Some time ago I found a business that would strip paint and refinish woodwork here in our local community. I started by giving them small jobs; mainly stripping the trim in the dining room, so that I could refinish it and reinstall it. Excluding one batch of picture rail, they did a very good job. Strangely, I kept running into the owner outside of the business. First in a local Woodcraft shop, and then again at a local book sale put on by my company, for company employees only. It turns out that Dave used to work for the same company I currently work for.
As I got to know Dave, I found him to be a genuinely good person and one that I felt I could trust. Like most business owners, if I could get him to do the work, the result would be great. Its when the work is handed off that there is a risk of poor workmanship. So even though I was extremely nervous doing so, I approached Dave about refinishing our front door.
Our front door is the original wooden door. It's 2 1/4" thick and would probably cost several thousand dollars to replace, if I could even find someone to manufacture it. Replacing the whole front door enclosure (door, sidelights, frame, etc) to match the style of the house with a modern door, made of modern materials would probably cost between $5,000 and $10,000. If Dave screwed this up, it was going to be very expensive to fix, and that was definitely not in the budget.
The front door was in very bad shape, with cracked, gray, weathered wood across it's face. The trim on the door had lost all "crispness". Looking closer, Dave noted that the door was not, full, solid planks of oak, but was actually made up of a core of several smaller pieces of wood glued together (possibly pine). Over the top of this, there was a 1/4 inch veneer of quarter-sawn oak. This is actually a good thing. As the smaller pieces of wood expand and contract with the weather, they have a tendency to cancel each other out and the door doesn't swell or shrink as much as a solid wood door. Dave suggested removing the veneer, adding a new veneer and then finishing that.
Dave took the door away one day and we replaced it with the crack house door slab for what felt like forever (in actuality, I think it was about six weeks). During that time, Dave removed the glass and the wood trim. He pulled off as much of the veneer as possible. Planed the door to remove what remained and then glued on new veneer. He also had to fabricate new trim, as the old trim was too rotten to retain. Then when it was time to finish the door, he applied two coats of UV protectant, three applications of stain (to match the existing color on the inside of the door), two coats of sealant and five coats of polyurethane. And then reinstalled the trim and the glass.
How did it turn out? The door looks new again. There are two minor flaws on the door, which I won't point out. One is easily fixed next spring, and the other we're just stuck with. In the end, it's a fantastic improvement for the front entry. Unfortunately, it means I'll have to sand and strip the sidelights next summer. They look terrible next to the front door now. And then every few years we'll need to lightly sand the polyurethane and apply another coat. It's the price we pay for having a real wood door.