that the paint stripper needs to remain wet to keep working its magic – it starts to dry out pretty quickly, so I made sure to work in smaller sections, covering the wet paint stripper with plastic wrap to slow down the drying process as I went.
With the door (or in this case the sidelight) covered in paint stripper and plastic wrap, I let it sit for a few hours to do its thing. The longer I let it sit, the more paint I noticed bubbling up. I checked on it every once in a while and, once it looked like most of the paint had bubbled up, I started peeling back sections of the plastic wrap and scraping away the Citiristip and most of the paint along with it. I made sure to work in small sections so that the Citristrip didn’t have time to dry as I found that when it dried up, it was much harder and less efficient to scrape the paint away. Most of the paint came off in long strips, but it definitely took some extra scraping to get into all of the nooks and crannies.
Once I’d scraped away as much as I could, I continued along with the door and other sidelight. I found that most of the paint scraped away from the sidelights with just one round of paint stripper, but the door (particularly the bottom half) definitely needed an extra round of Citristrip.
Once we’d scraped away as much paint (and the primer underneath) as we could, we gave it a quick wipe with some mineral spirits on a rag and then pulled out our sanding tools. We actually removed the door for this part, mostly to contain the mess, but it also made it SO much easier to work on. The sidelights had to stay right where they were of course, but since I’d gotten most of the paint off of them already, it wasn’t so bad to have to work on those little bits upright.
I spent hours sanding and painstakingly scraping the paint left behind in all of the grooves and detail work. Covered head-to-toe in sawdust, this is when I really started to wonder if all this time and effort was worth it.
And then, that very night, Carson came across this old photo of Brady and I in the eleventh grade (21 years ago somehow!) and it was the perfect reminder of why we’re doing this. All of this. It was just the motivation I needed to push through all the sawdust.
After even more hours of sanding and scraping, I managed to get probably 95% of the paint off, but there were still some flecks of white primer stuck deep into the grain of the wood. I was so close I could almost taste it.
I scoured the internet and tried all the things in an effort to get rid of those last bits of paint – more paint stripper, scrubbing with steel wool, a heavy duty stripping pad and even wire brushes (which just sanded away the wood), but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get those last bits of white paint out of the grain. According to this article, I’d reached the point of having to order up a dental hook and scrape each little bit, grain-by-grain. It was at that point that I decided I’d invested enough time into saving this old door and that 95% would just have to be good enough.
And so, with MOST of the paint removed, this beauty was FINALLY ready for some stain. Not surprisingly, it took me a while to settle on a stain colour (like every other decision I’ve had to make in this house!). I searched up all the photos I could online to see how the different stain colours might look when painted onto red oak and, while that really helped me to narrow down my options, I still really struggled to commit to a favourite. Ideally, I would have painted on some samples of the stain colours to see in person, but after all the sanding I’d already done and no extra pieces of red oak around to make use of, I just couldn’t bring myself to try any test patches on the door knowing I’d have to sand them away again. So, in the interest of moving forward and finally finishing this darn door, while also making the rest of this journey as simple as possible, I took a giant leap of faith and just followed my gut with this stain colour. Thankfully, it was everything I’d hoped it would be!
Not too light, or too dark and just the right amount of warmth – I honestly couldn’t be happier with how it turned out!
And now, all this beauty needs is a new handleset to complete the transformation. Like the stain colour, I’ve been having the hardest time deciding just which one to go with, but you can check out some of my favourite options here.
I’d definitely underestimated just how much time and effort it would take to strip away all that paint and restore this old door back to its former glory, but it makes my heart SO happy to see the beautiful door every time I pull up to our house now. It’s just as lovely as I remember it when we were kids. Turns out this was the perfect first project to kick off our restoration of this old house.
Wishing you SUCH a lovey day!
I can't wait to hear your thoughts!