They sure don’t make things like they used to do they?! I’m talking about the beautiful details that go into an old home… the moldings, the hardware… the DOORS! It’s this exact reason, that my husband and I jumped at the opportunity to SAVE and remove 5 old doors (jams, hardware and all) from a 1920’s bungalow that was slated to be demolished. These gorgeous 1920 doors envelope a century of love, stories (oh the things these doors have seen!) and of course paint! 100 years and so many layers of paint! Not wanting to risk lead exposure, OR wanting to sand that many layers of varnish and paint, we decided to go the early (and surprisingly affordable) route… dip stripping doors!
What is dip stripping?
Dip stripping is when wood or metal is placed in a large vat of solvent to help remove paint, varnish, and rust before refinishing. It’s the perfect application for ornate furniture that would be near impossible to sand or strip your self, and also… you guessed it… old doors!
In doing my research, I read that there are some pros and cons to dip stripping a door or a piece of furniture. I found it very interesting and have outline some of the pros and cons below:
Pros of Dip Stripping
There are many pros to dip stripping a piece
Dip stripping is a time saver! The fact that you don’t have to spend hours of time outside sanding layer after layer of paint, in my opinion, is a major PRO! Additionally, let’s keep in mind the amount of money you’d actually end up spending once you’ve purchased the correct sanding and stripping materials… hello sheets of sand paper!
Less clean up! If you have ever stipped a door or piece of furniture yourself, then you are all too familiar with the disgusting amount of clean up that comes from stripping a century worth of old paint! No thanks!
Dip stripping a piece is safer. Older pieces may contain lead paint or chemicals that can be harmful to your health. You can always test for lead (and it is definitely recommended!), but it’s always best to let the professionals handle something like this! The health risk to you isn’t worth the money saved to do-it-yourself.
You can easily restore a family heirloom. Not all dipping processes are an inexpensive option, however in the instance of restoring a family heirloom, the option is priceless.
Cons of Dip Stripping
Dip Stripping Limitations
You cannot dip strip anything with particle board, particle board, plywood or certain types of veneered furniture. The entire piece has to be solid wood. To be entirely sure that your piece is a good candidate for dip stripping, make sure to bring it into your local dip n strip company. It is hard to judge from a picture whether a piece is solid wood. Some furniture, particularly those from decades like the 1940’s, manufacturers created a product that looked very much looked like wood, but was actually a pressed product formed by sawdust and cardboard. Furniture of this kind cannot be dipped, or it will fall apart. It’s better to ask in person and be safe than sorry!
You need to be careful with the piece! Many wood pieces are not one solid piece of wood, but rather they are made of joined pieces. Given that fact, you want to make sure that the piece being dipped doesn’t fall apart during the process. Interior doors, for example, are put together using multiple pieces so there is potential for the harsh chemicals to break down those joints and cause problems. Check with your local Dip Stripping company to discuss the option of a slow dip and dry method, in which the door is dipped, gently scrubbed and then left to dry before they repeat again. Repetitive dipping may be necessary, depending on the amount of paint layers.
For our doors, I thought a lot about this! The last thing I wanted to do was spend $165 per door and have them fall apart on us! However, after inspecting our doors and the fact that they were well constructed, one-panel doors, we felt confident in moving forward with our decision to dip them.
After the doors are dip stripped, how do you prep them?
Once a piece of furniture (or door in our case) has been dipped it looks amazing! However, you are not completely done and ready to stain yet! The dip strip process raises the grain of the wood leaving a “furry” texture if you will. Once we received our doors back, we gave each one a light sanding, working our way down from a 120 grit to a very fine 220 grit sandpaper to give you the smoothest finish.
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but truthfully, our doors came out so beautifully, and it is a pretty quick and easy process to get rid of the “furry” grain and prep them for stain!
Door Jams – You can’t dip strip them
When you are installing antique doors, you may or may not have the existing door jam with them. Because we demoed these doors out of an old home ourselves, we had the convenience of grabbing the jams while we were there. If you do not have the door jams, your trim carpenter should be able to build them out for you. I am not sure what the exact price is, however, a local salvage yard did tell us that they could do it (with the purchase of one of their doors) for $165 per door. However, definitely check with your local professionals to get an exact price.
However, even though we do have the jams for our antique doors, they still needed a bit of prep work to remove the existing paint and get them ready to receive either stain or paint. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about this process… it seemed like a lot of work for some simple door jams, that perhaps could just be rebuilt. However, SAVING is the name of the game with the barn build, so anywhere we can put a little sweat equity in is always a plus! And… spoiler alert… it was actually super simple to strip down the door jams! All that was required was a little time 🙂 More on the door jams and how to easily strip them coming soon!