Protecting Your Exterior Hardwood Door From The Sun

Contributed By: BAG Editors

In the broadest sense, wooden materials generally fall into two categories: softwoods and hardwoods. The difference comes down to density. Hardwoods, like mahogany, teak and oak, are generally denser than softwoods.  This is why wooden outdoor furniture, external doors and home decking tend to be made from harder woods. They’re stronger and more resistant to the outdoor elements, but this doesn’t mean hardwoods are entirely immune from damage.

Maintenance then is pretty crucial for protecting the appearance of your exterior hardwood doors – after all your doors may give visitors the perfect excuse to form a first impression of your home, so make sure it will be a positive one.

Here comes the sun

Wood maintenance really depends on how exposed your exterior hardwood doors are to the sun’s damaging ultra violet rays and the wet and windy weather conditions. For example, living in the UK, you can be assured of the latter being a constant menace more so than the heat of sun. But even in the peak of summer, the sun’s powerful glare can do lasting damage, so be careful!  On the other hand, locations in the southern portion of the US may be more affected by the constantly beating sun than moisture.

Sunlight is perhaps the most damaging element. Even if your door is nicely stained, the sun can still inconspicuously wear or even start to warp the grain overtime. But how can you spot the telltale signs of damage before it actually happens?

The appearance of what’s called “dulling” is usually the most obvious way of telling that the sun has damaged your door’s wooden surface: the door will have taken on a more darkened look and the finish starts to crack due to the accumulation of acidic pollutants.

Beware, oh take care

The frequency of required exterior hardwood door maintenance varies with individual application. A door which is shaded, for example, will invariably need less attention and care than say a fully exposed door. However, this doesn’t mean the covered door will not need maintaining. As previously mentioned, pollutants can accumulate on the finish and they are often very acidic, corroding the finish down, so it’s best to check every 12-18 months as a general rule for upkeep.

But what is the best way to protect your external hardwood doors from the sun’s rays?

Finishing a wood with a varnish, wood paint or stain conditioner is probably the best form of protection. Stains tend to protect the grain whereas varnishes and wood paints treat the wood’s actual surface.

The best stains to use in a full-sun application are either opaque or semi-transparent. The pigments in these solvents affectively block the sun’s harmful UV rays, protecting the grain and slowing down natural degradation. They’re pretty cost-effective compared to varnishes and wood paints, and if you buy a semi-transparent solvent, the grain will still show through. Perfect for keeping a more natural appearance!

Although varnishes tend to be a little more expensive than stains and wood paints, they do provide a beautiful finish on the treated wood. If you’re choosing a varnish that will likely be exposed to frequent sunshine, select one that is recommended for marine use. Although this sounds odd, these varnishes have a higher UV tolerance, meaning they’ll be able to handle the sun’s intensity for longer. Beware though: thinning may be necessary to attain the best results.

Out of the three treatments mentioned, wood paint is probably the best suited to full sun exposure. Wood paints tend to form a film over the surface of the wood, acting as a full body armour suit to keep out not only the sun’s rays, but moisture, too. There are three main types of wood paints: oil-based, latex and acrylic polymer. Latex paint, for example, has the ability to fully shield the wood’s surface from UV rays, making it the ideal choice especially as it’s relatively cheap.

Treat well

Be warned: it’s no use just buying these treatments and slapping them on your exterior hardwood door willy-nilly using an old bristled paintbrush. For the best results, it’s best to treat your external hardwood doors every 8-12 months, making sure you treat the whole door surface evenly with each new coat of varnish/stain/wood paint you apply.

Instructions for application

1. Remove the door, if practical.

2. Clean the surface with mild detergent and an abrasive sponge to remove any grime or dirt.

3. Sand the door thoroughly with 180- or 220- grit sandpaper- make sure you sand in the direction of the wood grain through for a smoother surface.

4. Remove the remnants of sand dust with a brush or vaccum, and then wipe it down with a tack cloth.

5. Pour some conditioner into a dry bucket then apply it to the hardwood door using a natural 2-inch brush. Apply each coat evenly, working in the direction of the grain. Allow it to dry for the time recommended – between 8-12 hours usually.

6. Finally, sand the first coat of dried conditioner off lightly with some sandpaper, removing any residue dust which forms, then apply a second coat. Allow to dry completely before re-hinging the door to the frame. Voila!

Remember not to use wood conditioners prior to staining hardwood woods. Not only will your finishes result in a light coating, but the grain will look off-color, too- and that won’t help with those first impressions, will it?

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