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Tips and Tricks for Painting French Doors the Easy Way

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Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.

Oak French doors in a dining room that I spray painted white.

Oak French doors in a dining room that I spray painted white.

How to Paint French Doors Without Going Crazy

The glass windows on French doors make them frustrating to paint with a paint brush. You have to carefully cut-in around the glass with an angled brush, or cover the glass with masking tape first.

Without tape and experience cutting-in, it's easy to get paint on the glass without tape. You can tape off each glass square, but doing so takes hours. Fortunately, there's a super easy way to cover the glass and paint your French doors without losing your mind.

Painting French Doors Without Tape

I wish I could go back in time and use this method for all of the French doors I painted in the past using masking tape. This trick is by far the best way to paint these doors, windows, and cabinet doors with glass in them. I use this method now for most of my door painting projects involving glass.

Use Masking Liquid Instead of Tape

Masking liquid makes detail painting around glass so much easier than spending hours sticking pieces of tape in each window corner. The product I use to quickly mask the glass on French doors and windows I paint is the clear Masking Liquid by Associated Paint. I use a single quart can for smaller jobs of only a few doors and the gallon can for larger projects.

Basically, the way masking liquid works is you simply brush the liquid right over the glass and peel the dry film off at the end of the job. Don't worry, the liquid won't damage the glass. The liquid becomes rubbery and peels off easily in one large piece from corner to corner.

Even though you have to spend a little time applying the liquid, this small task is a lot faster than using tape for hours, trust me. You can also use a sprayer to spray on the liquid too, but I use a three-inch paint brush.

Another french door made of pine that I spray painted white.

Another french door made of pine that I spray painted white.

Spray Paint Your French Doors

Spray painting French doors is faster and smoother looking than brushing and rolling. Using the masking liquid in combination with a sprayer is the fastest way to paint them and get perfect lines around the perimeter of the glass.

You can use an HVLP sprayer to spray paint these doors. Most paints need thinning in order to pass through an HVLP gun though without clogging. Another option is using an airless sprayer and a smaller size spray tip to get a finer finish. You usually don't have to thin paint using an airless sprayer, but thinning helps achieve a smoother finish.

Spray the Doors While Attached to the Frame

Spraying the doors while they're hung makes it easy to spray both sides instead of removing them and having to wait for one side to dry. French doors are usually quite heavy too and you risk breaking the glass, or your back, removing them. With careful masking, you can spray the doors without bombing the walls and floor with over-spray.

Cover the floor beneath and around the doors with a good floor protector. I really like a product called X-Board for covering floors when I spray indoors. This cardboard-like material is leak-proof, so you can clean and paint the doors without ruining the floor. Protect the walls around the doors with plastic. Tuck the bottom of the plastic underneath the floor protector.

The door hinges have to be protected too. One way to protect the hinges is to tape over them and carefully cut the tape around the edges of the hinges with a sharp utility knife, but this is very time consuming. There are also hinge protectors that clip on, but those only work when the doors are removed.

The fastest way to cover hinges is with 3M door hinge tape. This tape has saved me a lot of time not having to cut the tape to the shape of the hinge. The 3M hinge tape is already shaped to fit a standard hinge. This tape does not fully cover the middle of the hinge, but you can stick a small piece of tape over that part.

Prep and Paint the Doors

The doors need to be cleaned, sanded, and primed before painting them. Don't use latex primer if the doors aren't already painted. Stained doors should be primed with an oil-based bonding primer, or white shellac primer. Latex primer doesn't form a seal over the wood to keep stains from bleeding into the paint.

You can skip priming the doors if they're already painted and you're simply repainting a fresh coat. In that case, clean them, scuff sand, and paint. For stained doors, I always apply two coats each of primer and paint for enhanced durability and coverage. Sand in between coats with fine grit sandpaper.

After the paint is dry to the touch, use a utility knife, or a razor blade, to score the dry masking liquid film along the edges of the door glass. The film is rubbery when dry and peels off glass easily as long as you do it shortly after spraying. Don't wait too long otherwise the masking film becomes difficult to remove from the hardening primer and paint on top of it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Matt G.