What You Need
waterborne polyurethane (I used one with a satin finish for less shine)
120 and 180 grit sandpaper
angled paint brush
ladder (if you you won't be taking the door off the hinges)
small electric sander (if you have one, not necessary, but a time saver)
1. Arrange drop cloth so you protect floors.
2. Prep surface with sandpaper.
3. Remove dust with a tack cloth. You should have a clean, smooth surface free of dust and grime.
4. Stir stain and brush on, going with the grain when possible and being mindful of drips.
5. Allow to sit for 5 - 15 minutes, depending on the desired darkness you want to achieve.
6. Wipe off excess with rag.
7. Check color for uniformity. You can usually even out color by going back over it and re-wiping, but don't wait too long.
8. Apply additional coats until you have your desired depth of color, but remember that your topcoat with slightly darken the appearance of the stain.
9. Stir polyurethane. Apply with your brush, but avoid excessive brushing because this will cause air bubbles. Try to avoid drips, which will make sanding between coats more laborious.
10. Allow to dry for about an hour. The first coat acts very much like a filler, so be prepared that you will need at least 2 coats!
11. If necessary, lightly sand between coats using 180 or finer sandpaper. Sanding will remove dust, air bubbles, or raised wood-grain texture.
12. Remove dust with tack cloth.
13. Add a second coat and repeat the process until the topcoat is to your liking. I found that 3 coats was more than sufficient. (My next staining project will be doing the stairs, and for a high traffic areas, a minimum of three coats is required.)
14. Clean tools and your finished!
Additional Notes: If possible, it's probably easiest to take the door off and lay it flat on saw horses, tackling one side at a time. This wasn't really an option for me since it's solid wood and quite heavy, as well as being in an awkward location.
Images: Kimberly Watson