My tips to Restore a Period Front Door for First-timers

“We should have done this the first week we moved in!”. This is what my SO and I said with a single voice when we were halfway restoring our existing period front door.

Today I want to share my tips around giving a new lease of life to an existing period door. It’s been so far a good DIY project to do, better for our budget and the environment (save a tree!)

A first-time buyers problem

As new first time homeowners of a period house in need of TLC, we had so many projects inside the house that we let the door be a side little project that never progressed very far. It started by recognizing that the door, an original Edwardian door was in bad shape: it had been painted dozens of times, the textured glass panels were mixed and mash, the base seemed composed of rotted wood and finally, the door frame was painted in a glossy petrol black which we always look with disgust whenever entering or exiting the property.

BEFORE – This Door Entrance needed TLC – OK from afar but far from being OK

It was wearing us down mentally!

So we did asked a few door specialist company to come and help us. They quoted up to £6K (yes!!!!!) for a new front door. Therefore we got even more depressed. None of them told us to diy (of course I guess…)

It’s not because you are a millennial and managed to get onto the property ladder in London that you can afford a 6K door. What a lot of nonsense I thought.

I personally did not wanted to go UPVC and Composite door because our personal choice was to have a traditional timber door in keeping with the period look and feel. I know these options are cheaper. We wanted to go for sustainable wood like Accoya but turns out you have to go via door specialist only for this type of chemically enhanced pine wood.

Going the DIY route

So back to square one after multiple faffing. Then one day I just decided to check if the wood threshold was in beyond repair or not (I guess the frustration was mounting up that day). And after removing the metallic plate and knocking on it, it wasn’t rotted, it just needed sanding and a bit of wood filler. And it is how the DIY Door renovation started…. in a nutshell…


Pin-me for later

Steps to Renovate The Front Door

Starting with the frame.

Using a heat gun allowed me to remove most of the paint on the frame.
After using the heat gun, I sanded using a grade 50 sandpaper and most of the thin paint came off. Then proceeded with finishing with a 120 fine grid.
  • Check for rotten timber by knocking with a chisel or small hammer. Typically rotten timber will crumble easily. If that happens to knock around the rotten part until no more wood crumbles. Use wood filler.
  • Use a heat gun on the dozens of layers of paint and scrap with a chisel. Disclaimer: Due to the presence of lead in the paint on old houses, you need to be extra careful not to breathe fumes. I made sure the door was always open for ventilation reasons, and I was wearing a protective mask, glasses and gloves. I’d recommend taking breaks too. There may be an alternative to the head-gun but I got the best result with it.
  • Sand. I used a sanding machine. Use a grade 50-60 sandpaper to start with and work yourself to finer grade sandpaper for finishes or to use between paint coats (like grade 120).
  • Use exterior wood filler for any gaps + sand down
  • Apply two coats of an exterior wood primer
  • Then once dry, I apply an eggshell white with a sheen lower than the door so that the door would stand out.

The job is quite physical as scrapping and sanding require elbow grease and exercising preassure.

Getting all the door furniture out before sending the door for stripping

We used a professional company to strip the paint from the door. We used same day service with collection and delivery and it cost us £180 definitely WORTH-IT. I know for a fact after doing the frame that it would have taken me more than 3 days of work to DIY this part. Plus, we don’t have a lot of space to do such DIY in-house and to be honest I was tired! Because the front side of the door was acrylic-based as opposed to the oil base, we were told that the paint wasn’t removed in the acid dipping pool and they had to strip some manually. The professionals made a great work and I’ll be happy to recommend them if you are based in London, just DM me!

The door is now drying and soon I’ll be able to paint it! Cannot wait.

Select the right replacement glass. We are going for a clear laminated glass. Double-glazing will not fit in this type of door. We compared thoughened glass and laminated glass and turned out that laminated glass is harder to break as it requires multiple impacts! Moreover, clear glass is cheaper than etched glass and we thought we’d use high-quality vinyl to add privacy which can be changed if we fancy it. More about that on the next blog post!

Once the new glass is in place and the door has dried from the paint dipping strip, sand with grade 40-60.

The back of the door looks so much better now all the old paint is off

Then prime the bare wood and apply two coats of your favourite colour.

Create a Door Mood board

Door furniture is a topic in itself. It’s worth creating a mood board for your entry door project I believe. I saved numerous doors pin on Pinterest and my phone taken from walks around West London. Check my board here for inspo. . It can help you in selecting the colour, sheen finish and door furniture.

Peak at the neighbour

Another tip is to keep an eye on the doors esthetic of your neighbours. Potential buyers will appreciate a similar aesthetic. It can be similar door furniture finish not necessarily the same colour.

Curious to see what will happen to this door? Keep an eye on my new blog posts for the mood board or my Instagram for the final reveal!