How to Make an Aged, Antique Door

The plain fire doors, harsh florescent lights, and the outdated corporate carpets that plague many office buildings are par for the course when you work at a commercial residence.

Now, imagine an office building that has warm LED lighting, clean vinyl flooring, and aged Italian doors to match the faux painted walls that are all meant to look like 16th century Italy. These details come together to create an environment of peace and inspiration for the children and families of Colorado’s top foster care facility. This is my current project and I want to share some of the steps I used to achieve antique doors in this unique environment for the children and families that use this building.

Here are some detailed steps on how I created the faux wooden doors that are a part of this ’16th century Florence marketplace.’ This technique is not limited to just an office building’s drab doors, it can also be applied to any door that needs a face-lift.

Step 1: A light sanding with fine grit sand paper

Lightly sand any scuffs, blemishes, or oily residue from people handling the surface over the years. img_0136

Step 2: Buy cheap picture frames and remove the glass and holding tabs

For this style door, we will need three identical squares, meant to look like an old world carpenter constructed them. Instead of cutting trim into perfect squares, I decided to use cheap picture frames. I usually find cheap materials that will be painted over at thrift stores or places like this or this.

After you remove the glass, you will be left with the tabs that hold the glass in. Take those out with pliers being careful not to damage the frame.img_0137

Step 3: Mark the frame center and the door center

Once the glass has been taken out, measure to find the center of your door. Using a 3′ level, draw a straight vertical line with a pencil.

Mark the center of your frame and match it up with the line you drew on the door. This will ensure that visually, it does not look too far off. 

Measure down for the next frame and mark out locations so that all three frames are evenly spaced.

matching up the frames

Step 4: Remove blemishes that you do not want

This door had adhesive that was used for a title placard. When I removed it it left a huge blemish on the surface. I used a course, 120 grit sandpaper to remove the blemish. I decided to sand down the whole inside area of the frame to ensure the paint will cover consistently inside where the frame will be. I repeated this step on both doors for consistency.



Step 5: Glue the frames to the door

Next, I glued the frames to the door. I used this construction strength adhesive, in a standard 10 ounce tube. It is affordable, extremely strong and can be found at any store that sells construction materials. However, it is very messy and not easy to clean up.

To avoid a huge mess cut the tip of the adhesive tube at a 45 degree angle using a razor or scissors. Be careful to only trim off a small amount of the tip, as a large opening will mean a large bead of caulk which is harder to navigate.img_0141

Step 6: Make sure the frames are level and evenly spaced

Now that the frame is on the door, use a small level and adjust the frame to level if needed.

If you you use the center mark you drew on the frame and matched it with the center vertical line on the door, then there should not be too much leveling that needs to take place. 

Get the frame as lined up as possible before sticking it to the door, otherwise the adhesive will smear where you moved the frame.img_0142

Step 7: Temporarily tape the newly glued frames to the door

Use painter’s tape to secure the frame to the door. This is necessary because the frame is heavier than the glue, and when it is wet it will sag and slide down the door while its drying.img_0143img_0144

Step 8: Seal up gaps with painter’s caulk

Once the adhesive is dry, use painter’s caulk to make a bead around the frame as neat as possible. Use a wet rag to smooth out the calk. Again, to make the task as mess-free as possible cut the tip of the tube at a 45 degree angle and be careful not to cut too much off to avoid a messy job.img_0147

Step 9: Make your vertical lines

Measure your door and mark out three dots across horizontally with a marker. These will mark where your vertical lines will be that will simulate old panels on your door. We will use these lines as guides later when you use black paint to fill them in.img_0150This door is 36″ so since I wanted four panels, my measurement came out to making a dot every 9 inches. Be sure to measure your door and divide by the number of panels you would like.  For example, I wanted four panels so I needed 3 vertical lines/three dots.

Your measurements can be anything you want with this style door, due to the fact that these are meant to look aged.

(I personally like the panels to symmetric, so I evenly spaced them.)img_0151img_0152

Step 10: Lightly paint wood tone color on solid frames

Next I put a thin layer of paint on the frames using a shade of paint that is similar to the color of the original wood. Fill in the solid color of the frames with streaky woodgrain strokes. I wanted to do this to make the surface look consistent, prior to adding the dark wood tone color wash in STEP 12.img_0154

Step 11: Erase your pencil lines

They may be faint but could possibly show through your dark wood tone wash. img_0158

Step  12: Apply your dark wood tone wash

First, mix or buy a brown paint that is similar to this – Sherwin Williams Terra Brun. In a gallon mixing can, put about 1/4 cup of the brown paint in the bottom. Next pour in 1/4 cup of satin clear coat and about 2 cups of water and mix these three all together.

You now have a thin wash of paint that can be liberally applied to the existing wood grain of the door. This is a water based top coat ‘stain’ that can be custom mixed to any brown that you choose.

When you apply the wash, go with the grain in as long of strokes as possible. Be sure to let the original wood grain show through the wash!IMG_0060

(Below is a quick video showing the wash technique. Make sure to brush in the direction of the grain.)

Step 13: Paint your lines

Once the wash is dry, I used a number 6 acrylic brush to paint the separations between the panels on the door. Some people say that they “cannot paint a straight line to save their lives.” Just do your best and take your time, using your pinky finger to steady your hand as you go.

In fact if you want you could just re-draw your line with the marker. What fun would that be, though?

Since these are meant to be old doors, the separations would not be perfectly straight anyways.img_0163

Step 14: Apply your aging color

Add a coat of the ‘aged mold’ to the bottom edges and corners of the door, and around the frames, wiping away the excess. This is the ‘mold’ color that I preferred for these doors. Thin this paint the same way that you did in STEP 12.

Step 15: Apply your shellac

Next I applied our shellac to the doors to seal it and give it an aged varnish look. This shellac comes in clear and amber. I prefer to use clear, because it is versatile on all my projects, but amber would add a nice overall tint to the door.

Step 16: Add your brass plated decorative tacks

These tacks add another element to your antique door. Measure down from the top of the door and make a slight pencil mark where you want them. I wanted these to be symmetric and look consistent with each other. 

I measured 9″down from the top and 9″ up from the bottom. Then an inch and a half in from the vertical line I painted.

These are meant to look like the large ‘bolts’ holding the door together.img_0174

Once you have made your measurements for your tacks, press them in as hard as you can just enough to stick in the wood. Then, you can check how similar they are before hammering them in.


Step 17: Add ‘rain streaks’ to the ‘bolts’

Take the ‘mold color’ from STEP 14 and very lightly add streaks from below your ‘bolts.’

Achieving this works best when using a number 8 flat brush and employing a dry brush techniqueimg_0176

Congratulations! You can now take these tips and add character to any door!

Here are a couple shots of the doors in this tutorial.img_0223img_0224


Stay tuned for another tutorial soon on how to add trim and decorative pieces to your doors to give them even more character!

If you like this blog and found it useful, please share and like this post!

Thank you, and keep on creating!



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