10 Tips for Painting Your Doors

Your doors say a lot about you. Whether it’s the front or back door to your home or an interior door within your home, doors give visitors and early impressions of you and your home. 

We’re hard on doors, though. Weather, dirty hands, keys, pets, kids, and even adults bang, scratch, and scuff doors. Just because doors are designed to be utilitarian doesn’t mean they can’t be attractive, too. 

Door Painting Tips

It isn’t too difficult to paint a door. You need to make sure you do it well, though. A poorly painted door is an unsightly disappointment. Fortunately, the steps to a well-painted door are simple, and we have ten tips to help you get the best finish possible.

1. Take Time to Assess Your Door

Take a good look at your door. What material is your door? Do you have any concerns about its current condition? Is any damage repairable? Do you know what type of paint was used on it previously? 

By critically assessing your door before you begin, you can be sure to arm yourself with the proper tools and knowledge you need to complete the job. Whether you have a standard wooden door or something more modern and sleek like a custom steel door, you’ll want to make sure you know precisely the right way to paint your door before you begin. 

2. Gather the Right Tools

Having the right tools on hand saves time and frustration. It also ensures that you won’t be tempted to find the almost right tool in your toolbox, potentially doing more damage than good with the substitution. 

Depending on the condition and material of your door, you’ll need at least some of the following tools and supplies:

Paint/Sanding Respirator or Dust mask

  • Screwdriver
  • Degreasing Cleaner
  • Paint Sprayer (if desired)
  • Small Paint Brush 
  • Angled Paint Brush
  • Paint Bucket
  • Small Paint Roller 
  • Short-Nap Roller Cover
  • Roller Tray
  • Paint Scraper
  • Rags
  • Sanding Block/Sponge and Fine Sandpaper
  • Orbital Sander (if desired)
  • Tweezers
  • Utility knife
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Sandable Filler or Automotive Body Filler/Putty
  • Putty Knife
  • Canvas Drop Cloth
  • Sawhorses
  • Safety Glasses
  • Painter’s Tape
  • 3 Long Drywall Screws

This is not a comprehensive list, and you may not require the use of all of these. It does give you an idea of the type of tools you need to consider when beginning the project.

3. Spray the Door if Possible

Spraying your door will provide the best finish. This may not be the most feasible option for every as it does require either an airless or HVLP sprayer and a different type of setup, which can increase the overall cost of your project.

Spraying paint also requires a special touch. If you’re inexperienced with spraying or don’t have time to practice, this may not be the best choice for you. If you want to achieve the smoothest, most professional finish possible, however, nothing beats what you can achieve by spraying your door. 

4. Use High-Quality Supplies

If you want a good result, don’t skimp on your supplies. You want to choose quality over price, as cheaper brushes are harsher and tend to leave more visible brush strokes. Additionally, roller covers can shed and can leave lint in your paint project, so you’ll want to go for high-quality products to get the best result. 

5. Remove the Door for the Best Result

While it’s tempting to leave the door in place, you get the best result by removing the door and all the hardware. This allows you to paint the door while it’s flat, helping prevent runs and drips. 

This will require sawhorses and three long screws. Set out the sawhorses and drive one screw into the center of the top edge of your door. Then drive two screws into the bottom edge of the door, a few inches from the end. 

Rest the screws on the sawhorses and paint one side. When you’re done painting that side, use the two screws as handles to carefully rotate your door 180 degrees on the single screw at the top. When the door is flipped, rest the two screws on the sawhorse again. This method enables you to safely paint each side of your door without worrying about creating marks in your new paint. 

If you choose to leave the door in place, be sure to remove any door hardware you can. Anything you can’t remove, including the hinges, should be covered with painter’s tape to protect it.

6. Clean the Door

Before painting, the door needs to be free of dirt and oils. Paint won’t adhere properly to a door that hasn’t been adequately cleaned. Be sure to clean all areas of the door, including the inset panels. 

Use a degreasing cleaner and a sponge to scrub the door thoroughly. Read the manufacturer’s directions to determine if the door needs to be rinsed after using the product you choose. Allow the door to dry completely before beginning to paint.

7. Prep the Door Completely

Before beginning to sand or prep the door, be sure the existing paint does not contain lead. Lead-based paint was banned in the United States in 1978, but any home built before 1978 may still contain lead paint. You can choose to schedule a consultation with an expert or use a lead test kit. If your paint contains lead, do NOT sand it. 

After verifying your door does not have lead paint, you need to remove any flaking or peeling paint by scraping or stripping it with a chemical stripper. Then sand to smooth previous paintbrush strokes and imperfections. Sanding also prepares your door to be painted by giving the paint a better surface to adhere to. 

Take this time to fill any scratches or dents and repair any other damage to the door. Depending on the material, you can use spackle, wood filler, or an autobody filler. Overfill the areas that require filling, then sand them smooth.

8. Ensure the Door and Paint Area Are Dust-Free

After sanding, wipe down the door to remove all sanding dust. Use the shop vac to clean the area in which you will be painting. The site must be as clean and dust-free as possible because dust can rise in the air and settle on your newly painted door. 

One trick for keeping the area dust-free is to spray the ground below where you’re painting with water. The water will keep anything on the ground from rising and depositing in your paint. 

Although you want to make sure you have adequate light for painting and seeing any imperfections, be wary of painting outside at night with artificial light. The light will attract moths and gnats. Insects have a way of ending up in new paint. If you see an insect stuck in the paint, you can use a pair of tweezers to try to remove it. 

Don’t use your fingers or a rag; your attempt will show worse than the insect. You can always sand and repaint the area if necessary. 

9. Use Primer and Two Coats of Quality Paint

On most projects, a coat of primer helps cover the old surface and improve the appearance of your new paint. If you’re painting over old oil-based paint with latex paint, you need to use a primer. Latex paint won’t stick to oil-based paint properly, and the finish is prone to crack and bubble. 

Consider choosing an exciting color for your project. There’s no reason you need to stick to the same color the door had previously. If you’re painting an exterior door, drive through your neighborhood and check out what kinds of colors others are using. You can look online for inspiration, too.

Interior doors painted with complementary or contrasting colors can add pizzazz to a room. Why not use a door to make a statement? Head to your local paint store and check out all the colors they have to offer. Consider your decor and the type of statement you want to make. You can always change it, and you might just love it. 

Two thin coats of paint is a good rule of thumb, but you may even need three. Double or triple coating your paint ensures good coverage and a uniform finish. Provide adequate drying time between coats for the best result.

10. Consider Installing New Hardware

While not a painting tip exactly, the addition of new hardware can be the exclamation point to your door’s new look. This is especially true if your old hardware is looking well-used or dated. Adding a door knocker or kick plate can add that something special your front door needs to look its best. 

Take some time to explore your options and get the job done right. Painting a door is a simple way to make a significant change, so embrace the possibilities. There are so many! You’re only limited by your imagination.