Business owners who invest in a wooden door for the exterior of their business usually do so because they love the look of wood – the beauty of the grains, the warm tones, and the calming feeling we get from natural products. But most know that their choice also comes with a responsibility to care for the door to make it last to get the most out of the investment. Exterior wood doors make for attractive and inviting storefront doors, but they’re finicky and require proper maintenance to keep them looking great and functioning properly.

We’re not just talking about warping. Exterior wood doors are susceptible to UV damage, salt staining and rot. And if you don’t maintain the finish regularly, once-beautiful wooden commercial doors can start to look like dilapidated doors on an abandoned building. Not a cute look for storefront doors – your business ends up looking rundown, which is not at all attractive to potential customers

Solid Wood Slabs Fall Short of Composite Wood Doors

Most exterior wood doors these days are no longer solid slabs, and it’s a good thing, too, because that solid design was more prone to warping from moisture. Today’s doors are engineered to hold up much better against the elements. Most exterior wooden doors are now composite, meaning they’re made of sections pressed and glued tightly together in a wooden core and covered with a thin veneer of actual wood. It may sound like a wood knock-off, but it performs better than solid wood in a few ways: it doesn’t twist, warp, or become deformed over time. The beautiful outer layer is really a thick veneer of the actual type of wood you choose. Don’t let that bother you, however – the well-crafted, quality engineered modern commercial wood door isn’t a cheap piece of junk. Unlike its forbearer, the solid wooden door, composite wood doors are designed to last for just as many years, but with fewer issues, as long as they receive the right care.

Signs Your Wooden Storefront Door Needs Help

Let’s all be honest; wood is high-maintenance. And while composite or solid-core wood doors are an engineered improvement to a slab of solid wood, they still need regular care in order to stand the test of time. There’s just no way around it. You – or someone – will have to put some elbow grease into maintaining the wooden exterior door. Abrasive dirt, wind, moisture and ultraviolet rays will eventually take their toll, just as they would on exterior steel doors, or to some extent, literally any material.

Signs that you were too lax on your maintenance and your door needs your attention include:

  • Finish looks hazy
  • Paint peeling
  • Rough or dry feel (this is usually from sun damage but can also occur if the wood was never conditioned after previous water damage)
  • Dark streaks in wood (usually from UV or water damage)
  • Cracks in the finish (they’re usually tiny and webbed, like a tempered glass shatter pattern)

Properly Caring for Exterior Wood Doors

The best step you can take in caring for your wooden door is to hire a professional to inspect and maintain it. If it needs restoration, it’s best to find someone with experience to do it for you. Exterior door installers are experts in the nuances of wood and engineered wood. Each type of wood has different properties; some are naturally water-repelling and are hard to stain, some take paint or sealant differently in different parts of their grain, and some types of wood endure surface damage better than others. Even the strongest, most weather-resistant wooden doors made of species like Giant Sequoia and Redwood (conveniently local to California!) will eventually fail if you ignore them.

So yeah, there’s a reason professional commercial door installers exist; they have an extensive knowledge base about all types of commercial doors, down to these small but important details of properties of different wood species. And these commercial door professionals aren’t just useful for maintaining the appearance of your storefront’s wooden doors – they’re important for shoring up security at your business. A rotting or warped door is a security risk, whether it can no longer lock properly, or it’s able to be kicked in. An exterior door installer will know when it’s time to replace your commercial wood doors, and what kinds of industrial door hardware will best complement and reinforce a wooden door.

However, if your door isn’t in too rough of shape yet, you can tell exactly what the issue is, and you’re sure the damage is limited to the surface of the door, here are some maintenance you should regularly perform:

  • Clean solid wood doors with a wood cleaning product such as Murphy Oil Soap. This product cleans the door while polishing and protecting it. It also doesn’t leave streaks. Clean other types of doors with mild soap and water, and then follow up with a conditioner like Liquid Gold Wood Care. Or, if you want to go all-natural, there are products made of mineral oil and beeswax that lightly seal the surface and make it repel water. But just know, any of these products need reapplied regularly to remain effective. Never use vegetable oils like olive or corn because those spoil over time.
  • Wipe the door down with a soft rag to remove any debris or grime.
  • Use glass cleaner to clean any window separately, and to polish up door knobs and lock fixtures. If your door has brass fixtures, use brass cleaner. If your commercial door hardware is particularly coated in years of oil and debris from hands, weather and time, an extremely fine-grained sandpaper and a gentle sanding can help. We’re talking, like, 1200-grit. Never try to clean metal with anything less than 400-grit, you will scratch it.
  • Oil the hinges and locks if necessary.
  • Check now and then that the area under the door near the jamb is clean and free of dirt and debris. Rotting foliage, like fallen leaves, can create a damp environment that will compromise the integrity of the bottom of your door.
  • Any time you notice the finish of your wood doors, whether paint or varnish, starting to fail (read: peel, crack, fade), strip and re-seal the door. It’s a good chance to change the look of your storefront doors if you want to, protects the wood from absorbing weather elements, and it will keep your business looking well-maintained.

Wood storefront doors tell potential customers that you have a point of view, and that your business is homey and warm. These are important things you can mimic, but never truly recreate, with other materials like textured fiberglass. A well-maintained exterior door sends a more inviting message to your customers and will definitely boost your curb appeal. Yes, exterior wood doors are high-maintenance, but they’re pretty enough to be worth it.