Painting your front door will give you loads of instant curb appeal. Learn how to paint your front door the easy way.
In my last post, Front Door Colors That Pop, I showed you some door colors that I was lusting after. I ended up going with Glidden's Capri Teal, it's like turquoise and green had a love child and named it Wonderful.
But love child or not, repainting my front door was not without its obstacles.
First of all, the last time I painted it I did not take the time to prep it exceptionally well and it showed. I had a lot of bubbling and chipping going on and no one wants a bubbly, chippy front door to greet their guests.
Secondly, this is a West facing door that gets a ton of afternoon sun and is sandwiched behind a glass storm door. It has been painted a very dark brown color and it was just too much for that door.
It's like when you're at a summer picnic and it's 95 degrees with the sun baking down on you and you decide it's a good time to wear a black sweater. Mohair at that.
Nope, not a good idea.
Here's the steps I took to paint it right this time!
(This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. You can read my full disclosure policy here.)
How To Paint A Front Door
- Sandpaper - fine grit
- Damp rag
- Paint brush
- Low nap or foam roller and roller tray
- Screwdriver (to remover door hardware)
- Quart of paint
- Quart of primer (somewhat optional, explained below)
- Ready Strip Safer Paint And Varnish Remover (optional based on the condition of your door)
- