I have a Mahogany door that costs me about $700/year to keep it stained and covered in urethane. It is in direct sun and just takes a beating.

I don't want to put a storm door on it because the storm door will just raise the temperature even further.

I am tired of the time it takes; I am tired of the money it takes. I just going to have it painted.

I had one painter casually recommend equipment paint but did not give me a specific brand (he was not going to do the work).

I had another painter recommend Sherwin-Williams Duration Gloss.

Should I investigate further on getting the door painted with equipment paint?

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    Is this in Atlanta, GA as your profile suggests? Oh, and please don’t paint that beautiful door. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 1:25
  • Yup, Atlanta. The door looks awesome when it gets done, but no amount of keeping the poly on it will keep it in shape. The sun just eats the finish. Don't feel too bad about me painting it. It can't be sanded too many more times in order to get a fresh coat of stain. The door is 20 years old. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 1:38
  • Harpers answer below is how I would proceed for the finish. I’d also investigate a high quality ventilated storm door with UV blocking tinted glass. There are astragal kits for double doors.
    – Kris
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 12:27
  • I would not mind a ventilated storm door but I can't find one. I also thought if the fan fails it would still get hot. I figured there had to be a solar-powered fan that would keep the door cool; but no such animal. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 14:00
  • 2
    Albeit not as luxurious and prestigious as being able to claim that you have giant mahogany doors, would you consider replacing them with wood-textured fiberglass doors? Given that you're just considering painting them anyways, this seems like the best long-term solution.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 14:09

4 Answers 4


I take it for $700 you are paying people to do this work. And I gather these are garden variety handymen using random products bought at the local builder supply; when people say "polyurethane" without any qualifiers, they usually mean the Home Depot stuff.

Have you talked to marine/boat painting places? There are a variety of products intended for marine brightwork which will perform much, much better. Because, obviously, they operate in VERY challenging environments.

Oh, and to head off a common misnomer about marine products, "Spar" varnish is not the stuff. Spar varnish is lousy varnish which has all its best properties compromised away so it can flex without cracking, as it needs to do on spars. If you're not regularly bowing that door 2" every time you open it, you don't need or want spar varnish.

Now if you're really, really hellbound and determined to paint that door, the products your painter was talking about are alkyd enamels. They're not water-based, so they are stinky. They are also illegal to apply to buildings in some jurisdictions, but there's a weird loophole that lets you buy them in quart cans. My Sherwin Williams dealer cheerfully sells me alkyds by the gallon, but is always "out of gallon cans" and sends me out the door with four quarts. (I actually am painting industrial machinery; I think they just don't believe me).

While you're at the boat place, you can also ask them about marine LPU. This is a 2-component linear aliphatic polyurethane like you haven't met before; same basic stuff as Imron and what they paint airplanes with. That stuff, I do use on architectural surfaces. I have doors I painted 8 years ago. You can't tell I didn't paint it last week.

  • 1
    I have paid for a professional door refinisher to do it and he removed the door and took it to his shop for the work. That was $1,400. It lasted a bit longer. What think is going on right now is the wood is in such bad shape that stain won't "take". Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 13:03
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    for $1400 I would expect it to be returned plated in gold!
    – Dr_Bunsen
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 13:09
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    @MichaelPotter: You're getting overcharged by people who don't know what they're doing. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 13:46
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    Was the smell hellacious and take several days go completely go away? @MichaelPotter and I think this is more a problem of a labor shortage due to the economy. In my town even handymen are gettiing $100/hr on TaskRabbit. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 14:22
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    @MichaelPotter Good, it's not water based, but still, not very good stuff clearly. Spar varnish, I bet. Can you tell if the door's plywood plys are delaminating? Obvious surface damage? Problem is you need craft X (any handyman) to remove the doors, and craft Y (marine brightwork specialists) to restore the door. Each doesn't do the other's job. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 19:52

This is a beautiful door and it would be a huge shame to paint it. (And if/when the paint does start to crack, it will look far worse than it does now!) It should absolutely be able to withstand direct sunlight for years with proper finish.

