wood slices

Shut the front door.

I'm back...

And I have deicded I really like posting here! I am hoping to be able to post at least 1 blog per month. Just a heads up- this blog is going to feature posts about studio life AND personal life, double whammy. That means all things @burninglovestudios, DIY projects, home renovations, my dog, maybe a little fashion and lifestyle, lots of adventures and more!

In this post however, I want to showcase a project my boyfriend and I decided to take on back in November of 2020. For anyone reading who doesn't know us personally, we are never short of a project around here. Since we first bought our house in 2017 we have pretty much been in non-stop construction and renovation mode. The process hasn't always been easy: like the time we were without a functioning bathroom for a month or the time we had a giant hole in the side of our house because Derek (previously mentioned boyfriend) decided to remove an entire exterior wall of our home the day before he left for a 48 hour work shift...

*insert upside down smiley face emoji here*

Fun fact: our home was originally a garage (seriously, its only 700sq ft!). Through the past 3 years of renovations we were met with countless mind-boggling discoveries like uneven walls, old Levi jeans & Q-tips used as insulation, and the most fun of them all- termite damage! But these memories albeit cringey (see pics), are also fond because we did it all together and even managed not to kill each other <3

Photos (L to R): First picture of the house after we bought it! 12/29/17, The most horrifying ugly tile discovery behind the shower surround!, Mommy & Bauer just chillin' in the middle of what was our bathroom, Old Q-tips and Levi Jeans found in the wall!, Derek very proud of the hole he made in the house, interior viewpoint of the side of the house missing, exterior viewpoint of the side of the house missing, Derek's solution to the entire side of the house missing while he went to work ("just use the front door"), the finished bathroom... so you can appreciate the glow-up!

Ok, so the project I am very long-windedly getting around to talking about is the refinishing of our front door. Now, most normal people would go to Home Depot or Lowes, pick out a new front door and badabing, badaboom have it home and installed in the same day! Well, if you couldn't infer from the last paragraph, that's just not our bag baby . So after spending the last 3 years making the interior of our home beautiful, we decided it was time to do the same for our poor little fugly front door.

Photo: As you can see from the first photo of the house to now we have made small progress by removing the dilapidated portico and flimsy storm door as well as vinyl siding the house and adding a new front light! But even my feeble attempt to spruce up the door with a wreath and assortment of hardy mums ain't workin.

Let me start (lol) by saying that I truly and naively thought this was going to be a weekend project. We figured we would wait for a warm weekend, install the storm door, remove the front door, strip the paint, sand, stain and be back up and running by Monday. BOY WERE WE WRONG. Spoiler alert: It ended up taking 2+ weeks... thank goodness we are out in the sticks because living with a full glass front door takes your privacy level from 100 to 0 reallll quick.

STEP 1 was to install the new Larson storm door. Easy enough, we purchased it online and picked it up at Lowes the same day. Derek's brother and step-father came over to help with the installation process and it was done in a few hours. We chose the full length glass/screen option to let in some extra natural light and fresh air! All in all the door was easy to install and looks beautiful. 5 stars.

Photos (L to R): Storm door installation, Storm door complete!, Front door removal, Derek's attempt at privacy LOL (clothes hung on the open closet door to semi-cover glass)

STEP 2 was to strip the door from the 50+ years of old paint and stain. Now, this part of the project was easily the most time consuming, aggravating, tedious, etc. We used a thick gel-like paint stripper, painted it evenly on one side of the door and left it to work it's magic. After about an hour we made the first few swipes with our paint scrapers and not a single shred of paint was coming up. Derek and I both had that look like, "uh oh". So we tried some more, much thicker this time, and left it overnight to do its thang. Now we were getting somehwere! Even though it still wasn't coming up like you see in DIY videos on YouTube, the paint started to budge! So it was on to yet another coat of stripper and another round of scraping. May I remind you that we are still on the first side of the door? For your sake I will skip ahead and just say it took at least 5 rounds of stripper on BOTH sides to get the paint and stain scraped to the point where we could start to sand.

Photos (L to R): First round of paint stripper on painted side, 2nd round of paint stripper on painted side, paint stripper being applied to small corners on stained side *partially sanded*, never-ending scraping and wire brushing to remove stain and paint -__-

Ok, so I know I just said that the last step was the most tedious, but thats because I forgot I hadn't talked about STEP 3, and what I can only assume is the Devil's personal hobby, sanding. We ended up buying a new Ryobi belt sander for this job, which did make it go by much faster than using the Ryobi handheld sander that I use in the studio. But it's not the nice flat parts of the door that get you.. it's the nooks and crannies. The tiny cracks where paint goes to die and can never, ever be lifted from. Not even with the tiniest of dremel tools.

I do have to give nearly ALL of the credit to Derek on this part. He is so detail oriented and it brought him such satisfaction to take the time to go through every last little piece of the door and sand it to perfection. At least thats what I told myself after I gave up 20 minutes in (hey! dont come for me, my time to shine will come!). The good news is now that the sanding was done, which took literally 5-7 business days, we were ready for the fun part-


.... no pictures of sanding to spare you the agony and because as I previously mentioned, I barely participated in this step... whoops! But I did link the sander we used here.

