June 10, 2016

Stripping our front door| The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Let's start by saying I thought this would be a quick DIY, I mean, there are plenty of tutorials out there that show a glamorous before and after front door makeover seemingly in a day. Well, those tutorials never met my front door.

In my exhaustive search of all things 'front door redo', I also had a tough time finding a tutorial that showed the paint stripping process. So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to add one to the blogosphere!

how to strip a front door using citristrip without sanding

I'm not going to sugar coat things...this was one tough mutha.  I had sweat dripping down my back, paint chips in my ears and places least expected, and I spouted every curse word I know. I was a real classy lady lemme tell ya.  BUT, the final result is oh so worth it and I have forgiven the door for being such a little B.

Let's start with what the door looked like to begin with:

Not horrible looking...but definitely not my color selection.  After months of debating color choices I had finally selected the shade I wanted and once that paint can was in my hand I was ready to rock and roll.  And then I looked at the door more closely and realized the amount of prep work needed was substantial. Womp. Womp. This wasnt going to be a 'quick prime and paint' job.

So, I did what any sane person would do and started scraping away at the chipped and cracked paint one morning while waiting for a repair man to come to the house.  4 hour window you say? Let's bust out the paint scraper!

I wasn't sure how it was going to go because I had never scraped a metal door before, but at first it was very therapeutic! I loved see the big paint chips fly off the door. Instant gratification.  I also realized early on there were many layers of paint to the door...3 in fact. Once the paint stopped scraping easily (and it became more annoying than cathartic) I realized I needed to kick it up a notch and stop working so hard. I did a quick google search of non-toxic paint strippers and came up with Citristrip. Since I'm working on the door still on the hinges I really didn't want toxic chemicals wafting through the house.

It's low VOC, had positive reviews, and after I saw a few tutorials via pinterest of it working great on stripping paint from wood I thought lets go for it! I popped over to my local hardware store and picked up a container of it for about $10 along with a cheap paint brush for application.

I followed the directions on the back on the label and applied the thick goop reminiscent of the Nickelodeon slime.  It had a nice smell to it like the name implies, but I still donned a mask just to be safe.  I applied the gel around 8pm and let it sit overnight. 
Here's how it looked right after application:

how to strip a front door using citristrip without sanding

You can see the parts on the door where I had already hand scraped the paint down to the metal.
After a few hours passed, I had already noticed the "bubbling" which is a sign it's ready to scrape!

So off to bed I went dreaming of paint scraping and excited to see how it would look in the morning.  

Well,,,there more definitely more bubbles in the morning (almost 12 hours later) but it wasn't exactly looking as I had hoped.

I should have waited before I started scraping until more bubbles formed because it says it can take up to 24 hours, but who am I kidding? I wasn't going to wait! So, I started scraping again.  

The paint came easy and smooth where the bubbling was, however, only the blue layer was scraping off despite the label claiming "multiple layers".  Perhaps it was user error and my impatience. I decided I was going to slap some more citristrip on the door and wait. In case you haven't noticed...waiting isnt my jam. I tried my best not to literally watch the paint bubble and go about my day. but it was painfully slow.
 So here's how things looked about 2 hours after my first morning scraping and another layer of citristrip:

And another close up the bubbling you want to see before scraping:

Once the door was almost entirely bubbly like that picture I began scraping again. I'll say almost because there were big sections of the door that NEVER bubbled despite multiple layers of citristrip for some reason.  I have zero clue why. BUT when it did work, it was awesome! Here's a short video of it in action:

I literally scraped it right down to the metal door in one swoop. I wish the whole door went that easy! So I scrapped what I could in that fashion and then went back to the hard scrubbing in the areas that wouldnt bubble.  And buckets of sweat, hours of my life, and many profanities later I had this:

how to strip a front door using citristrip without sanding

Riiiiiiiight. Not so pretty.  BUT one step closer to a prepped door! I felt all along the door and sanded any rough edges with a coarse sand paper.   Oh, and I removed the door hardware for a litte makeover action, the door can't have all the fun.  Finally, I took a clean rag and wiped down all the sawdust and residue off the door and called it a day. 
And then the door sat like that for about a week. I'm surprised we didn't get a nice old knock on the door from our association becuase it was u.g.l.y. But, hey life happens and I just couldn't get back around to it for a bit.

A few questions came up during this process from friends and family that I'll discuss:

Why didn't you take the door off the hinges?

The short answer is time.  I knew  this wasn't going to be a really quick process and that I would have to start and stop quite a bit. Not having a front door at night wasn't a viable option (safety first) and my husband wasn't thrilled with the idea of putting that massive door on and off the hinges every night. So, we decided to do all the prep with it in place and added some plastic tarp to the floor to protect it. 

Why didn't you just sand and prime the door? Why scrape the paint?

Like I mentioned above, this door needed so much work. Paint was peeling in big sections and there were outlines of former paint drips throughout the door. I knew sanding it alone was just going to scratch the surface (haha) of what needed to be done. As my husband always says, "the devils in the prep" and this door needed a lot of it. The only reasonable option other than buying a new door was to get it bare bones.  Had the paint not been chipping and coming off in big sections, than yah, I would have just primed and painted and been much happier! 

So thats is folks for now! Stay tuned for part two where I will talk all about priming and painting the door! Eek!

Anyone ever use citristrip? I'd love to hear your experience! Has anyone ever scrapped a front door down to its original finish? Share your stories!

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  1. Kudos to you for sticking with this project! I've done stripping/scraping projects on furniture in the past and I know how time consuming and frustrating they can be. If this were my project, I might have just thrown in the towel after a few hours and gotten a new front door!

  2. Wow! That was rough! I don't think I would have the patience to do it. You'd think it would be good with a little primer and paint and call it a day! Oh well, now you have the experience and you can pass it on to others.

  3. The devil is most definitely in the prep. I hate the prep... ugh. Way to go for taking on the hard work!


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