A {Semi} DIY: Replacing Our Back Patio Door

There are many, many things that I wanted to do as soon as we moved into our house.  I had dreams of decorating and updating fun things like light fixtures and paint and throw pillows... lots of throw pillows! However, we happened to fall in love with a house that had a rotting back patio door, so that inevitably had to be first on our list.  The original door was a white vinyl, builder's grade, french style door, and we decided to replace it with a solid wood sliding door in an espresso finish.  After what seemed like endless interviews with door and window companies, we settled on ordering our door from Jeld-wen - they seemed to have the best quality and also offered the integrated blinds between the glass that we had grown to love on our old doors.

With all of the initial expenses that come along with purchasing your first home {we didn't even own a lawn mower!}, we decided to try to do as much DIY-ing as the situation allowed.  We ordered the door unfinished {this is where the DIY part comes in}, which saved us some money, but also allowed us to stain the door the very deep espresso color that I was looking for - the darkest stain Jeld-wen offered wasn't even close to the color I wanted.  So, maybe this was less about saving money and more about me being a picky Interior Designer, no?

After separating the door from the frame, we took a fine-grit sand paper to the wood to smooth everything out.  You should be able to feel the difference when you run your hand over the areas you've sanded versus the areas you haven't yet.  A lot of wood dust is kicked up during this process, so you'll want to wait until you are 100% done with sanding before wiping all of the wood down with a damp cloth.  Taping comes next - make sure to cover up anything you don't want to stain.  Then, follow the directions on your particular can of wood stain for method of application.  I was looking for a stain that was very dark - almost black - for our door, and the only one I found that came close was this one by Minwax in the color/finish Espresso Satin.  It was actually a stain and polyurethane combo product that did both in one, meaning, the finish it gave our door was a satiny polyurethane-like finish instead of just a matte wood finish {if that makes sense}.  We weren't able to see the grain of the wood through our stain, it went on more like a coat of paint, and you didn't wipe it off after awhile like with normal stain.  I, personally, really like the look of this kind of espresso wood, but if you are looking for a more natural look with more grain to your wood, I wouldn't suggest a color this deep or using a polyurethane-stain blend.

We were instructed to use a natural bristle brush to apply the stain, but we ended up switching to a smoother, synthetic brush half-way through, because the natural bristle was shedding a lot {with its bristles getting stuck to our door - not a good look}.  I'm not going to gloss over this: applying the stain evenly, avoiding dripping and bubbles, was very, READ: VERY, difficult.  There was more than one time that we told each other "I give up!!!".   My tips for anyone attempting a project like this using a polyurethane stain: take your time...do one thin coat...after it is fully dry, lightly sand that coat and apply a second thin coat.  slowly.  Or just use regular stain.  That works, too.  I would also highly suggest testing your staining skills on a piece of scrap wood before going all out on the real thing!

After it's all said and done, we are very happy with our new door {which was professionally installed by the way - we wouldn't go that far with the DIY'ing}.  I love the quality of the door, the integrated blinds, and most of all, I love the deep espresso color that really adds some contrast to the light walls, trim and carpet in this area of the house.  Looking forward to updating the rest of the room as well!

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