How to Recycle Your Old Doors
Call it what you will; 'Green', recycling, environmentally friendly, etc. but long before the current fashion for re-using materials took over, people have always found new uses for old wood. Providing the timber is still of solid construction and free from wood pests it can be chopped and changed to suit the competent DIYer.
Because of their size, doors are amongst the best sources of wood for recycling projects and this article looks at the different options for creating new items of furniture from old doors focusing on preparation and finish.
Preparing the wood
Sadly many old doors are left outside to suffer the effects of the elements. This is most prevalent in areas that have the most changeable conditions – that is regions that regularly swap hot and cold temperatures and switch between wet and dry spells. Make sure the door is brought inside for a few weeks if very wet, and allowed to acclimatise. If not, any treatments added to the finish of the door will seal in the damp and the timber will continue to rot. Once acclimatised, sand down the wood. It may be necessary to pull apart door parts to sand in between joints. If you're after for a 'shabby chic' look it is still necessary to sand down the wood, removing the old paints or finishes. If you simply paint over old finishes then once new coats of varnish or paint are applied the top surface will crack after a short time looking only shabby snd not chic.
Old doors that were decorated over 30 years ago have a good chance they will be coated in a lead based paint. Extra care should be taken when considering reusing old doors in this case because inhaling the fumes or dust whilst removing the paint is very toxic. To be sure it is recommended you purchase a lead paint test kit which are relatively cheap and easy to use. If you decide against having the door stripped professionally make sure you use the appropriate protective gear and create as little dust or fumes as possible. A chemical stripper gives the most control and never use a heat gun or sand lead based paints. Take care to collect any debris to prevent toxic materials entering the natural environment and ensure all waste is disposed of carefully according to local laws.
To successfully get the shabby-chic look sand down all areas of the wood. Then clean the wood with a damp cloth and allow to dry. Apply a primer then a top coat of a different colour. Sand down a few chosen areas to allow base colour to show through. Finally, add a varnish to protect and stabilise the finish otherwise drinks and other mess will penetrate the wood in sanded areas. Applying a varnish makes the look water proof and therefore cleanable and safe in a family environment.
So don't just throw old doors away - creating something new could be good way to save money. In the next article we will consider specific uses and ideas for you to transform your old doors into something wonderful.