Real Estate News

Ask the Remodeler: How to spiff up hollow core doors

Mark Philben takes readers' questions Deck House doors and how to prevent ice dams. Get more expert advice at

Reader W.C. illustrates the thickness of the veneer on his hollow core door. handout

Q. How do you clean hollow-core wooden doors? We have a 33-year-old Deck House, and all of the interior doors are hollow — either sliding, bifold, or standard. Most of them are showing years’ worth of dirt, especially around the handles. We’re thinking about downsizing, so we’d like to spiff them up. I tested a spot with Murphy’s Oil Soap, but it significantly lightened the color. If I continued cleaning with it, I’d have to sand down the doors and apply a finish or stain. In that case, I might as well skip the cleaning. That said, there is a group for Deck House Owners on Facebook, and some members cautioned against sanding the doors, warning that it can cut completely through the laminate. Maybe I should clean the doors and do a light sanding? What do you suggest?



A. It is a lot of work, but those hollow core veneer doors can be sanded. Definitely do them by hand; the veneer is very thin and soft. I would start with an extra-fine sandpaper (150 grit). I would work my way down from there to a fine sandpaper as needed (120 grit). Do vertical strokes up and down the door following the grain. Circular strokes could show up after you apply a finish. Do a test area on the back of a closet door to get a feel for it.

It is possible they will need only a clear oil finish. The veneers are soft and absorb a lot of the oil, which will darken the wood quite quickly. Again, do a test on the backside of one of the doors.


Q. Each winter, my husband and I rake the roof after a heavy snowfall to prevent ice dams. I have always thought that the pitch isn’t steep enough for the snow to slide off. My husband suggested replacing the roof with a steel one so we don’t have to rake it as we age. Would this solve the problem?


A. A metal roof would certainly shed the snow off. There is a reason they are so prevalent in New Hampshire and Vermont. A standing seam roof can be quite attractive on a New England home. The key to preventing ice dams, however, is insulation. If you were to do the roof over, that would be a great time to have the attic space properly insulated out to the exterior walls to prevent the heat loss that causes ice dams.


Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at Follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter @globehomes.


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