Contrary to what I think Harper's answer is saying, I may disagree in part. I have had very good results with "spar urethane" products you can buy in stores. The ones I've used are not low-quality, non-PU/non-polymerizing varnishes, but formulations with less ridigity/brittleness and much higher resistance to UV (which you'll immediately notice by the ambering effect - the transmission cutoff starts way below UV range, down in visible blue). Anything sold as "extra clear" or "non ambering" is junk - it means it's not doing its job to protect against UV. And the softness is not just about spars (marine) needing to bend. Wood under repeated variations in temperature and humidity will expand and contract, and if the coating is not soft, it will eventually crack as that happens, and once it cracks, it offers little or no protection.

The above is based on my experience - all the trim and doors in my home are covered with a "spar urethane" product, and survived a fire (and the associated heating/drying) that took out the entire basement with no damage to the wood (or even the finish) on main floor except some charring in a couple small places subjected to direct flame for hours.

If this were my door, I'd sand it thoroughly to remove whatever remnants of unknown and unsuitable coating are left, apply oil-based stain (or clear/natural "stain" if no coloring is desired, to restore the dried-out wood), let it dry thoroughly, and apply 3 or more coats of brush-on, oil-based "spar urethane" coating, letting it dry and sanding lightly between each coat.

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    I'd consider 3 coats as a bare minimum base coating. In the wooden boat world, the goal is to get up to about 12 coat the first year and then to add a coat or two each spring. The deal with varnish is that it's just not maintenance free - you've got to maintain it. If you keep up with the overcoating and fix up any nicks and scratches quickly, it is not a lot of work. But if you let it go, it's a huge job to sand down to bare wood and re coat. (I hate doing this so I just treat my brightwork with boiled linseed oil - which weathers to black eventually, but I like the look.)
    – Adam Brown
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 16:37
  • 1
    Staining is a very important step - it's a pre-treatment for the wood that helps the varnish stick better and longer, and it soaks into the wood to keep the internal structure healthy.
    – ArmanX
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 17:53
  • 1
    @ArmanX staining just imparts a dye to the wood. I don't think it helps varnish adhesion at all.
    – Brad
    Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 18:45
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    As far as wood expanding and contracting, that makes no sense because all wood does that, and marine wood does it worse. So all varnish must contend with expansion, that is part and parcel of being a varnish. Whoever told you you needed spar varnish because of that, was selling you a bill of goods. Did you actually look at two competing products, one actually a top quality non-spar varnish and a top quality spar? I bet the choices were not presented to you like that. Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 20:39
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    @AdamBrown You're talking about in the real boat world, where you are using products of a different caliber than one finds in home improvement stores. But yes, as Awlgrip said in a previous version of their catalog: low maintenance, ease of maintenance, classic appearance: pick two. As far as boiled linseed oil, be clear: the stuff will make any other paint system fail to apply properly (at the least: fish-eye), so once you go linseed oil, you're married to it! Commented Nov 11, 2019 at 21:01

I had the door painted with this paint:


The final door looked like this 2019-12-15:


I will add pictures over the years so we can see how it wears.

  • That is the same paint and primer I am using to paint my exterior fascia board and soffit. Let's compare note several years later to see if the paint will crack. I'm just worried the final coat of the Sherwin-William trim enamel does not have UV inhibitor.... That's my only concern. I started my paint project in summer 2019 and so far the paint is holding as very well as of 6/7/2020. I'm painting the 2nd story fascia board this summer 2020 with same paint. What I noticed on my newly paint fascia board: Water bubbles up and stay on the surface with this paint, whereas water will just slide down
    – Tammy
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 20:41

I'm in the same dilemma, $2.5k wood front door, natural finish. Stunning when its new. but its always the clear coat cracking after about two years in direct sun.

I have already sanded and re stained and covered twice in five years, ultimately yielding the same results, a cracked and ugly front door.

I went into beast mode yesterday and stripped with p80 on orbital sander down to raw wood again. This time trying "seal one" marine coat. If that doesn't work, its probably time for a paint job.

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