Standard interior contractor door VS. Gel stained and Chalk-Type painted door
Stained Wood Doors
Stained Wood Doors

My love of chalk painted started when I stumbled upon a home decor boutique in Monument, CO. The store displayed their decor items on furniture that had been treated to look “worn” and had that “chipped paint” look I liked.

The shop owner showed me the Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan that was used to create these timeless pieces. Then, he showed me the classroom where he offered Chalk Paint classes. Of course, I took the classes and I was hooked. This was the answer I had been looking for for many years. I had many pieces of furniture I had collected from garage sales and thrift stores that just needed to be refinished and brought back to life.

My first project, my dining room Louis chairs that I have for over 10 years. I used layers upon layers of paint to emulate old world French furniture. I utilized the techniques I had learned from class and discovered a few techniques of my own.

Final inspiration door, but in needed a little “age” to it.

The Interior Door Project

A Wish Come True

I searched through many resources to find the right interior doors. But it took longer than I expected. Of course, if the budget had been unlimited, it would have been a “bit” easier and faster to accomplish. But I wasn’t part of unlimited budget decor club so I needed to search for ideas that were within my realm of spending. However, when it came right down to it, I kept saving the exact same dark distressed door, over and over.

So, that was it. Dark Aged Doors. But how to accomplish this look to my interior doors without paying $600 for a new unfinished door! So I thought about it for a few weeks and speculated on used doors, old painted doors (remove paint, ugh!), and considered someone to stain new doors that weren’t so expensive. But all of these options had there flaws one way or another.

Then it hit me! Why not experiment with reversing the process of chalk paint style techniques? Instead of painting OVER furniture to hide the wood why not create a worn wood look with paint? Especially since the doors already had the grain “pressed” into the doors! OMG! “Thats it!”

I still wasn’t sure how I was going to do this so I set off researching, “How to stain contractor interior doors.” And I found the Gel Stain technique on YouTube. I thought this was my solution. Simply brush on the gel stain just like the video and BOOM, done! Well, it really wasn’t as easy as all that, quiet the opposite.

The gel stain was thick and dried really fast. If I didn’t move quickly enough, it became hard to brush the gel stain in places to get an even coat. But I learned to move fast with precision and learned how to get the application down. But this took a while. Each SIDE of the door took about 1.5 hours. Remember, I needed to stained both sides of each door for that “real wood” door look! . . . Whew, that was a workout.

After they dried for the recommended 48 hours, they still smelled so bad, toxic, actually. Very high VOC’s. So, I sprayed each door with Polyurethane and it did cover the odor, but not all of it. I called the manufacturer of the Gel Stain and they said the polyurethane would take care of the odor and it would dissipate eventually. ???? I was already “all in” with the gel stain, so I pushed forward and left the doors in the garage. Good timing, as we headed out to Guam for two weeks.

But after a two week break from the doors, I still wasn’t happy with the finish. The shine came down considerably with the polyurethane but they still didn’t have the old world look I wanted to achieve.

Chalk-like paint over gel stain

Adding Paint to Gel Stain

After a few days contemplating just how I was going to get my distressed door look, I remembered my first project of the Louis chairs and how many layers of paint it took to get that look.

So, I brought out the picture of the door I wanted to replicated and started to list the patina wood colors I saw in the old door. Then, I headed to the basement and rummaged through my chalk-like paints and began to pull all the colors I saw in the photo of the door. I layered paint after paint making sure to apply each paint color only where I saw it in the photo of the old door. When I was done with the paint overlay, this is what the doors looked like when I was finished with this layer (see above).

DIY Stained Wood Doors
Gel stained builder grade door with chalk type paint and wax

La Touche Finale – Wax

Now the “la touche finale,” the finishing touch. I bought two cans of dark wax used commonly on chalk type paints. The wax application brought the look to fruition! It was truly amazing how the wax blended all the colors of the paint and the gel stain together. Here are some of the pictures of the finished doors with the dark wax applied. Look how the wax blends the paint evenly or unevenly to bring out wood grain and the look of authentic aged doors!

Stained Wood Doors
Finished “Wood Interior Doors”

The one caveat: if you have small children this could be a challenge as the doors cure. When you use wax it needs to cure for at least 30 days. But even after this time period, the wax will dull when you touch it with your fingers and hands. When this happens, simply get a soft cloth and lightly polish the area removing the spot and bringing it back to its luster.

I plan on spraying the doors to seal in the wax after 60 days with polyurethane so I don’t have to worry about finger prints. It will also make it easier to wipe down the doors when dusting.

I plan on doing this while the doors are hung. I’ll use a very large plastic drop cloth, taping off the surrounding walls. I’ll spray a light coat and concentrate on the areas of the door where it will be touched the most. The water based polyurethane dries fast, but it too will have a sight odor until it eventually dissipates.

I really loved how the upstairs doors turn out. I’ve showed them to our friends and neighbors who had been wondering what I was doing in the garage for a couple of weeks and they seemed to like them, as well. And what a money saver!

Though, I will admit, using the gel stain was challenging for a newbie, not to mention very messy. I used a huge thick drop cloth that covered most of the garage floor. This process was very time consuming, as well. Each coat of gel stain needed at least 12 hours before you could move it without disturbing the stain. But it was a lot of repetitious work, but in the end my husband and I loved how the doors turned out.

Next Summer I will be tackling the interior doors downstairs. More to come!

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