How to Stain an Unfinished Exterior Wood Door

We bought the most gorgeous wood door for our front entry at the new house. We knew we wanted to have a dark stained door  {read more about that decision here} to contrast the light brick and after hours of researching, finally found this beautiful mahogany door from Home Depot. Since our front porch is covered, this door won’t come in contact with the elements often, but we did take some extra precautions to protect it. Here is how it looked when we started {Mike had taped it off for stain and we did some stain tests on the side}:
front door unstained

Our apartment patio has become our “workshop” :) I’m sure the neighbors love it. We used two materials to finish the door: Minwax Dark Walnut stain and this weatherproofing spar varnish as a top coat.

front door stainThis job is best done with two people, but can be done alone. Mike brushed on the stain:

staining front door


brushing on front door stainAnd I followed behind and wiped off the excess with an old shirt.

wiping off front door stainWe originally thought we would be doing two coats but loved the color after one so we stopped there. I’m glad we loved it so much because a second coat would have been a pain:) Here are some pics of in-progress staining to give you an idea of the before and after of the wood.

door part stained


front door partial stainedWe had to be sure to open the door so that we could get all the edges.

door opened for stain

It probably took about 2 hours to get the first coat over the door. We let it dry overnight before doing the next step which is to apply the spar. A few tips to think about when staining:

  • brush on in small coats and wipe off immediately to avoid blotchiness or streaks
  • always brush with the grain of the wood
  • wear gloves! it’s hard to get off you fingers
  • use a good quality brush

spar for front door

The spar was applied with a brush as well. I followed the directions on the can which said to apply one coat, sand, and apply the second coat. This didn’t take as long as the staining since there wasn’t any wiping in between. You can see in the following picture the door with only stain and with stain and spar:

front door before and after spar

Once it had dried {we left it out overnight}, I went back with a 220 grit sandpaper and gently sanded the spar. I wiped it all down with a damp cloth and then applied the second coat.

sanding sparWe only applied one coat of the spar to the interior side of the door as it won’t come in contact with any weather. And it was done! The finish is absolutely gorgeous. I love how the spar enhanced the grain and richness of the wood. It’s smooth and silky when you touch it:)

front door stained

bottom of door with spar


front door handle from above


front door windows with stain


side door stained


top of door stained


front door hardwareHere is a final before and after:

front door before and afterIsn’t the finish beautiful?! Have you ever stained a wood door? Anyone willing to try now?

Sources: hardware, door, spar, stain 




  1. I have liked the idea of having a wooden door, however I’ve never stained wood before! I also have many old shirts, so I’m glad I now have a use of them! I also think that I should get a better brush than the one I have now! Thanks for this help, and your door turned out wonderful!


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