Advanced search

New wooden front door - oil or varnish?

(10 Posts)
Sallythedog Thu 13-Mar-14 09:41:43

Advice please. Anything I've found on the web suggests that oiling a front door gives the best finish and is good for the wood. It is, however, quite a time consuming process, and would need more skill than I have. My front door is inside a porch, which, while it gets warm, does not have any direct sunlight on it.

I had a decorator round to discuss the exterior redecs, and told him that I wanted the door oiled, and he seemed to know how it was done. Subsequently I had a phone call from him telling me that oiling would give an 'antique' effect and he didn't think that was what I wanted, and he suggested a matt varnish.

Does anybody have any experience of an oiled front door, or do they know if the painter's assertion is true. I'm very sceptical and thinking he's looking to do an easier job.

Somebody else coming on Monday to quote, so I would like to know what I'm dealing with before then.

Any help much appreciated.

rachelmonday1 Thu 13-Mar-14 10:08:04

Hi Sally,

I'm actually a guy and do an awful lot of DIY and have virtually rebuilt houses over the last few years. But that's another story!

I'm assuming that your front door is made from a hardwood (reddy-brown in colour), in which case I would most definately opt for the oil option and recommend a good quality teak oil. B&Q and such places will have it.

Using this will give you a natural wood finish, as the oil simply soaks into the wood and deters water penetration, preventing rot. It also keeps the would more in its' natural state, helping to minimise any warping or twisting.

Another advantage of oil is that it's very easy to do. You simply use a good clean brush and paint the oil onto the wood. No rubbing down each time you want to refresh it, as needed with varnish, although I'd recommend oiling every year.

I think that your decorator may be thinking of using a product called "Sadolin", which is a very good product, but can leave a more matt / antique finish.

It all comes down to what you really want. Oil will give a natural, waterproof finish and is easily applied, whereas varnish can give a high-gloss or sheen finish, but requires more preparation.

Please shout if you have any questions smile

PigletJohn Thu 13-Mar-14 10:21:51

a clear finish is more troublesome than paint. Is your door fully exposed to the weather, or is it in (at least) an open porch?

Varnish is fairly durable, but when it breaks down and water gets under the film, you have to sand it right down to the bare wood before you recoat, which is a lot of work, especially around the mouldings and any glass.

Oil needs more regular treatment, but you can apply new over old (unless you neglect it for long enough for the surface to break down)

I use a flexible breathing stain. I think the makers say it has a 5-year life. My front door is inside a porch, and although it gets dull over time, the surface never breaks down and it just needs to be cleaned, wiped over with fine sandpaper and then retreated. I have identical doors at the back of the house, exposed to the weather, and they need to be taken off and stripped down to the wood. I have recently taken to using linseed oil on the door sills as they need the most frequent treatment.

Sallythedog Thu 13-Mar-14 10:24:23

Thanks 'Mr'Rachel. That's very helpful, and yes the front door is hardwood. The oiling process you describe sounds straightforward and simpler than those I've been reading about on the web, which talked about very thin layers, very carefully applied, and removing the door in order to work horizontally.

I'm now thinking that I'll tell the decorator to leave the front door, and I'll get myself some teak oil, some good brushes, and a note in my diary to repeat the process next year.

PigletJohn Thu 13-Mar-14 10:25:04


If your door has a veneered surface and an engineered core, the door makers probably say that it is not suitable for treatment with wax or oil. This is a common warning. I don't know, but it might be that the veneer could peel off.

rachelmonday1 Thu 13-Mar-14 10:48:02

Hi Sally,

I agree with PigletJohn, in that oil should NOT be used on veneered doors and assumed that you were referring to a solid hardwood door. For veneered doors, then Sadolin is probably the easiest and most effective finish, but it will be matte / "antiquey".

Sallythedog Thu 13-Mar-14 13:11:42

Thank you both. I've just spoken to the supplier and the door is engineered, not solid. It's in an enclosed uPvc porch.

Maybe I need a rethink. Either Sadolin, or maybe PigletJohn would be kind enough to name the flexible breathing stain that he uses.

I appreciate your advice.


PigletJohn Thu 13-Mar-14 13:42:08

I use the Dulux one. I think it is called "Woodsheen" or something like that. Even the gloss stain is not very shiny. It is branded "for external use" but I do the inside and outside of the door to match. Have had Sadolin and some people like it, but it is an opaque stain and obscures the grain and figure of the wood.

A useful tip is to use a "colourless" version of the stain, not one that is branded Mahogany or Teak or something, which are dark, so, the more coats you apply, the darker it gets, and also, where there is a thicker layer because your brush was heavily loaded, it will show as a dark patch.

If you first use Colron to dye the wood to your preferred tone, the grain and colour will show through the clear stain. This also allows you to dye the doorframe to match, it might be of a different timber.

Take off all the door furniture before you start work. If you have a mortice deadlock, you may find the brass or stainless foreend is decorative and can be removed by taking out the two small screws.

Clean off all dirt, grease and fingerprints from the bare wood with white spirit.

PigletJohn Thu 13-Mar-14 13:44:27


now I see your door is in an enclosed porch, I bet the stain will last ten or 15 years with no weather to attack it. You will probably want to redecorate it when it gets too chipped or scratched.

Sallythedog Thu 13-Mar-14 13:50:42

Such great advice here. Thank you so much.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: