how to paint a door

How To Paint A Door Like A Pro

They say when one door closes another one opens, but this only works if you haven’t painted the door shut. Luckily, I’ve written this handy guide on how to paint a door to ensure that both interior and exterior doors in your home are as fully functional as they’re beautiful. In this article, we’ll explore the following:

  • What type of door you should choose (if painting a new door)
  • The best type of paint to use
  • When to use a brush instead of a roller and vice versa
  • The order in which you should paint your door

You’ll also find answers on how to properly prepare a door for painting, what to do with door furniture such as hinges and handles, and how to ensure a clean finish. I hope that by the end of this guide, you’ll feel well-equipped to paint a door with precision

Tools & Materials 

To paint a door, you will need:

  • One interior or exterior door (if painting a new door)
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint suitable for the surface of the door and the conditions it will be kept in
  • Small-sized paint brushes and rollers
  • A roller tray to pour paint into
  • Painter’s tape

You might also need:

  • Paint stripper
  • Paintbrush for the stripper
  • Rubber gloves
  • Face mask
  • Vinegar or methylated spirits
  • Hot, soapy water
  • Knot sealant (known as knotting)
  • Filler
  • Primer
  • Paint scraper
  • Kitchen roll or a soft cloth

IMPORTANT: If using a solvent-based primer then you must use a solvent-based paint. For water-based primers, use water-based paint.

How To Paint An Interior Or Exterior Door – A Step-By-Step Guide

The process of painting both interior and exterior doors is similar, although there are a couple of extra considerations when painting exterior doors that I have highlighted in the instructions.

This step-by-step guide focuses on painting wooden doors, as they’re most commonly used, but I’ve also included information on how to paint a UPVC door, as they’re often used as exterior doors on new builds.

Please note that some steps below are used for existing doors only. If you’re buying a new door, you can skip steps 2 and 3.

1. Choose A Door (New Doors Only)

If you’re painting an existing door, you can skip this step and jump to step 2.

Interior doors are likely to be made of wood, either solid or moulded with a hollow core. The hollow doors have a fibreglass core in a honeycomb pattern to give the door structure and stability. They are lighter and cheaper than solid wood doors.

Exterior doors can also be made of wood, but new builds will often install a UPVC door instead. The UPVC plastic is hard-wearing, waterproof, and can improve the energy efficiency of a home.

2. Dealing With Door Furniture (Existing Doors Only)

A new door won’t have any door furniture (i.e. hinges, handles etc.) fitted yet so you can skip this step and go straight to step 4.

Trust me when I say that painting a door is MUCH easier if you can remove the door from its hinges and take off all door furniture. Set all removed door furniture to one side and remember to store in a safe place. 

If removing all door furniture isn’t possible, then make sure you at least remove handles and hooks.

Use painter’s tape over the top of the hinges, locks and any metal bits on the side of the door, to mask them from stray paint. Use a sharp blade to trim the tape to fit over the metal precisely.

3. Strip The Door (Existing Doors Only)

If you’re redecorating an existing door, then it may already have paint on it, which you’ll need to remove. The easiest way to strip the paint off is by removing the door from the room and taking it outside. 

Cover the door with paint stripper using a brush. Make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves and a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Paint stripper is very toxic and inhaling the fumes can lead to serious health problems. Leave the paint stripper on the door for a set length of time, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Take the paint off the door using a metal paint scraper and clean off the remaining stripper with either vinegar or methylated spirits. Again, take care not to inhale fumes. Always use these products in a well-ventilated area.

4. Prepare the Door

A lot of people rush or skip these steps, as they underestimate how important they are. Take your time, and follow all the steps below so your doors are well prepared for a smooth and professional finish.

Clean And Sand The Door

Some stores supply doors already sanded and primed, but chances are you’ll need to complete this step yourself. 

First, clean the door using a soft cloth and soapy water. Ordinary washing up liquid will work fine. 

Next, arm yourself with several sheets of sandpaper and rub the door thoroughly to smooth away any rough areas. 

Apply Knotting

Wooden doors have dark whorls on them called knots. These knots need to be covered in ‘knotting’ which seals the knots and stops them from showing through the finished surface. Apply the knotting solution to the door using a small brush

Apply Primer

Primer is usually white, though if your final paint colour is a dark shade, you may get a better effect if you use a grey primer. 

Using a small brush, apply primer to recessed areas (i.e. area A in Fig. 1 below). Next, fill in the remaining flat surfaces (B to D in Fig. 1) using a mini roller.

5. Choose A Type Of Paint

I cannot stress this enough; if you (or the door manufacturer) used a water-based primer, then you need a water-based top-coat. Likewise, use solvent-based or latex-based products together. 

Take a look at what happened to this poor woman’s door when she accidentally used the wrong type of top-coat. Don’t be that women!

For exterior doors, remember to buy paint with weatherproofing included. 

Interior doors are usually painted with a gloss finish. Purchase enough paint for at least two coats, plus touch-ups as required.

6. Choose Brushes And Rollers

You’ll need a mini-roller and a roller tray for most of the painting, plus a small brush, no wider than 4cm, to paint the recessed areas if your door has them. 

Most decorators prefer a high-density foam roller as it applies the paint evenly and with a smooth finish.

7. Paint Door In Correct Order

Using a small paintbrush, paint the door’s recessed areas first (see the red areas A in Fig. 1. below). 

Next, take your mini-roller and paint the areas B-D in alphabetical order

painting door surfaces
Fig. 1. Painting a door in the right order

8. Finishing Touches

Here are some final tips to make your door look professionally painted:

  • Catch drips while painting using a small brush
  • Always paint with the grain for a smooth finish
  • Dried-on drips or spills can be rubbed away with a damp cloth.

For more tips on how to avoid a mess when painting, check out our guide to Painting A Room With No Mess

So there you have it, a simple guide on how to paint a door.

Hopefully, you now understand how to choose the correct tools for the job, how to properly prepare a door for painting and the best order in which to paint the door.

If you follow these steps, your interior and exterior doors can be given a fresh look with minimum effort and a professional finish. 

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