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How to restore a carved wooden door


Q: Our house has a beautiful, carved wooden front door. The same bamboo pattern is on both sides. The side facing outdoors has small cracks at the bottom and has become discolored because of rain. How can we restore the door without compromising the carving details?

Falls Church

A: It should be possible to refinish the exterior side of your door without rounding over the crisp carving details, as long as whoever does the work avoids the use of a power sander and is careful and gentle.

William Shotwell, owner of Restorations Unlimited in Sterling (703-904-9575;, would remove the door and cover the opening while he does the work at his shop. The process takes a week to 10 days, so it’s best to tackle it before the weather turns cold.

Shotwell would use a chemical stripper to soften the existing finish, then scrape off the goo with a nylon-bristle brush. “It’s like brushing your teeth after a camping trip of two weeks,” he said. Then he’d rinse any remaining residue using mineral spirits and a scrub pad and sand with 220- or 320-grit sandpaper. He described the abrasiveness of 320 as “what you use to grind calluses off your feet — very gentle.”

He suggests that the customer look at the door once it is fully prepped. If the customer likes the look, he would apply a clear finish. Or, if the customer wants a darker color, he would use a stain first. He would apply epoxy resin to seal the edges, including the bottom edge, then spray three or four coats of marine varnish with UV inhibitors.

The cost would be about $2,300 to $2,600, plus $300 for pickup and delivery.

I have a piece of marble about a foot across and an inch thick that I had fashioned maybe 40 years ago to fit over an old commode that I found at a flea market. The marble has a beveled edge on top, and it’s stepped down to fit into the lid, serving as a top. The marble broke. Is it possible to glue the pieces back together? If not, where can I find somebody to make me a new piece? I took the commode to a local kitchen-counter place, but it said the best it could do would be to make me a piece of fake marble to fit.

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