It's no secret that buying a wooden exterior door is an investment in your home. It's not the cheapest type of exterior door you can buy, but it will probably last many years longer than most other types of doors. Unlike other more flimsy mediums, exterior wood doors are built to stand the test of time. But, the best part about owning a wooden exterior door is probably the fact that it can be repaired. If you have a fiberglass door, there is not much you can do about chipping or deep gauges that may end up on the surface. Exterior wood doors are a home investment that can last a lifetime, if they're properly maintained.
Polishing is the first step you'll take to maintain the look of your wood door. Over time, you'll find that the finish gets dull and needs a little refresher. This is completely normal, especially for the outside portion that is getting direct sunlight and being exposed to the elements. Polishing exterior wood doors is easy. All you need is a good furniture polish and a dust rag. If you have any dirt or other marks on the door, clean them off with a wood-approved cleaner before polishing your door. For this, you can use the same cleaner you use for your hardwood floors.
Even if you polish your door regularly, the finish will fade over time. Exterior doors that are protected by a storm door and mostly sit in the shade will last many years before you have to worry about restoring the finish, but doors that are often exposed to the elements may need to be spruced up a little sooner. To restore a dull or cracking finish to its former luster, you'll need to start by sanding off the outside layer, and then wiping away all dust with a clean damp cloth. Then, you simply apply two coats or more of a fade-resistant (this is crucial for an exterior door) exterior polyurethane with an ultraviolet inhibitor (this will protect the finish from fading in the sun, much like sunscreen for your door).
If your door is painted instead of stained, you may encounter some of the same problems. Some colors and brands of paint fade quicker than others, but you should be able to get quite a few years out of each coat of paint. Follow the instructions for maintaining finish above, but just pick out the paint color you want. Be sure to get an exterior paint with some ultraviolet protection.
Trimming Swollen Wood
This maintenance method is at the bottom of the list because it will probably be many years before you have to worry about trimming down swollen wood on a new door. However, if you have an older door, you might notice that the wood has expanded. Maybe there was water damage or maybe it absorbed excess humidity in the air, but your door is no longer closing as it should. You'll need some woodworking tools to pull this one off, so if you are not comfortable trimming the swollen wood off of your exterior door, hire a professional to do it for you.
When you buy a wooden door, you're buying a product that is truly built to last. They are designed to brave the elements for years with very little care and maintenance required. However, if you've had your exterior wood doors for a few years already, you should at the very least consider polishing them. A little maintenance will go a long way.