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Historic Preservation - Technical Procedures


Stripping And Refinishing Stained And Varnished Wood Doors

Procedure code:



National Capitol Region Specifications - Fed Trade Commiss


Doors And Windows


Wood Doors

Last Modified:



Stripping And Refinishing Stained And Varnished Wood Doors




    A.   This procedure includes guidance on removing varnish
         build-up on wood doors and refinishing.  This includes
         removing and storing all hardware from doors and
         reinstalling after the doors have been refinished.

    B.   See 01100-07-S for general project guidelines to be
         reviewed along with this procedure.  These guidelines
         cover the following sections:

         1.   Safety Precautions

         2.   Historic Structures Precautions

         3.   Submittals

         4.   Quality Assurance

         5.   Delivery, Storage and Handling

         6.   Project/Site Conditions

         7.   Sequencing and Scheduling

         8.   General Protection (Surface and Surrounding)

         These guidelines should be reviewed prior to performing
         this procedure and should be followed, when applicable,
         along with recommendations from the Regional Historic
         Preservation Officer (RHPO).


    A.   The intent of refinishing is to restore the color, finish
         and overall surface uniformity of the historic doors,
         consistent with the original design intent.  A like new
         appearance is neither expected nor desired.

    B.   Splotches, streaks, runs or other inconsistencies caused
         by improper application of finishing products will not be

    C.   Regulatory Requirements: Comply with minicipal and
         Federal regulations governing the refinishing operations,
         chemical waste disposal and scaffolding.


    A.   Samples:

         1.   Submit sample of wood stain and finish for approval
              of Contracting Officer.

         2.   Prepare a sample refinishing area for review of
              color and finish.


    A.   Existing Conditions: Determine that surfaces to which
         finishes are to be applied are even, smooth, sound,
         clean, dry and free from defects affecting proper
         application.  Correct or report defective surfaces to
         Contracting Officer.



    A.   The Sherwin Williams Company
         101 Prospect Ave. N.W.
         Cleveland, OH  44101

    B.   3M Company
         P.O. Box 33053
         St. Paul, MN  55133-3053
         612/737-6501 or 800/364-3577

    D.   Klean Strip, Inc.
         Division of W.M. Barr Inc.
         P.O. Box 13146
         Memphis, TN  38113

    E.   Pyrock Chemical Co.
         Long Island city, NY


    NOTE:  Chemical products are sometimes sold under a common
    name.  This usually means that the substance is not as pure as
    the same chemical sold under its chemical name.  The grade of
    purity of common name substances, however, is usually adequate
    for stain removal work, and these products should be purchased
    when available, as they tend to be less expensive.  Common
    names are indicated below by an asterisk (*).

    A.   Commercial Stripper such as "Kwick Superfast paint and
         Varnish Remover" (Klean Strip, Inc.), "Rock Miracle"
         (Pyrock Chemical Co.), or approved equal.

    B.   Stain: Penetrating, permanent oil-based stain such as
         "Oil Stain" (Sherwin Williams), or approved equal,
         colored to match existing interior and exterior wood.

    C.   Varnish: Linseed-tung-oil modified phenolic spar varnish
         such as "Rexpar" (Sherwin Williams), or approved equal.

    D.   Solvent: Mineral spirits, turpentine or denatured

         Mineral Spirits:

         1.   A petroleum distillate that is used especially as a
              paint or varnish thinner.

         2.   Other chemical or common names include Benzine* (not
              Benzene); Naphtha*; Petroleum spirits*; Solvent

         3.   Potential Hazards:  TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.

         4.   Safety Precautions:


              b.   ALWAYS wear rubber gloves when handling
                   mineral spirits.

              c.   If any chemical is splashed onto the skin,
                   wash immediately with soap and water.

         5.   Available from construction specialties
              distributor, hardware store, paint store, or
              printer's supply distributor.


         1.   Typically used as a solvent and thinner.

         2.   Potential Hazards:  TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.

         3.   Safety Precautions:

              a.   Work in a well ventilated area.  

              b.   Observe safety rules as turpentine is
                   flammable, and the fumes can trip an
                   ionization smoke detection system.  

              c.   Store soiled cloths in a metal safety
                   container to guard against spontaneous

              d.   Available from hardware store or paint store.

