How to Paint a Front Door

Painting Front Door

Gary Ombler / Getty Images

Overview
  • Working Time: 4 hrs
  • Total Time: 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $25 to $100

If you're looking for simple ways to beautify the front of your house while also protecting it, painting your front door should be at the top of your list. Whether for resale or for your own enjoyment, a newly painted front door boosts curb appeal and gives the whole house a fresh look. Because front doors bear the brunt of weather extremes, painting the door increases its durability and extends its lifespan.

Basics of Painting a Front Door

Nearly any front door that is made of wood, fiberglass, or steel can be painted. Many exterior front doors are sold unpainted and otherwise unfinished, with the expectation that the owner will paint it. Front doors with peeling, cracking paint can usually be successfully refurbished and re-painted.

Prep Work

The key to an attractive, long-lasting paint job is to thoroughly prepare the door. The door should be cleaned, sanded, patched where needed, primed, and then painted. Painting over peeling paint, dirt, dust, or cracks and holes will significantly reduce the paint job's lifespan.

Removing the Door

Ensure a great front door paint job by removing the door from the hinges and painting it flat on sawhorses. Painting the door horizontally reduces drips. Additionally, removing the door gives you access to the hinge-side and bottom edges of the door.

Front Door Paint

Oil-based paints take longer to dry than water-based latex paints, stretching this from a one-day to a multi-day project. Plus, oil-based paints and related tools must be cleaned up with paint thinner or mineral spirits. However, oil-based paints are more durable than water-based paints and help to reduce brush marks.

Water-based latex paints are easy to work with and they easily clean up with water. Unlike oil-based paints, latex paints can be found in low- or no-VOC form, making them green and eco-friendly.

Semi-gloss or glossy paint sheens offer better cleanability. If you value the look of flat or matte paint for a more contemporary look, just know that they scuff more readily than glossy paints. For flat/matte doors, it helps to have a can of paint on hand for quick spot touch-ups.

Codes and Regulations

Building codes and permits generally are not applicable to front door painting projects, though you should double-check with your local permitting agency. If your home is in a homeowner association-controlled neighborhood, you should clear your color choice with the HOA board. Many paint manufacturers maintain a homeowner association color archive on their websites. If you live in an HOA, check the paint manufacturer website to see if your particular HOA is listed.

When to Paint Your Front Door

Schedule your painting project during warm, dry weather since your house will be open and exposed. Start early in the day since you need to lay down a second coat of paint before re-installing the door.

If you want to replace the door the same day, paint the exterior side and the four edges first. Then, if you run out of time to paint the inside of the door horizontally, paint it after it has been re-hung. To devote more time to this project, you can board up your home's front door entrance with plywood.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Paintbrush
  • Cordless drill
  • Hammer
  • 2 sawhorses
  • Old towels
  • Foam sanding block
  • Oscillating sander
  • #220 grit sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Latex or nitrile gloves
  • Painter's tape
  • Putty knife

Materials

  • Primer
  • Exterior-grade paint
  • Wood filler

Instructions

  1. Remove the Front Door From Its Hinges

    If the front door has removable pins, gently tap out the pins from the underside with a 16d nail and a hammer. Some exterior doors have non-removable hinge pins, identified by their flat pan-heads on both top and bottom. In this case, use the cordless drill to unscrew the hinge from the door casing. Lay the door flat across the two sawhorses, each sawhorse padded with old towels.

    Warning

    Have an assistant nearby both when you remove and re-install the front door. Exterior doors are heavy—significantly heavier than interior doors.

  2. Remove Items From the Door

    All items that will not be painted should be removed: doorknobs, locks, levers, latches, hooks, and numbers. Bag all removed items along with their screws in plastic bags.

  3. Apply Painter's Tape

    Some door elements such as inset glass may not be able to be removed. Carefully tape off these sections with painter's tape.

  4. Clean the Door

    Dip a rag in warm water and TSP. Thoroughly squeeze out the rag and wipe down the door, especially the exterior-facing side. Let the door dry before proceeding.

  5. Patch the Door

    If the door has small holes or minor cracks, use the putty knife and wood filler to patch them.

  6. Sand the Door

    If the door surface is in good condition, you only need to lightly sand it to provide a rough surface for the paint to stick. Any filled areas should be sanded smooth.

  7. Remove the Dust

    Loosely wad up the tack cloth. Lightly wipe down all surfaces of the door to remove the dust. Do not press hard on the tack cloth as this can embed beeswax into the door surface.

  8. Prime the Door

    Apply primer to the door with the paintbrush. Primer has a tendency to smear since it is thin-bodied. So, you may need to apply a second coat to cover some of the thin sections.

    Tip

    Primer dries rapidly. Usually, you can re-prime between 30 and 60 minutes after the first coat.

  9. Paint the Door

    Use a paintbrush to paint the door with the color coat. Multiple thin coats are always better than thick coats. Once the door top section and edges of the door are finished, allow 2 1/2 hours before applying the second coat.

  10. Hang the Door

    After the paint has dried, re-hang the door. Have an assistant hold the door while you replace the hinge pins or screw the hinges back into place.