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Vintage is back in style, and its traces extend from fashion and art to interior design. Making a door look antique is a subtle yet stylish way to incorporate the vintage aesthetic into your space.
To make a door look antique, sand it down, prime it, and paint it in a way that looks rough or weathered. This could mean using cracking solutions like glue or intentionally doing a patchy paint job. Different methods produce different effects.
This article will examine the process of making a door look vintage and explore the various methods and materials used. Let’s get started!
1. Sand the Door for Better Traction
The very first step in this project is to remove the door from its hinges. Some people choose to work on the door while it’s still hinged, which runs a greater risk of making a mess. However, the best method is the one that works for you.
If the door has a handle, hinges, and cylinder (lock) attached, cover these with masking tape to protect them from the paint and chemicals you’re using.
Alternatively, keep a clean cloth on hand to wipe spills and dust off them.
You could also decide to replace the handle and cylinder with something more vintage like this Schlage Flair Door Lever (available on Amazon.com). It is available in four styles and eight colors, all lending themselves to a breathtaking antique look.
To sand a door, you need:
- Sandpaper or a sanding block.
- A damp cloth.
Before doing any painting, it’s essential to sand down the door using 100 to 180 grit sandpaper to roughen the door’s surface. This will allow the printer and subsequent layers of paint to adhere to the wood.
If the door already has a painted and/or glossy finish, it’s especially crucial to sand all of this away. The aged effect won’t work over glossy layers of paint. Stripping and sanding pre-painted furniture is a big job that can be pretty time-consuming.
The below demonstration explains how to strip paint from furniture:
100 to 180 grit sandpaper is rough enough to get rid of surface layers but fine enough to produce an even sand.
Alternatively, start off with 80 grit and move on to higher to refine the sand. You can take liberties to achieve the desired texture.
Read more about the different sandpaper grits and how to use them here.
Some choose to use sanding blocks instead of sandpaper. They soften the effort of sanding, which is otherwise quite an arduous task.
This Warner Sanding Block Hand Sander from Amazon.com is extremely affordable and fitted with a rubber handle for comfortable woodworking.
Now that the wood fibers have been exposed and roughened up, it’ll be far easier for the paint to adhere to and soak into the wood fibers, ensuring the paint doesn’t flake off and stays true to its color.
There are several things to note when sanding wood:
- The higher the sandpaper grit, the smoother the finish. The lowest you can get is 60, while the highest is 320.
- Sand in the direction of the grain to avoid scratches and dents in the wood that will show through the paint. In this case, the aged and weathered look could benefit from the texture. Test different methods out on sample wood.
- You must wipe the wood dust off with a damp cloth and allow the wood to dry thoroughly before attempting to paint.
When wiping wood dust off freshly-sanded wood, avoid harsh chemicals that could damage or alter the wood in any way.
Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth and moisten it with mineral spirits or dish soap. Allow the wood to dry completely, or buff/dry the wood with a different clean, dry cloth.
The keyword here is “clean.” It may seem trivial, considering you’re about to paint over the door with primer and paint, but it’s a crucial step. Wiping the wood with a clean cloth removes dust and dirt participles that would stop the paint from sticking to the wood fibers.
2. Prime the Door for Painting
Essential painting equipment includes:
- A paintbrush or a paint roller and tray
- Wood primer
- Paint thinner
- A cloth to clean up mess and spills
- A plastic sheet to paint on
Preparing To Prime the Door
If you haven’t already placed a plastic sheet on the ground or floor of your workspace for the sanding step, now’s the time to do it. This will help you avoid getting primer, paint, glue, and debris all over the working space.
Once the plastic sheet is placed, place the door on top of it and prepare the wood primer. Wood primer creates better traction between the door and the paint and protects the door, so the paint job lasts longer.
You don’t need to stain the wood first, as color paint is going directly over the primer, but if you feel like staining will yield a better final product, then watch the video below for a guide on how to do it.
Before opening the primer, give it a thorough shake, especially if it’s a can of primer that’s been lying around for some time. Do this before each project (not before each application on the same project).
Secure quality wood primer. If the primer is cheap, it won’t adhere to the wood or protect it, defeating its purpose altogether. Check out this wood primer buyer’s guide for some recommendations.
If your weapon of choice is a paint roller, pour the primer into the roller tray and periodically dip the roller to coat it with primer. If the tool used is a regular paintbrush, then simply dip the brush directly into the primer container to coat it.
Bates Choice Paint Roller Set (available on Amazon.com) is a fantastic choice in this case. It has two roller attachments, one high-density foam brush, one angle-trimmed paintbrush, and a painting tray. This set provides excellent value for your money and covers all your bases.
Applying Primer to the Door
Paint a generous, even layer of primer across the door. Don’t leave gaps or patches; that comes later. The roller produces a beautiful, even primer application, whereas the brush offers more control and opportunity to create texture.
I recommend these trimmed Pro Grade Paint Brushes (available on Amazon.com). This two-pack is reasonably priced, and one of the brushes is cut at an angle for reaching into corners and crevices. The wooden handles are comfortable, good quality, and long-lasting.
Let the coat of primer dry completely before painting. If you’re applying multiple coats, let each dry completely before the next application.
Cleaning the brushes or roller is pivotal to finishing the priming process. You can soak them in paint thinner to remove coats of primer, and then rinse them with lukewarm water and dish soap once all the primer has dissolved.
