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Tips for Painting a Front Door

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

A house and front door I stained and painted. Woodscapes solid stain was used on the siding and Duration exterior paint for the front door.

A house and front door I stained and painted. Woodscapes solid stain was used on the siding and Duration exterior paint for the front door.

Painting a Front Door

Painting your front door a different color is a great way to improve your home's curb appeal without painting the whole house. Front door paint fades over time and needs repainting. A fresh coat of paint will make your weathered door look new again.

Unless your front door paint is in bad condition and peeling badly, you can easily prep and paint it in one day, and in some cases, primer isn't needed. Typically, only one quart, or one gallon of paint, is needed for a single door. Painting both sides of the door and any sidelights calls for one gallon.

Painting Supplies

  • De-greaser
  • Canvas drop cloth or cardboard
  • Sanding sponge
  • Drill or screw driver
  • 4-inch paint roller with 1/4-inch nap
  • 2 to 2 1/2-inch paint brush
  • Quality exterior paint or enamel

Surface Prep For a Front Door Repaint

Most front doors have dirt and fingerprints on them from daily use. Oils and other surface contaminants can lead to paint adhesion problems without cleaning and rinsing before painting.

  1. Clean the door: Unless the door is really dirty, heavy duty cleaners are unnecessary. I've used Dawn dish soap many times to clean front doors and cabinets for painting. Dish detergent is inexpensive and works well for paint prep. It doesn't leave film on the surface after rinsing and you don't have to wear gloves. A heavy duty cleaner is best for removing stains and grease that won't rub off with mild soap. A good product I've used for removing grease is Simple Green Industrial Cleaner and De-greaser. The cleaner works well at breaking down grease and oil stains. Denatured alcohol also works well as a grease and grime remover. Clean the door with a scrub pad and allow it to dry.
  2. Patch the door: If your front door's made of metal, check for dents. Dents can be patched easily to level out the surface of the door. The product MH Ready Patch works well for dents on metal, but the dry time is a bit slow. My favorite patching compound for doors is Bondo Wood Filler. The automotive version works too. Bondo is good for outdoor use because it's water-resistant and dries really fast and hard after you add the cream hardener. Don't patch your front door with soft spackle.
  3. Sand the door: Start off with 150-grit for the first sanding and finer grits between coats of primer and paint. Angled sanding sponges work well for sanding the recessed panels on a front door. To sand patching compound like Bondo and smooth out brush and roller texturing from a previous paint job, use an orbital sander. Use 320-grit sandpaper for sanding between coats of primer and paint.
  4. Remove the door handle: Usually front door handles can be removed easily with a drill, or a screw driver. Removing the door handle makes painting easier, not having to brush around it, and you'll achieve a smoother finish without brush marks. Painting the door with the handle installed is fine too, but the handle should be carefully taped off with painter's tape. I'm a big fan of Frog tape.

Priming and Painting A Front Door

The easiest way to paint your front door is with a high quality paint brush and a mini roller. For a smoother paint finish, spraying your door with either an HVLP sprayer or an airless sprayer with a fine finish tip is the way to go, but using the right roller, you can still get a beautiful finish without spraying.

  1. Brush the door panels: Choose a quality paint brush meant for exterior paint. I'm not a fan of disposable paint brushes. Investing in a good brush is worth it because it will last longer. My favorite brush for painting exterior doors and trim is the Purdy Pro Extra Glide in the 2-inch size. The 2-inch width is perfect for brushing the narrow panels and sides of exterior doors. The polyester bristles of the Pro Extra clean up easier too than other brushes I've used. Paint doesn't gum up as much. Slide a piece of cardboard, or a drop cloth, underneath the door. With an angled paint brush, cut-in the narrow grooves of the recessed panels, followed by the door edges. If the door has embedded glass with trim around it, use tape, or masking liquid, to protect the glass and make cutting-in easier. The rest of the door will be rolled.
  2. Roll the paint: After cutting-in the grooves of the door panels, start rolling the paint from one side of the door to the other side, using a 4-inch roller with 1/4-inch nap. Use a soft woven roller that's lint-free so fuzz doesn't get stuck in the wet paint. The 1/4-inch nap produces very fine stippling for a smoother finish with glossy paint. Apply two coats of a satin or a semi-gloss paint.

Priming a Front Door

On a previously painted door in good shape, using high quality paint, a separate primer's usually only needed for the purpose of color coverage, like painting a deep red over a white door, or a light color over a very dark color. A door that's peeling and weathered should be primed with an exterior bonding primer to help preserve the paint finish. There is also primer formulated specifically for surfaces prone to peeling.


The Best Paint For a Front Door

Using high quality paint makes a big difference for durability and ease of application. Low quality paint is harder to brush and doesn't roll on as nicely as a premium one. Cheap paint also fades faster and doesn't last as long.

Premium acrylic latex paint, or enamel, are the best exterior paint options for a front door. Don't use flat paint. Use semi-gloss paint, or satin, so the surface is smoother and easier to wash off dirt marks. For increased washability and hardness, exterior enamel is a good alternative to regular acrylic latex paint. Emerald urethane enamel, a modified acrylic alkyd, performs well on entry doors. The enamel can be used indoors and outdoors on multiple surfaces. The acrylic latex version of exterior Emerald is said to be good too, but I have only used the urethane version.

The two paints I've used the most for exterior door painting with very good results is Super Paint and Duration. Out of the two, Duration is the better pick for coverage and long-term durability. The paint is very thick, yet flexible, to resist cracking from expansion of the substrate. I have used both the satin and gloss finish, but the gloss finish is perfect for a front door.

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.