Dye Stains for Exterior Door Refinishing

Some finishers have had success pairing stain or pigment components with well-known exterior semi-transparent coatings. February 21, 2011

I have an exterior door set (double doors) that I'm going to chemically strip and refinish. The doors are made of douglas fir and the current stain color is dark brown which the customer wants to keep the same.

Based on recommendations, I am tentatively planning on using a Sikkens Cetol system (either 1 and 23, or door and window). I obtained a sample of the door and window in their dark oak tint. After applying the recommended three coats on a sample board, the color is still not dark enough.

I would like to use either a base stain or UV resistant dye (I have some Behlens Solarlux) to darken the wood slightly before applying the finish. I have reviewed the literature and made multiple calls to their technical desk, they recommend to apply their product to bare wood only (I assume mostly for warranty purposes) and did not know decisively if this would work.

Has anyone used a stain or dye under Sikkens Cetol successfully? If so, how long should I let the base dry before applying the topcoats? Also if someone has another stain/topcoat system recommendation, that would be appreciated as well.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
Yes to everything. You can place a dye stain followed by pigmented stain, then proceed with the Sikkens product you want to use. I do not believe there are any UV resistant dyes on the market today, but I could be wrong. I have done it for years; the dye stain will fade within one or two years, but so will almost any pigmented coating on the market today.

My sequence is to spray the Solarlux, not thinned, with very light coats. Wait one hour, apply stain of your choice (I have used MLC's with no problems with exterior coatings) wait 24 hours, and then start to apply your finish coats. I apply three of the Sikkens. I think the first coat should be thinned by half. I do think that you need to spray the finish; brushed on Sikkens is not what it used to be. Most exterior coatings will last two to four years (depending upon sun, snow and water) and then a fresh top coat can be added at that time without refinishing.

From contributor H:
Pure dye stain will not last exterior, no matter what the label says. There are some metallic out there that are better but the large particulate of a UTC will hold up better. What we do is to mix up our colorant in SW Homoclade sealer. It is hard to apply but you get your base colorant plus a moisture retarder and a stabilizer in one coat. Cetol is a great product( door and window) but you will never get a furniture grade finish out of the product. If brush strokes or junk from spraying are acceptable use it (long open time). My garage door, corbels, eave vents, under eaves, and pergolas are done with it. The quarter sawn oak entry is finished with an Isocyanate urethane. I can spray out a furniture grade finish with better protection than Cetol and re-coats can be done in a few hours due to its dry time. Call your local SW industrial, the finish will also shade like a lacquer.

From contributor J:
Note on Homoclad by SW. I used it once, great product, but my understanding was that it was for interior use only, not exteriorly and is not considered a finish coat since it is dead flat.

From contributor H:
I am using Homoclad as a stain base and not a top coat. As long as you use it under an exterior grade finish you are fine. I have used it under Cetol Door/Window, Zar water exterior and of course Iso. The number one area where moisture damages most door finishes is on the edges. While the finish on the flats will degrade, I have yet to see and edge peel with the use of Homoclad.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the advice. I'll look into the Homoclad sealer with pigment added for the base. The door has a rustic look so brush marks aren't a big deal so I may still use the Cetol door and window for the top coat.

From contributor R:
I'm in Miami, Florida - land of killer sun and salt air! I've had great long term success refinishing ocean-front doors and woodwork using Jel' d Stain gel stain (available through Constantine's) applied under or to tint Epifane (the secret ingredient) varnish. The Epifane's is available at boat supply dealers or direct, has high UV inhibitor and pure Chinese tung oil content. It can be brushed or sprayed since it is best applied using multiple thinned coats. As for my finishing schedule, first a 25% wash coat over prepared finished or unfinished wood (lightly sanded to 150 or180 initially and between all coats).

Dry all coats a minimum of 6-8 hours - best overnight, then you can apply either the initial coat of Jel' d Stain (straight or thinned with turps or MS). If you do use the Jel'd Stain, top it with another light wash coat after it's thoroughly dry. Then apply the next 3-4 coats thinned to 40-50% Epifane; next 3-4 coats thinned to 60-70% Epifane, top coat(s) thinned to 75% Epifane maximum. I like to use 2-3 75% coats to give me as many as 8-15 total coats. If necessary you can knock down the final coat gloss with 4x steel wool or plastic pad. Note that you can really fine-tune your color with the Jel'd Stain applied over a thoroughly dry wash coat since you can easily remove and re-apply it until your satisfied. Just remember that the multiple coats of varnish will add a decided amber cast to the stain color. I prefer to keep the color at the base not as a tint to the top to take advantage of the UV protection in the Epifane.

I began using this way of refinishing teak and/or mahogany exterior doors and windows around 8-9 years ago on Fisher Island, mostly ocean-front condos, some private homes with primarily eastern and southern exposures. Even the oldest jobs still look like the day I originally finished them - at least after rinsing the salt spray off of them!