Metal front doors are weatherproof, resistant to insects and rot, and a serious deterrent to intruders. Yet even the strongest metal front door will lose some of its sparkle over time. Painting your metal front door helps it regain its luster and charm for a serious curb appeal boost.
Before You Begin
Decide if you want to leave the front door on its hinges or remove it. Removing a door and painting it flat is preferable because this minimizes drips and allows you to reach difficult spots.
The downside is that metal entry doors are extremely heavy and difficult to remove and replace. Plus, you'll need to complete the painting job within one day or have plans for securely closing up your house at the end of the day if the project isn't completed.
Though removing the door takes some time and effort, it is the recommended method, as your door will have a cleaner, smoother finish.
Best Type of Paint for Metal Doors
Use two or more coats of high-quality exterior acrylic-latex paint for painting your metal front door. Glossier paint sheens are easier to clean and last longer. Use semi-gloss or gloss paint for your front door.
Many new exterior doors come pre-primed. If so, you'll be able to apply the paint directly to the door.
If the door surface is bare metal or has any bare sections, apply primer before rolling on the paint. Or you can use direct-to-metal (DTM) paint. DTM paint can stick to metal without priming.
The paint on any door painted before 1978 may contain lead, a dangerous substance when sanded or otherwise abraded. Test the paint with a lead paint test kit before continuing this project.
Equipment / Tools
- Foam roller
- 2-inch brush
- Sanding block
- Sawhorses (or 2x4 blocks and a table)
- Cordless drill and driver bits
- Scrub pad
- Kitchen gloves
- Exterior acrylic latex paint
- Painter's tape
- Tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) or substitute
For hinges with removable pins, insert a nail set or a nail upside down at the bottom of the hinge and lightly tap upward with a hammer. Then remove the pin by hand.
For hinges with non-removable pins, open the door and place blocks underneath the door to support it. Have an assistant hold the door as you unscrew the hinges from the door frame.
Lay Door Flat
With an assistant, carry the door to sawhorses or a large table. If using a table, lay short 2x4 blocks under the door to elevate the door for better access to its edges. Put old towels over the 2x4 blocks to prevent damage to the door.
Dissolve the tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) in a bucket of warm water. Wearing kitchen gloves, thoroughly scrub the door, especially the exterior side. Rinse when finished.
Some communities ban the use of phosphates. If yours does, use liquid TSP substitute, an alternative that works much like TSP.
Doors that have been previously painted may have peeling or cracked paint. Scrape or sand away this paint, but do so carefully to avoid scratching the metal. Do not sand factory-primed doors. Clean the door again after sanding or scraping paint.
Apply painter's tape to areas of the door that will not be painted. Press the edge of the tape firmly with your fingernail or a plastic putty knife to ensure adhesion.
On edges where two surfaces meet at a 90-degree angle, rather than applying the tape directly on the angle, you'll get sharper lines if you step back the tape by about 1/16 to 1/8 inch.
If your metal door needs primer, first brush on the primer to narrow sections or on textured or molded areas. Follow by rolling on one to two coats of primer with the foam roller. Let the primer dry for about 30 to 60 minutes between coats.
Paint the door with the color coat by first brushing the paint onto narrow or bumpy areas. Use the foam roller for larger, flat areas. Keep the roller as dry as possible to ensure a flat, drip-free coat.
Recoat the door with a second coat, after letting the first coat dry for about two to three hours.
Replace the door knob, hinges, and all other hardware. Mount the door with the assistance of a partner to hold the door in place.
When to Call a Professional
Applying a high-gloss paint can be difficult to do well since the gloss magnifies imperfections. Call a professional painter for this, or if the door needs repairs before being painted. Pros can also help speed up the process, finishing the job within a day, if needed.
Protect Your Family from Sources of Lead. United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Cohen, A. and Keiser, D. The Unintended Consequences of Household Phosphate Bans. Agricultural Policy Review. Iowa State University. 2015.