Finally, onto STEP 4. I am not even exaggerating when I say I must have looked at a million Google images and Pinterest photos trying to find the exact stain color I was envisioning in my head. The problem was every time I found something I even remotely liked, it was nearly impossible to find a direct link to the stain color. Is this some top secret protected information? So using only my instincts and the very unhelpful color guide at Home Depot I was able to narrow it down to two; American Walnut or Special Walnut.

We decided that after all of our hard work we would be better safe than sorry and did a test swatch on the bottom of the door as the final deciding factor. After seeing how the two similar stains dried on the wood (we still don't know what species it actually is) Varathane Oil Based Special Walnut ended up being our favorite and I left Derek to sand off the losing swatch (lol). The stain took 2 coats per side, which we applied with both a brush and lint-free rags. This was one of my favorite steps because I really enjoyed watching the woodgrain and little character imperfections pop as we made our way around the door. All that tedious sanding was the prep for a perfect stain so it was wonderful to see all of Derek's hard work paid off!


Video: Time lapse of stain application

Photos: The stain we chose, The door after all coats of stain

I told you I would have my time to shine and here it comes...


Derek and I make a great team, kind of like Chip and Joanna, because he has the skills and I have the design eye. We have accomplished many amazing projects together where he teaches me how to use the right tool for the job and I teach him why we absolutely cannot hang a picture of a kid picking his wedgie in our bathroom... yay teamwork! Our home already has oil-rubbed bronze hardware on all of the interior door knobs. It is also the same color we used to paint the exposed steel I-beam that runs the length of our house as well as the industrial pipe shelving & breakfast bar we built! (projects for another blog post)

So naturally, I chose this gorgeous oil-rubbed bronze latch handle and deadbolt set for the front door but that's not all... This hardware came with a GLASS interior doorknob. As soon as I scrolled upon this hardware I knew I had to have it. Before Derek convinced me to 'go rural' I lived on the East Side of Providence for almost a decade. One of my old apartments had glass doorknobs and they were just so.. posh. The East Side is still one of my favorite places and even though my city livin' years are over, adding little details like this to our home are a nice reminder of where I came from (we also used rosettes on our window and door trim for the same reason!). Although he was hesitant about the way it would look at first, Derek eventually agreed with my choice so into the online cart it went.

(ps. he LOVES it now)

Photos: Stock image of door hardware (linked), test fit of hardware on door before stain, *sneak peeks!* finished inside knob, finished outdoor handle.

..Oh, did you think that was it? Sorry friends, it doesn't end there. Yes, the door was stripped, sanded, stained, hardware picked but still needed to be finished.

STEP 6. After all of our hard work it was very important to us that the door stay protected for years and years to come. At least until some other unsuspecting couple comes along and decides to refinish it again and they too find themselves up shits creek without a front door, ya feel me? A close friend recommended using spar uruthene which is apparently the same finish they use on boats? Don't quote me on that. We stuck with the same brand as the stain for "best results" (...and maybe the hopes of a sponsor someday? *wink wink*) and used Varathane Ultimate Oil Based Exterior Spar Urethane in clear satin finish.

At this point you may be thinking, "Didn't you just install a storm door?", and you would be correct! But even though we installed a storm door, which will protect the door from the elements, the spar varnish gives an added layer of protection against moisture, UV rays and also claims to be mold and mildew resistant! Plus we are a couple who decided to refinish our own front door so did you honestly expect anything less? C'mon.

The varnish was quite thick and we applied it in thin even layers using a 2" synthetic angled sash brush (another teachable moment from Derek!). As this project was already taking much longer than expected it wasn't long before the nice weather we had originally planned on had turned very chilly, very quickly. This caused the varnish to take a much longer time to dry in between coats and we were seriously cutting it close as the varnish is not recommended to be applied below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (it was hovering around 43 degrees at night) We also became aware only AFTER we finished applying the final coat (a total of 3 coats to each side of the door) that the door had to continue to cure for 2-5 days after the final coat had dried before we could bring it inside! Note to self: always read the fine print. At this point we could see the light at the end of the tunnel and I mean really, after 2 weeks without a front door what was a few more days...

Photos: Varathane spar urethane, Door after all coats of varnish were applied! (so shiny!)

It was 3 days later when I went outside to make my daily check on the door and found that it was finally fully cured (you know it's done when the surface is no longer tacky). I was so excited when I test dabbed the pad of my index finger on the footplate and felt that beautiful non-stick surface! All that was left to do was to install and admire it. And thats just what we did!

So, was it worth it in the end? Absolutely. Would I do it again? HECK NO! (jk, apparently I am a glutton for punishment because there actually will be another door refnishing blog post in the near future) Check out the before and after below pics below! I am so happy with the finished result and now every day I look at our front door and feel an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this post. I hope it brought you some inspiration and maybe a few laughs along the way. Let me know what you think about how the door came out in the comments or any home improvement projects you may be working on yourself!

- Lauren


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