How to Paint a Door

Follow expert Brian Santos' simple how-to steps for painting a door. You'll love what a fresh coat of paint can do!

Doors, frames, and casework are all considered trim work. They are usually constructed of wood, vinyl, or metal. Because doors are the entrance and exit points, plan to paint them last, so the paint finishes will be undisturbed and allowed to dry upon completion of the room. Looking around your home or office, you might notice the surface of doors varies quite a bit. Some may be completely flat, while others may be paneled. The approach to painting these two doors varies slightly. Keep reading to see our favorite tips on how to paint either type of interior door. It's a small change, but a freshly painted door could make your home look entirely different!

  • Working Time 2 Hours
  • Start to Finish 1 Day
  • Difficulty         Projects Easy
  • Involves Sanding, Painting

What you need

Tools

  • Screwdriver
  • Drop cloth
  • Medium-grit sanding sponge
  • Clean cloth
  • Paintbrush
  • 4-inch paint roller

Materials

  • Rubber cement, optional
  • Paint

How to do it

Part 1 How to Paint a Flat Door

We chose to paint the door off its hinges. If you choose to paint with the door still attached, first clean the hinges with rubbing alcohol, then mask them with two coats of rubber cement (peel the cement off when finished). Prep the same as window trim. Remove or mask the doorknobs, lock, and other hardware.

Step 1 Sand Surface

Begin by sanding the surface of the door. You want a smooth, even surface to paint over for the cleanest result. Sanding will also remove any paint or coating already on the door, making it a better surface to hold the new paint. You may choose to use an electric sander, but a simple sanding block will also do the job.

Step 2 Paint Edge

To paint a flat door, start by painting the inside hinge edge, working around the door in one direction. Work up from the inside bottom, across the header, and down the striker side. Use a brush for this narrow space for better control. Also, be careful to not load too much paint on your brush at one time. Excess paint causes visible drips. 

Step 3 Paint Door Surface

Next, paint the door's surface. Apply the paint with a 4-inch closed-end foam roller. Run two or three roller widths the full height and across the door face, then lay off the finish by brushing from bottom to top with a lightly loaded brush or lightly coated small roller if desired to remove any lines. This technique allows the roller to deliver the paint quickly and evenly to the surface while keeping a wet edge, and leaves a smooth finish. Let dry. 

Part 2 Painting a Paneled Door

Your approach is a bit different to paint a paneled door. However, you'll apply the paint to the door in sections using the same roller and brush technique.

Step 1 Sand

Remove all hardware, including doorknob. Sand the surface of the door just as you would a flat door. We recommend using a sanding block for this so you can have better control near the detailed edges and corners of the paneled door. Once smooth, wipe the surface with a tack cloth. 

Step 2 Paint Panels

Begin by painting each panel, starting with the upper left-hand panel working down the door face in sequences. For each panel, first paint the edges of the panel with a paintbrush. It's OK to paint a little outside the lines here, since it will all be painted over anyways. Once the edges are lined, use a 4-inch roller to fill in the center of the panels. 

Step 3 Paint Horizontal and Vertical Sections

With all the panels painted, begin painting the stiles in-between the panels. Starting from the bottom of each of the center vertical stiles, lay down and brush out the paint. Next, working from the top member down, continue painting each horizontal member. Finally, paint the full-height outer stiles and edge. Lay off any runs or sags as you paint.

Step 4 Paint Edges and Finish

Allow the paint to dry, lightly sand, and apply the second coat. Once dry, attach new hardware and install the door. If you painted your door with it still on the hinges, keep paint off the floor by sliding a piece of cardboard underneath the door. Brace the door with wood shims to hold it steady. When the paint is dry, score around the edge of the hinges with a knife and peel away the cement. Replace the hardware. Keep paint off the floor by sliding a piece of cardboard underneath the door. Brace the door with wood shims to hold it steady.

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