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Wood Entry Door Materials and Finishes

Photo by Keller & Keller

The wood you see beneath a clear finish determines whether your door's look will be rustic or refined.

Good Woods

Photo by Manfred Koh/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Doors made with stable woods are less affected by humidity, so they're better at holding up to the elements. Here's how a few of the more common species compare.

Ponderosa Pine

Character: Relatively stable, light in color and weight, and often dotted with knots. Consider painting it; it's hard to stain evenly.

Price: About $200 to $300

Douglas Fir

Photo by Manfred Koh/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Character: If quartersawn, this wood has a straight, consistent grain and is stable and check-resistant. Darkens naturally under a clear finish.

Price: About $300 to $375

White Oak

Photo by Manfred Koh/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Character: Naturally stable and rot-resistant, it shows off its distinctive flecked, open-pored grain when quartersawn and stained.

Price: About $450 to $500

Knotty Alder

Photo by Manfred Koh/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Character: Burl clusters and small knots make alder a good choice for rustic doors. It has a fairly straight grain and a natural cherrylike hue.

Price: About $300 to $375

African Mahogany

Photo by Manfred Koh/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Character: A deep brown tropical hardwood that's very heavy and stable. Check whether the wood was sustainably harvested.

Price: About $650 to $800

Finishing Options

Photo by Andrea Rugg/Collinstock

Most door companies apply a paint or poly finish before delivery, or you can save a few bucks by ordering the door unfinished and coating it yourself. Just be sure to seal all edges so that the wood doesn't wick up moisture.


No other clear finish matches its durability and moisture resistance. Apply

two coats of exterior-grade polyurethane to start. Sand and apply one fresh coat every two years to keep it looking fresh.


Photo by Andrea Rugg/Collinstock

Because its opaque pigments block the sun's UV rays, an exterior-grade oil- or water-based paint is the longest-lasting and most-protective finish you can apply. Plus, it comes in eye-catching colors to improve your home's curb appeal. Sand and reapply every five to six years.

Spar Varnish

Photo by Andrea Rugg/Collinstock

This old-fashioned mix of UV-resistant oils and resin is more flexible and less plastic-y than polyurethane. Nothing matches the rich look it gives wood after eight or 10 coats. Sand and reapply two top coats once a year. Epifanes