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The Best Way to Stain a Custom Wood Door

Learn the best way to stain a custom wood door. Sharing all my tips to get the job done so you can enjoy your gorgeous stained wood door.

We’ve been working on our laundry room makeover for a little while now and we’re almost to the finish line.

It all started with a plan to turn our dated builder’s grade laundry room into a modern farmhouse style space.

You can read all about the plan and take a look at my inspiration board here.

The first project we completed was installing our new custom wood door from Woodgrain.

After we prepared the custom interior door we hung it to be sure it was perfect.

unfinished custom interior wood door with glass window on top half of door

And it was perfect!

Well almost…all I needed to do was choose a stain color.

After I decided on a stain color we took the door back down for staining.

Do you prefer to paint and stain doors flat or hung?

Anne painted her custom french door after it was hung.

We also both painted our front doors while they were hung. You can see the doors and the steps we followed here and here.

But when it comes to staining I prefer to work with the door off the hinges and laying flat.

Although it takes a little longer because you have to wait for each side to dry I think you have better control while the piece you are staining is laying flat.

Where to Stain a Custom Interior Door

unfinished wood door laying on saw horses with tarp on floor

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After removing the door I laid it across two saw horses in my dining room.

Why the dining room?

First of all, I wanted to stain inside because it was really cold outside since it was winter! The stain would take forever to dry if I had stained it in my nonheated garage.

And secondly, we don’t use our dining room daily so the door would be out of the way while I was working.

Don’t forget to cover your flooring with a drop cloth if you’re going to be working inside.

I also opened the window a little bit to help with any of the fumes from staining.

How to Prepare a Wood Door for Staining

arm holding sanding block on wood door

Even though my door was custom made and brand new wood I needed to give it a light sanding.

Sanding your wood prior to staining will ensure your stain will adhere well to the new wood.

I used a sanding block to lightly sand all sides of my door. There were also a few spots that were a bit rough so I went over those a little more to get them smooth.

handing using angeled sanding block on door panel

A dual angeled sanding block allows me to get in the edges of the each of door panels.

After sanding I would run my fingers over the wood to be sure it was super smooth and there were no rough spots or splinters.

And yup I got a couple of splinters with this method but it worked to see where wood needed to be sanded again.

womans hand holding tack cloth wiping wood door after sanding

Once the door was completely smooth I used my vacuum brush attachment to clean the sanding dust from the door.

But vacuuming won’t get all the dust and you want to make sure your door is completely dust free before staining.

A tack cloth will pick up any of the loose dust that the vacuum leaves behind.

Just be sure to refold and use different sides of the tack cloth to get all the dust. Or use a new one!

Should You Use a Paint Brush or Rag

hand holding tshirt rag over opened can of minwax wood finish sitting on cardboard on door

Just like whether you should stain with the door flat or hanging…using a paint brush or a rag is a personal preference.

I use an old t-shirt for all of my staining projects.

Old t-shirts don’t cost me anything. Plus they are super soft and lint free.

Also using t-shirts gives me more control over my stain than a paint brush.

With a paintbrush, you may have more drips and often apply too much stain.

But what about getting stain all over your hands if using a rag?

No worries…just put on a pair of disposable gloves to stay clean when using a rag to stain.

How to Stain a Custom Wood Door

hand holding rag with stain on it staining custom wood door

I wanted my custom wood door to look natural and not too dark.

After sampling several colors of wood stain I decided to use Minwax in Weathered Oak.

The most important thing to know when you are staining wood is to always stain in the same direction as the grain of the wood.

Apply the stain to the custom wood door with the rag by rubbing the rag along the door going with the wood grain.

hand in middle of two panels on bottom of door applying stain

I started with the outside edge of the door then worked my way across the bottom of the door.

You can see that the stain got on the middle piece of the door below the glass window when applying it on the outside edge.

Don’t worry about that little bit you want to be sure to completely cover the entire door. That won’t show once you stain that middle piece going in the opposite direction.

using rag to stain inside edges of panels on door

Next you will stain the raised panels of the door and using a rag really helps with this step.

You have much better contol of how much stain you are applying with the rag in the crevices of the raised panels.

And with a rag you are much less likely to have too much stain pool in the corners.

As you can see in the photo above the corner needs more stain so I simply went back over that spot with my rag.

If I were using a brush you run the risk of applying too much stain and then having to smooth it out with the brush or even grabbing a rag to smooth the excess out.

After Staining Door

door laying on saw horses after staining complete

After applying your stain you should wait 5-15 minutes and then take a clean rag and wipe the entire piece down to remove any excess stain.

I skipped this step because my door wasn’t as dark as I had hoped.

So I applied another coat of the Weathered Oak stain.

But after I had finished staining both sides with two coats of stain it was still was too light.

After looking at more sample stain colors I decided to create my own custom color.

I mixed some Minwax Provincial in the can of Minwax Weathered Oak and found the perfect color for my laundry room wood door.

hand with clear glove on holding rag staining wood door

After applying the new custom stain color I created to the first part of the door I knew it was going to be great.

I finished staining the custom wood door with the new color following the steps I shared above.

hand holding clean rag wiping excess stain off wood door

This time since I was happy with the darker color I didn’t skip that last step in the staining process.

I used a clean t-shirt rag to wipe off any excess stain from the door about 10 minutes after applying the new stain.

rag laying on stained door after using it to wipe excess off stained wood door

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And here you can see how much extra stain came off on the clean rag when wiping down the freshly stained door.

This step will also help to smooth out the stain color if it’s not perfectly even.

after staining custom wood door laying on saw horses

I just love the color of the door now that it’s a little darker.

The stain color really brings out the beauty of the wood grain in the oak door.

wood door with glass window opened into laundry room with light on in room

This custom wood door with a custom wood stain color is the perfect first impression to our new laundry room!

If you have any questions or suggestions, contact me or leave a comment!

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