Leaving the painting tools covered in primer is a sure way to ruin the instruments, making them unusable for future projects.
Once the primer is dry, you should sand the primed layer in preparation for painting. Some primers specify that sanding isn’t necessary once the solution it’s applied, but the best course of action is to sand any surfaces you’re working on again regardless.
This simply ensures that as much liquid and color will stick as possible and that the layer of primer is smooth and you don’t end up with dips and dents in the wood’s surface.
3. Paint the Door
Now that the primer is dry, it’s time to paint, so prepare the following:
- A paintbrush
- A bowl of water to clean the brush
- A cloth to clean spills
- Cracking agent or wax
- Sandpaper or a sanding block
Painting the Base Coat
As with the primer, shake the paint tin or bottle thoroughly before opening it. This allows all the pigments and chemicals that naturally separate during storage to mix together.
There are several paints available for this project:
- Furniture paint.
- Chalk paint.
- Acrylic paint.
- Oil paint.
Different kinds of paints assorted visual and tactile effects, have varying drying times, and work better with certain types of primers and sanding solutions. Ensure you do your research before deciding on a paint type.
Paint the first layer onto the door. Be sure not to make it too neat, the antique look requires texture and character, and a smoothly painted surface doesn’t scream “aged.” Of course, how you paint is up to you, as you’ll add more texture later.
For added visual effect, make the first coat of paint a different color from the other coats so that the original layer of color shows through when the door gets sanded later.
When the base coat of paint is dry, prepare the cracking agent or wax. It takes roughly an hour for a coat of paint to dry completely, but this varies substantially depending on the weather and the type of paint you’ve chosen. Touch it to see if it feels dry enough.
Adding Texture Using Wax or Cracking Agent
There are two main ways to go about texturizing paint on a door:
- Using a cracking agent: Cracking agent comes in various forms. They cause drying paint to shrink and crack, producing a weathered look.
- Using wax: Wax is used as a kind of paint-resistant material in a similar way to tape. Applying wax repels paint from certain areas and creates a worn effect. Ordinary candle wax or a white wax crayon is suitable for this project.
Start by painting the cracking agent of choice across the base coat of paint. Don’t paint it in an even layer across the door like the primer; instead, paint irregular strokes where you want the paint to crack. The paint will crack most where the solution is thickest.
The exciting part of this method is that there’s no way to determine precisely how the cracking will turn out; it’s unpredictable, and every project is unique.
Using wax as a masking material works in a similar way. Use it to mark the places where the paint should thin out and reveal the undercoat. The more concentrated the wax, the more resistant it will be to paint.
Candle wax and wax crayons are budget-friendly options for this step. However, dragging sticks of wax across a door would take ages and result in a mediocre finish, so instead:
- Melt the wax onto the door or into a block shape, like a sanding block.
- Crush the crayons and apply them using a palette knife.
These methods will save you time and money and still turn out a stunning final product.
Apply the next coat of paint while the cracking medium is still wet, so it combines with the paint and shrinks it as they dry. By contrast, the wax needs to dry completely before the paint is applied.
Watch the below video for a practical demonstration of wax-resist painting.
Wax resist painting works with a whole range of paint types:
- Oil paint
- Chalk paint
These paints produce significantly different results, each with its unique character.
The best course of action is to experiment with various paints and wax types to see which yields the most satisfying result.
As you get more experienced and comfortable with particular methods, you can create increasingly detailed and unique designs that would make any Pinterest enthusiast giddy.
Finishing Off the Paint Job
Let this final coat of paint dry, or add another coat to brighten the colors. However, ensure that this top coat doesn’t cover the cracks and waxed sections, or the whole effect disappears.
For an extra-weathered effect, sand down the top coat of paint to wear down the base color below. This looks beautiful along the edges of the door, at the handle, or in an ombre effect from the bottom of the door.
The following video is a stunning example of painting a cabinet with chalk paint to create a vintage, rustic look.
Finally, adding wax or varnish to the final coat of paint can leave it with a glossy, luxurious look that brings out the colors.
However, some prefer a matte, chalky result. Leaving out a final layer of varnish won’t affect the door’s longevity, as the primer protects the wood from moisture and dust. The paint may peel away over time, but this could add to the effect!
As with the primer, it’s vital to clean off the paint brushes, rollers, and other tools used to paint so that they don’t go brittle and become unusable.
It’s truly a wonder how much you can age a door just by adding some fresh coats of paint. This craft project takes dedication and know-how, but hopefully, this DIY guide will help you create a gorgeous faux-antique door.
- Adrienne Elizabeth Home Style Life: Make New Doors Look Old
- The Spruce: How to Choose Sandpaper Grit
- Family Handyman: 7 Pro-Approved Tips for How to Sand Woodwork by Hand
- Kilz: Refinish A Door
- House Beautiful: Everything You Need to Know About Using Wood Primer
- HömmCPS: The Five Golden Rules when Using Primer
- Wood Improve: Best Wood Primers – Reviews and Buyer’s Guide
- Derivan: WATER-BASED CRACKING MEDIUM
- Plaid Online: Mod Podge ® One-Step Crackle Medium with Brush, 2 oz. – CS25382
- LiveAbout.com: Wax Resist Painting Technique
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Giovanni Valle is an architect, designer, internet entrepreneur, and the managing editor of various digital publications including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place. He is the founder of BuilderSpace LLC.