Finishing Caldwell's Doors

Caldwell’s doors are crafted to last for years to come. Like a piece of fine furniture, they need proper finishing and periodic maintenance. For the best results we recommend a professional finisher when you stain a door. For a long-lasting, beautiful Caldwell's door, please follow the instructions as outlined in the appropriate section below.

Finishing Options

If you choose paint instead of stain, you can apply either oil-base or latex resin-base paints over an oil-base primer. However, take care in following the finishing instructions provided here. Also, be sure to evaluate the conditions your door must endure, such as direct exposure to severe climates, before deciding on the specific finish to use. All Caldwell's doors must be finished shortly before or after installation.


  1. For the best results when staining a door, we recommend using a professional finisher! Before applying the first coat of finish, remove all handling marks, raised grain and other undesirable blemishes by sanding all surfaces with 180 grit sandpaper. For doors with shaker sticking, lightly ease the outside edge of the sticking with sandpaper. To avoid cross-grain scratches, sand with the grain. NOTE: small amounts of grease, oil or pitch can be wiped clean with mineral spirits.
  2. Adjust or align components if necessary before finishing. Wood panels “float” and may be knocked into alignment with a wood block and hammer. Be careful not to damage door.
  3. After sanding, clean door thoroughly with a cloth to remove all dust or foreign material. Do not use caustic or abrasive cleaners.
  4. Hang door before finishing, and then remove to finish properly. Doors must be properly sealed prior to installation of hardware and exposure to moisture or weather. Properly finish door immediately before prolonged storage.
  5. All surfaces of the door must be properly finished. The edges (top, bottom and sides) should be coated with each and every coat of finish that is applied to the exterior surface of the door. Doors must be dry before finishing.
  6. On doors that are glazed with clear glass, the finish used should be flowed from the wood slightly onto the glass. This will provide assurance against water leakage and protect the glazing compound “putty” from drying out.
  7. NOTE: It is the finisher's responsibility to protect glass prior to and during finishing. If using tape, conduct a test of the tape being used on a small area of the glass before applying to a large surface. After finishing, remove the tape as soon as possible.
  8. On doors that have plastic film protection on glass, removal of plastic film protection immediately after applying the finish is required. Failure to remove the plastic film at this time may cause harm to the glass and will create difficulty in removing the film at a later time. Do not use razor blades or sharp objects to remove the film or clean the glass. These items will scratch the glass.


Stain and Clear Finish

The first coat should be a stain-and-sealer, a combination of stain-and-sealer, which colors the door and seals the surface. It is available in a wide range of colors. The stain-and-sealer should have an alkyd-resin base. Under no circumstances should a lacquer-based toner or any other lacquer-based finish be used on exterior doors.

The second and third coats (two top coats minimum) may be a solvent-borne (oil-base, alkyd resin-base, polyurethane resin-base) or a water-borne (latex resin-base) clear finish. See notes (1) and (2) below.

The advantages and disadvantages of solvent-borne vs. water-borne clear finishes are as follows:

  1. Solvent-Borne Advantages: Faster drying, harder and more water resistant. May be applied under variable weather conditions. Disadvantages: Subject to ultraviolet degradation and not as flexible or durable as water-borne clear finish.
  2. Water-Borne Advantages: Very flexible, greater ultraviolet resistance, and good exterior durability. Disadvantages: Cannot be applied below 50º F, long drying period required, and may not fully cure for several weeks. Water-sensitive until cure is complete.

NOTE: Do not sand between coats of clear latex. All stain-and-clear finishes will perform measurably better if protected from the direct effects of sunlight and weathering, and refinishing will not be required as frequently.

Paint Finish

Either oil-base or latex resin-base exterior grade paints may be used with success on panel doors. Oil-base paints offer more resistance to the passage of water (liquid and vapor) than latex resin-base paints, but the latter have better durability and color retention.

Doors should be sealed with a good quality oil-base primer followed by two top coats of either an oil-base or latex resin-base paint. Of course, both primer and top coat should be made by the same manufacturer and designed to be used as a combination.

NOTE: Where possible exposure to direct sun or rain is a factor, to keep your wood doors beautiful they require periodic resealing or painting dependent on weather or moisture exposure. Do not use dark colored stains or paint on doors exposed to sunlight, as some expansion and contraction of door parts may occur. Further, a dark colored stain or paint can void the door's warranty.

CAUTION: Caldwell's Doors cannot evaluate all the available paints and stains, nor the customers' specific application requirements. Your paint dealer should know of suitable finish systems that give satisfactory results in your region. It is highly recommended that top quality finishes be selected, and the application instructions on the container be followed explicitly.

High Exposure Finish
  1. Use an oil-based primer followed by at least three top coats of oil or latex-based paint on the exterior. Latex is more durable and has better color retention.
  2. Use a silicone or caulking bead (must be compatible with paint) around the perimeter of each glass pane. This will seal the putty and prevent any moisture from running directly into the door.
  3. Ensure all finish coats are allowed to flow into the glass area at least 1/16".
  4. Ensure all coatings that go on the surface of the door are also applied to the top and bottom. Coat all six sides of every door, or your warranty will be voided.
  5. Silicone the door bottom sweep onto the bottom of the door and apply a surface mount drip cap to the bottom of each door to allow for moisture runoff onto the sill.
  6. For outswing units: Prior to finishing the top of the inactive door, be sure to fill the mortise pocket around the flush bolt prep with silicone or caulking. Moisture has a history of pooling up in this area on outswing units. Consider a thin layer of metal across the top of the door to keep moisture from direct contact with the wood.
  7. Storm or screen doors may be mandatory to completely eliminate moisture problems. Storm doors must be vented to eliminate temperature build-up.


Stain and Clear Finish

A solvent-borne finish system is recommended for interior doors and may be a lacquer-based system. If a brush application is to be used, it is recommended that a presealer be used prior to staining. For best performance, a minimum of two clear top coats should be used over stains.

Paint Finish

Doors should be sealed with a good quality oil-base primer followed by two top coats of a solvent-base or latex enamel.