How to Renovate an Old Door
Renovating an Old Door
The first impression any visitor gets of your home is the front door. If it is smartly painted, with gleaming door pull, knocker and letter plate, the entrance to your house or flat looks attractive and welcoming, but it soon starts to look neglected if you leave the fittings to go dull or rusty and the paintwork becomes chipped or badly weathered. Painting the door with a nice bright colour is easy, but what is the best treatment for the door fittings?
Cast-iron door knockers, for example, are usually painted black; but it seems a pity to paint over brass or chrome door furniture, especially as there are clear lacquers to protect them once you’ve got the metal shining to perfection.
- Large artist’s brush
- Protective gloves
Follow manufacturers’ safety advice when using paint strippers and wear protective gloves when handling cleaning fluids.
Cleaning Brass Fittings
Brass weathers to a dull brown colour, but it is usually simple enough to buff up dirty fittings with a metal polish. However, if exterior door fittings have been left unprotected, you may have to use a solution of salt and vinegar to soften heavy corrosion before you can start polishing.
Washing with salt and vinegar Mix one level tablespoonful each of salt and vinegar in 275ml (½ pint) of hot water. Use a ball of very fine wire wool to apply liberal washes of the solution to brass fittings, then wash the metal in hot water containing a little detergent. Rinse and dry the fittings before polishing.
Getting Rid of Verdigris
Badly weathered brass can develop green deposits called verdigris. This heavy corrosion may leave the metal pitted, so clean it off as soon as possible.
Line a plastic bowl with ordinary aluminium cooking foil. Attach a piece of string to each item of brassware, then place it in the bowl on top of the foil. Dissolve a cup of washing soda in 2.5 litres (4 pints) of hot water and pour it into the bowl to cover the metalware.
Leave the solution to fizz and bubble for a couple of minutes, then lift out the metal fittings with the string. Replace any that are still corroded. If necessary, the process can be repeated using fresh solution and new foil.
Rinse the brass with hot water, dry it with a soft cloth, then polish.
Polishing Your Door Fittings
Burnish brass door furniture with a ‘long-term’ brass polish that leaves an invisible chemical barrier on the metal. This inhibits corrosion so that the metal needs cleaning less frequently.
Clean grimy chrome-plated door furniture with lighter fluid, or wash it in warm soapy water containing a few drops of household ammonia. Then burnish the metal with a mild cream chrome polish. Metal polishes should be used sparingly on plated fittings, as consistent polishing will eventually wear through to the base metal.
Lacquering polished brass or chrome Having polished the metal to a high gloss, use a nailbrush to scrub it with warm water containing some liquid detergent. Rinse the fittings in clean water, then dry them thoroughly with an absorbent cloth.
Paint on acrylic lacquer with a large, soft artist’s brush, working swiftly from the top. Let the lacquer flow naturally, and work all round the object to keep the wet edge moving. If you do leave a brush stroke in partially set lacquer, finish the job, then warm the metal (if possible, by standing it on a radiator). As soon as the blemish disappears, remove the object from the heat and allow it to cool gradually in a dust-free atmosphere.
If lacquer becomes discoloured or chipped, remove it with acetone, repolish the metal, and then apply fresh lacquer.
How to Save Time When Polishing
Clearly, it would be a chore to remove your door fittings every time you want to polish them, but metal polishes tend to discolour the surrounding paintwork. However, you can protect the paint from abrasive cleaners by using a template cut from thin card which you slip over each fitting. Alternatively, stick low-masking tape over the paintwork.
You don’t have to remove a door fitting, such as a letter plate that has raised edges. The next time you repaint the door, allow the paint to coat the edges, but wipe it from the surface of the fitting with a cloth dampened with white spirit. Once the paint is dry, you can polish the exposed metal without touching the painted woodwork.
Cleaning and Painting Cast Iron Fittings
You can’t do a lot with rusty cast-iron door knockers or letter plates until you have soaked them in paraffin for several hours to soften the corrosion. Then you can clean the metal with fine wire wool and paint the bare metal with a rust-inhibiting primer or, alternatively, a proprietary rust-killing jelly or liquid that will remove and neutralize rust.
Some rust killers are self-priming, so no additional primer is required. Otherwise, work a suitable primer into crevices and fixings, and make sure sharp edges and corners are coated generously. Finish the metal with semi-matt black paint.
How to Strip Old Paint From Door Fittings
After years of redecorating, door fittings can become so clogged with paint that it is no longer possible to distinguish their true form and detail. At this stage, it pays to remove the layers of old paint with a proprietary chemical stripper.
Removing the Paint
Even if you intend to strip the paint from the door, it’s best to remove the fittings and strip them separately. Arrange them in one or more metal-foil dishes and pour chemical paint stripper into each dish. Stipple the stripper onto the fittings with an old paintbrush to ensure that the chemicals penetrate all the crevices. Leave the stripper to do its work for 10 to 15 minutes, then check that the paint has begun to soften.
Wearing protective gloves and goggles, remove the softened paint from each item with fine wire wool. If there is still paint adhering to a fitting, return it to the dish and apply fresh stripper.
Wash the stripped metal with hot water and dry it thoroughly with thick paper towels. If the fitting is hollow, stand it on a wad of newspaper to allow any water trapped inside to drain away.