         Denatured Alcohol:

         1.   Other chemical or common names include Methylated

         2.   Potential hazards:  TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.

         3.   Available from hardware store, paint store or
              printer's supply distributor.

         4.   Denatured alcohol should be a satisfactory
              substitute for ethyl alcohol for stain removing

    E.   Alternative Solvent:  A mixture of 75% toluene, 24%
         acetone and 1% butyl acetate.

         Toluene (C7H8):

         1.   A liquid, aromatic hydrocarbon that resembles
              benzene but is less volatile, flammable and toxic;
              Is produced commercially from light oils from coke-
              oven gas and coal tar and from petroleum, and is
              used as a solvent, in organic synthesis and an
              antiknock agent for gasoline.

         2.   Other chemical or common names include Toluol.

         3.    Potential Hazards:  TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.

         4.   Available from chemical supply house, hardware
              store, paint store or printer's supply distributor.

         Acetone (C3H6O):

         1.   A volatile fragrant flammable liquid ketone used
              chiefly as a solvent and in organic synthesis.

         2.   Other chemical or common names include Dimethyl
              ketone; Propanone

         3.   Potential Hazards:  VOLATILE AND FLAMMABLE SOLVENT

         4.   Available from chemical supply house or hardware

    F.   Detergent containing trisodium phosphate, such as "Spic
         n' Span", or approved equal.

    G.   Steel Wool: Grade 000 steel wool

    H.   Aluminum oxide sandpaper - 220 grit

    I.   Silicone carbide paper - 400 grit

    J.   Bronze wool

    K.   Sandpaper - 80 and 120 grit

    L.   Shellac burn-in sticks

    M.   Tack rag

    N.   Clean cotton cloths

    O.   Soft, natural bristle brushes

    P.   Mild soap such as "Ivory Liquid", "Joy", or approved

    Q.   Abrasive pad such as "Scotch-brite" (3M Company), or
         approved equal.



    A.   Protection:  

         1.   Make sure work area is well-ventilated and wear
              protective clothing and rubber gloves.

         2.   Do not allow smoking in the work area.

         3.   Place a fire extinguisher for Class B fires at
              entrances for emergency use.

         4.   Change clothes as often as necessary to be
              effective in cleaning.

         5.   Daily, dispose of all used solutions, finishing
              products, solvent residue and soiled rags in sealed
              noncombustible containers to prevent a fire hazard.

         6.   Protect all surfaces adjacent to wood being

         7.   Maintain a healthy level of air circulation within
              the space being treated.  Regularly employ and
              maintain exhaust fans or other air moving devices
              to the satisfaction of the Contracting officer's

         8.   Curtain off areas being treated from other trades
              and occupants to prevent fumes from reaching other
              pars of the building.

         9.   Wear appropriate safety devices such as respirators
              fitted with the correct cartridge, gloves, and
              other protective clothing.

    B.   Surface Preparation:

         1.   Remove all non-original door louvers, panels and
              transom panels taking care not to damage the
              remainder of the door, frame or paneling.

         2.   Replace the non-original elements with new wood
              which matches the species of the original wood and
              which matches the detailing of the original

         3.   Hardware: Remove existing hardware, door numbers,
              and other applied elements, and store for

         4.   Make minor repairs to doors as required:

              a.   Fill holes exceeding 1 inch in diameter with
                   matching dutchmen.  See 09560-03-R for

              b.   Fill smaller holes with patching compound
                   tinted to match wood.  See 06400-02-R for


    A.   Strip the existing varnish finish:

         1.   Wet steel wool with solvent and rub over the doors
              to remove varnish build-up and smooth out checked
              surface. Replace soiled steel wool frequently with
              clean and continue with wiping process until a
              smooth, even-colored surface is achieved. Use no
              water on wood surface under any circumstances.

              a.   Work only one 4' square area at a time. Work
                   area should be within a comfortable arms

              b.   If solvent affects the stained color of the
                   wood, discontinue use and use an alternative
                   solvent mixture as listed in Section 2.02

         2.   Allow surface to dry thoroughly; no less than 24


         1.   Apply commercial stripper following manufacturer's

         2.   Wash the surface with acetone to remove stripper

         3.   Lightly sand the surface with 220 grit aluminum
              oxide sandpaper as needed to remove carbon soiling
              and finish damage not removed by solvent

