So, you’ve found your perfect antique door.
And if you’ve read our antique door buying guide, you should have something that’s in good shape too. You are already well prepared for the restoration phase.
But before you get too heavy-handed with that drill, we’ve prepared a helpful antique door restoration guide so that your new architectural antique will shine in its new home:
Disclaimer: This guide is intended for DIYers planning to fit reclaimed doors themselves and assumes access to basic hand tools. If you are not well versed in handling a hammer, we recommend bringing in a professional. We’re just thinking of your thumbs.
- Open joints
If you need to re-glue an open joint the first job on the list is cleaning it out and removing any dust or old adhesive. To do this, we recommend using a small chisel or scraper. Once complete, the joint should be glued and clamped for at least 24 hours allowing it to set. A bar clamp is ideal but if you don’t have one a ratchet strap can be used as an alternative.
If you have weak, broken or cut through joints then a surface-mounted metal plate can be used instead. We feel an old repair plate can add further character to your door but if this isn’t to your taste, a modern plate can be fixed underneath the joint so it isn’t visible.
- Split panels
Unfortunately, cracked panels can be very difficult to glue back together. If the door is going to be painted, the best solution is to cut the panel out and replace it with similar old timber or plywood.
- Missing beading
Beading can be difficult and expensive to replicate, especially if you are missing just one or two pieces. The best solution is often to cannibalise beading from another matching door. If this isn’t possible, then you can strip the beading from one side to repair the other. Timber merchants will often carry a range of standard profiles, with which you can replace a whole side. They may also offer a machining service if a close match is required.
- Worm or other insect attacks
If you have active woodworm or other insects taking your door hostage, you will notice small piles of very fine dust on the floor and on the surface of the door. Moving the door will often dislodge more dust.
The best course of action here is to treat the door with an appropriate insect treatment. You can either spray or brush it on (always read the instructions for the application method). Most of the time more than one coat is required.
If the area you are treating is very small, then individual holes can be injected with a syringe. Treating woodworm or other insect attacks does involve using hazardous substances so we recommend carrying out treatment in a well-ventilated location, preferably outside. Once your door has been treated and allowed to dry, the holes can be filled with wax or filler.
- Warped or twisted door
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to fix a warped door. Reclaimed doors have a long history of use and are therefore rarely 100% straight, but anything other than minor twisting will make the door hard to use.
We recommend either accepting the character of the door or seeking alternative uses. If that isn’t possible, best to start again with a new door.
- Finishing your door
Top tip: The quality of finish is all about the effort you put into the preparation.
From experience, stripping a door’s paint to then paint it again can actually create additional and unnecessary work. If you are planning to paint your door, we advise leaving any existing paint in place. A good sanding will provide a key for new paint. If it is necessary to sand the door first, always wear a dust mask.
Stripping is only needed if the original paint is poorly adhered, or the definition of the beading is being lost by paint buildup.When painting a door that has been stripped by dipping it into a bath of caustic soda, it is important to neutralise any remaining caustic first. If you can see white crystals on the surface this is a good indication that there is caustic remaining.
Your door can be neutralised by brushing or spraying it with white vinegar. Once this has been done and the door is fully dry, it needs to be sanded. Any stubborn paint residue can be scraped away with a sharp chisel.
Before painting, don’t forget to use a knotting solution to treat any knots in the door. If you don’t do this they will start to show through the paint after a year or two. If you want to keep the stripped look, finish in clear wax.
Top tip: Sometimes a door may look like it has already been stripped, but might have actually been waxed. If this is the case, you need to remove the wax before painting or it won’t adhere properly. If the sanding pad becomes clogged quickly, this is a good indication that there is wax residue. Wax can be removed using fine wire-wool soaked in white spirit or similar.
Top tip: An oscillator multi-tool with a shaped sanding head is great for sanding the corners of panels and also has many other uses. We recommend this as a useful addition to any DIYers toolkit.
Now our restoration guide is complete and you’re ready to work some magic on your vintage door. We’d love to see the end results of your antique door restoration project. Why not share your images with @uk_heritage on Instagram?
If you’re still looking for your perfect door, read our antique door buying guide.