1930’s Front Door Restoration

1930’s front door renovation in Warrington

Phil contacted us in April 2015 to discuss the possibility of a front door refurbishment for his 1930’s wooden door, he wanted to keep the stained glass.

Front door refurbishment

After resizing the door so that it fits appropriately, we took it away to the workshop for a bit of TLC.

We install a temporary door at Phil’s house so that we could take his front door back to The Grand Victorian Workshop. We’ll then strip it down and leave it to dry out, usually for a week.

Phils 1930s front door restoration before

Fitting a temporary door

The temporary door that we fit is a solid wood fire door with two locks and grade 11 fire door hinges. It’s always more secure than what’s come off. The night latches on these old doors are always worn out and ready for the bin.

If there’s a deadlock, it’s usually a three lever bathroom lock that somebody’s picked up from that big orange hardware store. They wrap them up nice in a shiny plastic blister pack and market them so you think they’d keep out John Wick.

Usually, a customer knows if their door has passed its sell-by date. I can tell by just looking at some front doors on a photograph if they need setting fire to! Phil’s door is actually in pretty good condition even though some of it is rotten.

It ultimately required resizing, the beading around the traditional leaded light needed replacing, and the letter plate is way too big for the aperture.

There’s lots of work needed.

Old door furniture

Firstly, all the old furniture needs removing. Sometimes there’s a knob or a letter plate, and more often than not Baldwin hinges, that can be polished up and restored. However, not on this one, everything must go.

Stripping paint off an old front door

Off comes the paint. All our front door restorations are stripped to the wood.

Dipping a front door that’s 90 years old can cause problems structurally. Throwing a door into a bath of chemicals will strip the paint. However, what strips paint can also soften the glue that’s used to fix the mortice and tenon joints of the door.

Now, on all the flats we use a Festool Rotex sander. The Rotex 150 FEQ-Plus is gear driven, as opposed to rotary like DIY tools so it’s more robust and gets the job done so well that when Shawn, our Workshop Manager, recommended we buy one, it was a no-brainer. We of course use the 110v version of the Rotex sander because it’s safer when we’re at customer’s homes.

The sander we use…

Festool are amazing products, not just because they do the job impeccably but the guarantee and customer support is second to none. The 240v can plug straight into the mains.

In a workshop or on-site we have to use the 110v version, it’s much safer, and it also means we don’t have to have them PAT tested each year. Our 110v version requires a transformer.

Both versions come with a fantastic Sustainer box and accessories.

Dewalt Heat Gun for stripping paint

The Heat gun we use…

To strip paint from fine detail, such as around mouldings on the door, we have to use a heat gun. Be very careful not to apply too much heat as you’ll scorch the wood.

Our grey B&Q one gave up the ghost at about 13 months, shockingly, so I invested in an 1800w DeWalt heat gun. We’re not using it every day so it should last a few years. At £50, one job would be enough.

After stripping a dozen coats of old paint from the door in varying colours, we give it a good sand. We find that holes have been filled with cheap internal filler so this is dug out and all blown off with compressed air.

We have a range of fillers for specific jobs. If we can’t splice a piece of wood into a hole in the wood we’ll use a two part Everbuild Wood Filler. This is a two part resin based filler that is fiberous, it clings to the wood, goes rock hard and is fully set within a couple of hours so we can fill, sand and paint the same day.

The priming coat shows up other parts that need filling.

Everbuild two-part wood filler

Filler we use…

For external jobs, you must use a two-part high performance exterior filler. Everbuild is a great brand that we’ve had no problem with for years.

Phil’s front door being stripped

phils 1930s front door restoration

New front door furniture

I cut out a proper hole for the letter plate with a router and jig. Inevitably I’m contending with ‘Dave The Joiner’s half-arsed attempt on-site using a 22mm flat drill bit and the best chisel in the box.

You can see in the original photo (where the door is blue) that the letter plate is too big for the door. Unfortunately, this means that the shaped piece of wood under it is butchered. I sympathetically make a replica.

The new M36 letter plate sits nicely on the top with a hole the perfect size. I mention the product code because I specifically made a jig up for it. Using the right tool makes the hole perfect.

The bolt holes are in the right place, and of course, the central aperture, where the postman puts the letters, is the right size, shape and in the correct position.

Front door furniture suppliers

You can find the whole range of door furniture that we use and all of the suppliers we get stuff from on our SHOP page. We’ve dealt with some of them for over 10 years.

1930s stained glass

Phil wants to keep the glass in the door. It’s nice and matches other glass around the door. We clean it up and strip bits of blue and white paint from the edges. I cut out for the rest of the brass-ware. There’s a link at the bottom of this page showing you how to best clean up traditional stained glass.

After another sand down it goes into the paint room.

Painting the refurbished door

After an undercoat and an inspection in daylight for pinholes and scratches, the door gets a rub down; and then it’s final undercoat.

Two coats of gloss make sure that the paint isn’t patchy and there’s no ‘ghosting’, a right solid colour. The paint job now is as good as we can make it; employing decades of experience.

Purdy Monarch Brush Set

Brushes we use…

The paint finish is more reliant on the brush it’s put on with than you might think. Purdy Monarch brushes have fine bristle tips so the paint goes on smoothly, leaving a great finish.

I use nothing but Purdy now, the set I got a few years ago should last my lifetime as I clean them properly after every use.

The secret to getting something right, of course, is doing things the right way when nobody is looking, essentially – giving a s**t.

We’ve stripped all the old paint, sanded the wood and used the best paint there is out there – Dulux Weathershield. Dulux paint goes on like a dream and is slightly flexible so reduces the chance of the paint cracking between joints in the wood.

Painting cracks around door panels

1930’s front door restoration complete

1930s Front Door Restoration Warrington

So the M36 and all its friends, the Yale Traditional night latch, Union deadlock and escutcheons are gathered together to be proudly worn by this restored 1930s front door. You’ll find links to all the furniture we use on 1930s doors, including the locks, in our ‘shop‘.

We take it back to Warrington for refitting.

We fitted our specially made draught proofing bead to the frame and a new Stormguard thresher on the floor (usually there isn’t one at all!). The frame is sanded, filled, undercoated then glossed the next day.

One more happy customer.

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2 thoughts on “1930’s Front Door Restoration”

  1. Hi we’ve just moved in to a 1939 built property with the front door in need of some TLC. It’s drafts locks are not working properly either. We want to keep it, if it is worth keeping can you let me know your starting prices please. Happy to send photos

    • Thanks Sam, if you have a look at the RESTORATIONS page you’ll see our prices and what we can do. If you’re happy and send photos to chris at grandvictorian.co.uk I’ll be able to tell if it can be restored.


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