I recognize that this may be more appropriate for DIY, but what I'm doing hies pretty closely to classic woodworking, so let's give it a try.

I've read a few Q&A related to refinishing wooden storm doors but they either discuss timber choices or stains. Feel free to tell me about any I have missed.

What I have are two sort of antique wood storm doors that need some repair and updating, and I'm hoping the SE hivemind can help me move this project along before I poison my child any further.

Oh, right. It turns out that these two doors, which see a lot of element abuse here in SW Ontario, are conveniently covered in paint containing lead. The paint is in decent shape, but let's assume that the lead is sloughing off as we speak, and I'm loathe to spend one more windy summer letting these things blow heavy metals into the house.

I think the doors are made with fir, though a scratch test might indicate white oak. They have matching screen and mullioned glazing inserts that we swap out depending on the season. I'll have to refinish those as well.

I'd like to remove all the paint (which may be over c. 1920 varnish of some sort) and not just paint over it for a few reasons:

  • I'm removing the mortice lock and handle and replacing it with a ball-catch and some newer hardware.
  • I'm going to repair and cleanup the hinge mortices and holes so I can rehang them with confidence.
  • My family has decided they want a bold colour, and I want to do a good job sealing and painting these to make them pop.

So, my idea is to:

  • Remove the doors from their frames and strip them of all hardware.
  • Carefully strip off as much of the old finishes as I can; I'm ok with sweat equity here.
  • Do the carpentry necessary to fixup the gouges, holes left by the unused mortice lock, scratch plates, and knobs (the knobs have to go because when I installed a new lockset on the front door I neglected to take into account that I didn't have the depth I needed and the lockset interferes with the screen door knobs) and generally repair the door to get it ready to hang. (How to best fill a big mortice hole in a door might be a follow-on question.)
  • Prepare the surface (either bare wood, or more likely, a surface ready for priming) as safely as possible. This means no or little sanding. I'm hoping to keep all the lead confined to splotches of removed paint that I can seal up in bags and dispose of safely and legally.

I've done a fair amount of refinishing in my time, so I have the "get things down to a ready surface" part in the bag, with the caveat being I'm treating the old finish like toxic waste.

What happens next is my question. I've read about "sealing", though I don't what that is in comparison to primer. I think I need several coats of good exterior paint on top of some number of coats of primer. Given a decent mostly bare wood surface, what is the recommendation for finishing so we get a nice looking finish that is also nice and safe?

  • Just out of curiosity, were you planning on stripping with chemical strippers or another route? Heat guns work well on old paint as a rule, worth investigating as an option if you can't/don't want to use chemical strippers.
    – Graphus
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 17:45
  • Now what to use afterwards.... heading firmly into opinion land here. Those who have embraced modern finishes will talk up modern acrylic "micro-porous" formulations as the bees knees, a traditionalist might try to sell you on linseed oil paint and point to its proven longevity (and the lack thereof with modern stuff). TBH both camps make good cases. Other factors being equal I'd personally be happy to try either one. Other factors are not equal though — linseed oil paints can be pricey, to say the least. But their makers insist you save in the long term because they weather soooo well.
    – Graphus
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 17:50
  • @Graphus I've had good luck with some the strippers at my local hardware store. Compared with strippers in the past, they seem pretty effective and with proper safety equipment they don't seem overly toxic. I'm hoping to scrape most of the paint off as strips of goo if I can. Assuming this goo is probably just as bad as the chemicals I'd be using, as long as I contain it and bag it up I should be ok. This is not a project for kiddo to help me with, of course.
    – user5572
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 17:51
  • @Graphus, I have a pretty sweet corporate rate for quality paints and finishings from a high quality joint. So assume price is no object!
    – user5572
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 17:53
  • Strippers that can take paint off as strips of goo are the best, love those! Stripping 'wet' is the ideal for any paint that's considered toxic as it constrains the waste none is made airborne. Actually the risk (to a healthy adult) from one-time exposure to lead-paint dust isn't severe, but obviously you want to avoid it entirely if you can. "So assume price is no object!" That'll be good if you decide to go with linseed oil paint as the price can be a bit eye-watering! That's over here come to think of it, no idea what it costs in Canada TBH.
    – Graphus
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 18:19

1 Answer 1


. . .what is the recommendation for finishing so we get a nice looking finish that is also nice and safe?

As you mentioned in the original post, the key to a nice paint job on something like this is a nice clean strip, and good primer. You'll want to prime the piece, sand it lightly, 320-400 grit is good. After sanding, clean thoroughly with a tack cloth, or a wet cloth, and then re-prime. Once the surface is smooth and evenly coated, 1-2 coats of top coat will give you a beautiful finish. Be very careful about drips accumulating in the corners of the piece, as they will puddle, and take away from the sharp clean finish.

  • Remember I'm doing lead mitigation here, and in and near my own home. So sanding is specifically something I need to avoid as much as possible.
    – user5572
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 14:58

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