How to "Non-Finish" a Rustic Recycled Door

Ideas for refinishing an old salvaged door to preserve its existing bare-wood-and-old-paint appearance. October 15, 2009

A customer has an old 32" recycled entry door they want to use for the pantry in a remodeled kitchen. The joints are sound, but I'm scratching my bald head over how to protect the very dry wood in a humid place like a kitchen and still achieve the look they want. Basically, they want to leave intact what little paint remains, and not alter the grey, weathered look of the exposed wood. I'm concerned that any clear finish will just look like peeling paint wrapped in cellophane. What's the alternative? Wax? Clear Danish oil?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor R:
Why not apply a little finish to an area of the door and let the customers see for themselves exactly what it will look like? Anything you apply will change the color of the grey, even wax or oil.

George Frank referenced a non-finish finish in one of his books. A customer of his wanted a finished look without any finish applied. If I'm not mistaken, he ended up burnishing the wood... The end results yielded a "waxed" look even though no finish was applied.

From contributor J:
Remove any flaking paint and do one or two coats of dead flat water based non-yellowing poly.

From contributor H:
Apply a flat clear coat over the entire thing. After any loose paint is removed! This is the one time I would recommend a water based finish. No worries about lifting whatever paint is left.

Shabby chic! Buy an old used door. Pay more than a new one. Have a professional rework it and pay him. And be happy to call yourself "green." Hey, it's work!

From contributor O:
All of my work is done in reclaimed wood. I just finished a house where all the siding, timber frame, and a lot of the cabinetry was "as is" barn wood. We used this stuff on everything. The only finish I've found that does not affect the color at all is the silicon sealer made by Cabot. You can't tell it is on there, but water beads off it. Get rid of any loose particles, slivers first.