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Restore Your Wooden Doors To Period Perfection

Sep 10, 2008
When it comes to renovating a house, especially a period house, it is essential to pay attention to detail and get every last thing right for an authentic atmosphere. Many houses on the market today have had an overhaul at some point, usually a modification, and had all the original features removed. If you are lucky, you will find that the things that make your house a home have just been boarded over, such as traditional fireplaces and high ceilings.

These types of modifications were done in an era where period homes were perceived as stuffy and old fashioned, and there was a desire to have a clean cut and minimal feel to the home. Architecture at this point used solid lines, open spaces and a minimum amount of decorative fittings. Thankfully, this trend has reversed, and many people are now trying to restore their period home to its former glory. The Formica work surfaces and chip board doors are being removed; the false ceilings are being broken through with sledgehammers; and the dado rails are seeing the light of day again.

One of the top crimes that can be committed in a period home is painting over traditional and authentic features. Art Deco tiling has been lost for decades under layers of cheap magnolia gloss and woodchip wall paper. Setting these features free can take weeks of restoration work, and is one of the reasons why taking on a house to restore is a major task, consuming massive amounts of time. Being an interior designer and restoring houses is a full time job, but if done well, the monetary benefits will make it worthwhile.

An authentic feature that prospective buyers like to see in a restored home is the right doors. During modification, many of these housed either replaced the original timber doors with a lightweight MDF version, or with glass or sliding vinyl ones. The old type, being solid oak, would have fetched a pretty penny, so were worth cashing in at a salvage yard. Ironically this is one place where you can find your replacements. Finding ones that fit however could be a bit more of a challenge, in which case, there are companies that specialise in making doors to specification.

If you are lucky, the property under improvement will still have the original wooden doors, albeit glossed over a few times in the past century! These are relatively easy to sort out and there are a number of ways to strip the paint. One of the first stops is the local Do It Yourself shop to pick up paint stripper, a brush, scraper and protective gloves and goggles. Once fully protected and wearing old clothes, with newspaper on the floor, apply the paint stripping solution with the brush, ensuring that you get the solution well in to intricate areas. After a few minutes, the paint will start to bubble, and will come off easily with the scraper. Paint stripping solution is incredible toxic and can cause bad burns if it comes into contact with skin, so you may prefer to use a method that does not require chemicals.

A paint stripper is an effective tool and it's only danger is the temperature the element can reach. Looking a little like a hairdryer, the paint stripper is used to heat the paint on the wood until it starts to blister, at which point, the paint can be removed using the scraper. This had the advantage of removing all the layers of paint in one go and getting into the nooks and crannies easily, although care must be taken not to burn the door. Alternatively, it is possible to remove the doors and take them to be 'dipped'. This method restores any type of door whether oak, beech or apple wood to it's former glory; leaving you the time to liberate the lost floorboards and fireplaces from the clutches of DIY hell.
About the Author
Dominic Donaldson is an expert in the interiors industry.
Find out more about wooden doors and how to restore your house to uts former glory at Door Depot.
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