A reader wants to refinish double entry doors without removing them. (Reader photo)

Q: I need to find someone to refinish the twin front doors on my house. One company offered to remove the doors, nail plywood over the space, and return with the refinished doors in about a week. Having plywood over the opening is unacceptable to me. Is there a way to refinish them without taking them down and exposing my house to the elements?


A: Some companies do recommend removing doors like yours and taking them to a shop for stripping and refinishing. The results can be stunningly beautiful and long-lasting.

Bill Shotwell, senior restorer at Restorations Unlimited in Sterling (703-904-9575; www.virginiafurniturerefinishing.com), does that because a shop environment can be controlled. Also, it’s easier to work on doors when they’re horizontal. He would chemically strip the doors, scuff-sand to get rid of any loose or raised wood fibers, remove dark stains using oxalic acid, then seal the exterior side of the door plus all four edges with epoxy resin. He’d scrape most of that off, leaving only what has sunk into the wood to minimize shrinking or swelling of the wood as weather changes. Finally, he’d apply six to eight coats of marine varnish with ingredients that help protect the wood from damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. But because of all the hand work involved, it’s not cheap: $4,000-$4,800 for the pair of doors.

But there are painters who will tackle the job without taking down the doors.

One is Willie Caballero, owner of Caballero Painting in Vienna (703-242-7731; www.cpcpainting.com). He actually prefers to leave the doors in place because he’s found that very heavy doors sometimes sag a bit. “They get molded to their position,” he said. “So when you put them back, they can be a little off at the hinges and not be 100 percent perfect” in how they swing.

His method depends on whether you want to keep a clear finish or switch to paint. Repainting, which would cost around $800 for the pair, would involve cleaning and scuffing up the existing finish, then brushing on an oil primer. Caballero said he would give that time to cure. After checking to make sure the primer is stuck to what remains of the current finish, he would add whatever finish paint you select.

If you want to keep a clear finish, Caballero said the per-pair cost would probably come to $1,600 to $2,400. His prep steps are similar to Shotwell’s, minus the epoxy step. He prefers Sikkens’ Cetol Door & Window , an oil-based finish that stays more flexible than marine varnish. Sikkens makes a clear version of its Door & Window finish, but tinted formulas stand up better to weather because they block UV rays.

Whether you ultimately decide to have the doors refinished at a shop or treated in place, restoring these doors to have a transparent finish is a big investment. To keep them looking good, inspect regularly so you notice when the finish begins to look dull and weathered. At that point, if you clean the surface as the finish manufacturer recommends and scuff-sand lightly, you can apply a fresh coat of the same finish without having to strip off everything and start over.

Bill Gradisher, a field technical service representative for Sikkens, said the Door & Window finish can be maintained indefinitely this way. “Just do it before the finish starts to peel.”

Shotwell said much the same thing, adding that for a couple hundred dollars, he will return to apply a maintenance coat and teach them how to repeat the process in the future. “It’s like sunscreen at the beach,” he said. “After a couple of years, you have to put on another coat.”

My condo’s kitchen has a white ceramic tile floor that has been damaged by dropped objects. Is there some type of paint or other substance that can cover the damaged portions?

Chevy Chase

The best solution is to replace the damaged tiles — but this works only if you have replacement tile. Shopping for pieces that match is usually futile; you quickly realize how many shades of white and different textures exist. But because you’re in a condo, you might check whether the condo association has a supply of replacement tiles. If your unit is newish and the tiles were installed in multiple units, you could be lucky.

If that doesn’t work, try mending the cracks with two-part epoxy, which comes in twin tubes or a dual-tube applicator that dispenses equal amounts of epoxy resin and hardener, typically for less than $10. Some products dry clear, others gray or amber. Once the patches cure, touch up with a little white paint. To get a near-perfect match, mix different shades of white or add a drop or two of color to white paint. Where tiles have just a hairline crack, you might be able to skip the epoxy and fill the crack with a little paint, dabbed on with a tiny, pointed artist brush.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.