I looked around and didn't see an answer to this question. I have a wood door on my house that was looking a little dull. It had been finished at the factory with a black stain-lacquer combination. I thought I'd be smart and "clean" it up a bit after 10 years of sun damage, so I bought the right can of stain-lacquer and tried applying it with a brush. The results look pretty poor and I'm afraid to touch it again. I talked to a paint professional about fixing my mess, but he wasn't interested.

What can I do about this? I thought about trying to gently apply some lacquer thinner with a cotton cloth and just slowly rubbing it down until I'm back to the original state of the door, but I'm not sure of that will work. My understanding is that lacquer (and lacquer thinner).

The other thing I thought of was mixing the stain with lacquer thinner and (again) trying to apply a coat or two. But given the prior results, I'm very concerned about this.

Any advice?

  • 1
    Assuming you're using actual lacquer you won't be able to do this by brush. Normal lacquer is a spray finish, it's not intended for brush application and the solvent nature of the product means it's nearly impossible to apply that way except for small touchups. Special versions of lacquer, called brushing lacquers, are made but I think they're only available from specialist suppliers and are expensive.
    – Graphus
    Jan 22, 2018 at 11:03
  • If you want more input we need to see pictures. But it's possible that stripping and then painting the door is the way forward. You'll want to use a commercial chemical stripper, not lacquer thinner, to do the stripping. Because you're painting you don't have to get the door back to bare wood, since the primer and paint will cover any variations in colour.
    – Graphus
    Jan 22, 2018 at 11:07
  • 2
    "My understanding is that lacquer (and lacquer thinner)." Please elaborate.
    – ww_init_js
    Mar 20, 2018 at 22:22

2 Answers 2


I would do another coat (or two) with the brush. Then sand it with 220 grit to remove the brush marks. This way you would build up a finish. Don't be afraid of sanding it after building up a thick coat. you could even lightly sand between coats too.

Also, I would ask you to consider a spar urethane for outdoor stuff as it is a UV inhibitor.


I agree with Rick above. The technique is simple: sand the surfaces and the apply more coats.

Sanding: The better your sanding, the better your results. If you are inclined, start with rough sandpaper and then move to smoother sandpaper (say 320 grit). For table tops, I use 400 grit for the last grit of sandpaper. It should be smooth to the touch with no bumps. It should feel nice to the touch before you put more finish on. Some folks like to finish with fine steel wool (0000). Any blemish you see before applying more finish will be magnified by the sheen of the finish.

Applying finish: Assuming the finish you purchased isn't for a spray gun, then take note of the solvent suggested. If the finish leaves thick ropey trails on a test piece, mix some finish and a little of solvent together (in a separate container) and try again. If you have too much solvent, then the finish will be smooth but flat. Somewhere between ropy thick and too much solvent is a sweet spot for applying the finish. (Note: the sweet spot's mixture will vary depending on temperature and humidity so what worked one day may be different the next.).

Risks: Beside whatever it says on the side of the can of finish, there may be a couple of gotchas.

One, if there is gunk on the door or it isn't clean, your finish may not stick everywhere correctly. Two, especially on the edges, it is easy to sand through the dark finish into raw wood. That is tough not to do and sometimes can't be fixed other than to use a bit of opaque color to hide that.

If you are horrified by the first pass, you can strip the door. I suggest trying a few sandings and coats first (and if still horrified, then strip it).

It might be worthwhile to remove the door and work on it horizontal. The better the lighting, the better your seeing, and the better your seeing the better your work. Use raking light to see the condition of your work every chance you can.

If you wish to dig a bit deeper, I suggest looking at Bob Flexner's books. If you can't decide on one, take a look at 'Understanding Wood Finishing'. Best of luck!

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