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Choices 2020: Varnish Or Paint For Our Mahogany Front Doors


Our freshly varnished Mahogany Front Doors.

We installed our new Mahogany double front doors over a month ago. We’ve been debating whether we wanted to paint them or finish the wood. Since then we’ve gotten a lot of rain and we noticed it taking its toll on the raw wood. It was time for us to get some protection on this wood!


Our original double brownstone doors were long ago removed and replaced with a modern single door with filler on both sides. It was an inexpensive and all-too-popular fix in the 70’s and 80’s across Brooklyn as the original doors needed work. Less importance was given to maintaining the historical features and more importance was given to practical considerations of having an efficient and insulated door. We knew we wanted to restore the original double door, but decided that we weren’t going to go as far as having a custom door built to match the original ornamentation. At a price of $10,000-$15,000 it just wasn’t in the budget. We found a 48” double door with very little ornamentation, but we had nice big double paned glass panels, and some recessed panels, in mahogany, which was likely at least the type of wood our original door might have been made of. At only $1500 including the jam it was the best compromise for us.



Since our door was going to be a little bit more modern looking we thought we might paint it a deep dark color. We really like the black and dark blue painted doors we have seen around our neighborhood. Our cornice is painted a dark blue so that is what we made our plan! We were going to paint our doors a nice dark blue.


We bought the paint and it sat untouched for over a month. We were just not excited about painting our doors. The raw mahogany tone was growing on us more and more. We thought it was just too pretty to cover up with paint! So after a month and a half of debating and even a purchased gallon of paint we decided to varnish our door to bring out the natural tone in the wood.



We discussed with several wood restoration professionals what would be the best varnish to use to protect the door. What we settled on was a clear satin marine varnish. Marine varnish is used on the beautiful wood you might see on a vintage sailboat so we knew that it would be more than enough to protect our door from some of the driving rain it can receive.

We used a maximum protection Marine Spar Varnish

We used Marine Spar Varnish. We also got a nice new brush and a medium grit sandpaper. We chose a 2-3 day period where the forecast looked warm, bright, and sunny. After taping off the hardware and painted wood around the door we sanded it to get it ready for the varnish. We carefully painted on one coat of the varnish and immediately saw the beautiful tone of the wood come alive! We knew we made the right decision not to paint it. We let the first coat dry for 24 hours and painted on a second coat to make sure the wood would be well protected. The second coat didn’t change or darken the tone we achieved and loved after the first coat.


We're so happy with the outcome. Now we just need to paint the trim white around the doors.

It’s been 2 weeks since we varnished our doors and every time we walk up to them we still say how happy we are we didn’t paint them! We also know they are well protected and will be looking their best for years to come! Let us know what you think!


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©2020 by Brownstone Boys.