Home>Discussions>INTERIORS>Molding & Carpentry>Cleaning and Repairing old Oak trim and doors
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Cleaning and Repairing old Oak trim and doors

I recently purchased an old Victorian with beautiful Oak trim and doors throughout the house. The condition of the woodwork is not great but at least it is not painted. It looks drab and beat up in places. There is cracks in some of the wood and some will need to be replaced. I am trying to figure out the best strategy to tackle this project.

Here are a couple of side notes before I start my many questions; I don't believe that we want to stain it, if necessary just a light stain to blend new and old wood where necessary. The wood does not seem to be varnished but I am not sure what, if any seal has been applied in the past.

First, for the wood that is in good condition what can I do to clean it up and bring out its full potential?

For the many areas where the wood is damaged, such as doors where the trim around the panels have are gouged and along the floor where the trim is split and missing, how do I match the new and old wood.

This is a big project and I know I want to do it right the first time so any advice is greatly appreciated.

Re: Cleaning and Repairing old Oak trim and doors

Well, at least you recognize that it's a big job ahead of you...

You can probably assume that the trim has some finish on it, whether it be shellac or varnish. That will keep you from putting more stain on it until you do something to get the surface cleaned off. I'd start in an inconspicuous place first to see what the method of choice will be.

You could try alcohol (takes off shellac) and some 0000 steel wool and see how it turns out. Then maybe lacquer thinner (takes off lacquer) and steel wool. If that doesn't come out the way you want it, try stripper (takes off varnish) with the steel wool. I wouldn't recommend sandpaper as it will ruin the patina of the wood and will take some of the stain off but not all and you'll have a blotchy result. Steel wool comes in a variety of grades but don't use something too coarse or it will scratch the wood.

You should probably buy a few small cans (half-pint) of a few colors of stain and try them on the dings to see what color matches. Use a Q-tip to apply it in the dings and you can save yourself some clean up and they're cheap.

Once you've finshed cleaning off the old finish and have all the coloring the way you want it, you can use either lacquer or varnish. I'd use a semi-gloss polyeurathane varnish if it were me. It's more durable, especialy around doors and windows.

Good Luck.

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