How to Paint a Door

Definitive guide to preparing and painting an exterior or inside door.

I guarantee that no Youtube video, eHow article or article will show all of the tips and tricks in how to paint a front door or exterior door like this following unique and exhaustive how to on painting a door will. After you complete your home improvement project, we offer the opportunity for you to share your painting experience below. Note, after studying this Painting How To, it will take one to three hours to complete this project. A relatively small investment for a great return, especially if you’re painting your ugly front door!


Tools needed to paint a door.

  • Primer. If you forget to pick up primer, is it ok to simply put on an extra coat of paint?
    • ***Tip***The truth is that primer is engineered to prime and paint is engineered to paint! Yes, sounds simple but many folks do not understand the amount of research and development that is put into these products. Primer is made to help the paint adhere to the surface while aiding the cover up of imperfections on the surface. Paint is engineered to look beautiful for a long time. Don’t use a primer for an outer coat of paint!
    • ***Tip***add a touch of your outer paint to the primer and your outer coat will be easier to apply.
  • Paint. Choosing the paint type and colour for your door may be the most important part of your project. In general, use an acrylic latex paint for exterior doors and a flat (matte), satin, semi gloss or high gloss enamel latex paint for interior doors. One difference high gloss makes is that it helps your door stand out from the surrounding wall. Flat will not reflect light while semi and high gloss will allow you to clean an exterior door more easily. Check the instructions on your paint. Use a brush, a roller or both.
    • ***Tip***Don’t use a roller on metal doors if you want them to have a “wood finish” look. The brush strokes will offer the wood finish look.
  • Drop Cloth
    • ***Tip***Cloth works much better for a drop-sheet than the the plastic drop sheets. Cloth will bend and stay around corners better and in general hold its form. Cloth will wick up the paint and stop it from spreading to other surfaces via pets, shoes etc. Cloth can be reused. Plastic sucks.
  • Roll of masking tape or special cutting in tape for cutting in paint sections from hardware and glass.
    • ***Tip***Be sure to remove all tape as soon as the paint is dry enough for you to do so. Drying time will vary on temperature and humidity. If left too long, the paint will stick to the tape and wreck you project!
  • small brush
    • a 40 – 50 mm or 2 – 21/2 inch “angled” brush size will work great
    • ***Tip***a small round brush is ideal for cutting in glass windows
    • ***Tip***If you are trying to save money by using an old brush, think again, make sure it is in great shape or your final outcome will be disappointing.
  • small roller
    • If you use a roller for the larger areas of the door ensure it is a roller for smooth surfaces
    • ***Tip***Do not use a roller on metal doors. Follow the steps for painting below with a brush. A metal paneled door is usually meant to look like wood and a brush will accomplish the task.
  • stir stick!
  • sand paper and sanding block or small electric sander
  • hand tools to remove door knobs, hinges and decorative hardware



10 Steps for Painting a Door


  1. Inspect the condition of the Front Door or Exterior door
    • If this is the first coat on a new door apply Primer! If this is not a new door, was it painted with latex or oil paint?
    • ***Tip***Use a white piece of cotton and rubbing alcohol to determine if latex or oil was used, if paint comes off and colours the cotton, it is latex. If not, get out your sanding block and sand paper.
      • ***Tip***If the old paint is oil based, a thorough sanding is required. If you wimp out on the sanding job, your paint will peel off, unless you’re applying oil paint on oil paint. If you’re unsure, sand.
      • If the old paint is latex, and in good condition, sand lightly before priming
      • Use a low grit sandpaper for rough sanding and a higher up to 150 grit for smooth doors. Sand with the grain.
    • Fill holes or pockmarks
    • Scrape off peeling paint, flaking and remove mildew, Use a fungicidal wash to remove mildew and mold.
  2. If you’re removing the door, remove it by using a punch or nail to hammer out the hinge pins, (don’t wreck your small screwdrivers for jobs that they were not made for)
    • You can paint the door while it is still attached but unless you’re a professional painter, paint drips and runs may ruin your painting project. One benefit to not removing the door is that you don’t have to wait for one side to dry before turning it over.
  3. Door trim. Should you paint the trim/frame around your door? There is no right or wrong, it is simply your preference.
  4. Remove or tape off hinges, glass and decorative hardware
    • Remember, the tape has to be carefully removed the same day.
  5. Apply primer coat
    • ***Tip*** One painter who painted most of the buildings in a small town I know of, showed me how he avoids all those drips down the side of the paint can which eventually make it to the amateur’s floor. He simply created a drain hole in the groove where the paint can lid meets the can and then when you wipe off the excess paint from the brush, the paint drains back into the can.
    • When brushing, brush horizontal for horizontal areas and brush vertically for vertical areas.
    • The reason for the next note is to help the painter eliminate drips, runs and paint waste.
    • ***Tip***Begin painting the inner panel sections and their borders first and then paint the outer face sections painting from top to bottom of the door
  6. Apply two coats of latex paint (never put oil based over latex paint)
    • If you are unsure of what type of paint like, low sheen, high gloss, oil, latex etc, speak with your local painter, that would be G. Hunter Painting in Kelowna. Also, some paints advertise that they have a primer built in to the paint. Many professional painters have not found the same results so most still use a separate primer and then apply the outer coat/coats of paint.
    • Brush the door, specially around edges gently and quickly after your paint is applied. Inspect all of the door surface and ensure no drips or runs are forming.




***Important*** If you did not remove your door prior to painting, be sure to leave it open for drying or remove the weatherstripping from the door.
Clean up and enjoy the rest of your day.



Now look at that door. Pretty nice, eh! You may want new hardware to spruce up the new paint job. 🙂