         4.   Wipe surface with a tack rag to remove traces of
              bronze wool, sand and dust prior to applying new

    B.   Remove shallow scratches:

         1.   Lightly sand, in the direction of the grain only,
              to remove shallow scratches, against the grain
              sanding, and finish damage not removed by stripper

         2.   Remove scratches using 80 grit sandpaper.  Finish
              using 120 grit sandpaper until smooth surface is
              attained.  Smooth surface sufficiently to ensure
              uniform stain absorption.

         3.   Wipe surface with a tack rag to remove traces of
              steel wool, sand, and dust prior to applying new

    C.   Apply the Stain:

         1.   Color mix stain to match original finish.

         2.   Apply stain to bare wood surfaces using a soft
              cloth or bristle brush.

         3.   Allow stain to set as required for proper color
              match and maximum surface uniformity.

         4.   Wipe off excess stain by rubbing parallel to the
              grain with a soft dry cloth.

         5.   Allow surface to dry for at least 24 hours.

    D.   Fill deep scratches and gouges with shellac burn-in
         sticks tinted to match the wood stain.

    E.   Apply the finish coating:

         1.   Make sure that surface is clean, level and free of
              defects.  Promptly report to Contractor Officer's
              Representative any unanticipated conditions which
              may affect the quality of the finish.

         2.   Brush or spray apply 3 coats of varnish to produce
              a uniform sheen and appearance.

         3.   Allow each coat to dry for at least 4 hours.

         4.   Lightly sand with #400 grit silicone carbon paper
              or rub with fine steel wool between coats.  Vacuum
              surface and wipe with a dry tack rag to remove all
              grit and dust prior to applying next finish coat.

         5.   After curing, lightly rub surface with fine steel
              wool to replicate original finish.

    F.   Clean hardware:

         1.   General:  For bronze and stainless steel hardware
              (door knobs, escutcheon plates, hinges and
              closers), clean using a mild soap and water.  For
              stubborn dirt and hard to clean areas, apply
              detergent with a Scotch-brite pad or bristle brush.
              Rinse thoroughly and buff dry with soft cotton.
              Remove grease on closers and hinges with sponge and
              detergent.  Scrape gently with a non-metallic
              spatula to remove paint drips.  See also 05010-03-P
              and 05010-10-P for guidance.

         2.   If required, carefully remove adhesive residue,
              paint and varnish drips from escutcheon plates
              using a paint stripper.  Apply with soft cloths.
              If necessary, apply light pressure using a natural
              bristle brush.

         3.   If necessary, remove adhesive residue from door
              knobs using a mild solvent.  Test an inconspicuous
              area to avoid damaging the finish.  DO NOT APPLY

    G.   Repair locksets:

         1.   Repair inoperable locksets, reusing original knobs
              and escutcheons.

         2.   Where locksets are missing or irreparably damaged,
              furnish new locksets matching originals.  Replicate
              existing escutcheons in color, sheen, overall
              configuration, and detailing.  Conceal existing
              cutouts, but do not cover portions of door not
              originally concealed.  Replicate original knob's

    H.   Install new closers where missing or irreparably damaged.
         Furnish closers matching originals in form and finish as
         closely as possible.

    I.   Replace glazing as required.

    J.   Clean glazing as required:

         1.   Remove adhesive residues, paint spatters, and other
              soiling using soft cloths and detergent.

         2.   Use a mild solvent and Scotch Brite pad or bristle
              brush to remove stubborn residues.

         3.   Remove paint splatters with solvent or by scraping
              gently with a razor blade held at a shallow angle.
              ETCH THE GLASS.

    K.   Reinstall kickplates and other hardware as required.

    L.   Remove and repaint louvers to match original as required.
    M.   Refinish jambs and frames to match original as required.


    A.   Adjust door to assure proper operation.  Replace or
         rehang doors which are hinge bound and do not swing or
         operate freely.  Replace worn hinge pins with replicates.

    B.   Refinish or replace job-finished doors damaged during

    C.   For guidance on the periodic cleaning of woodwork see
                         END OF SECTION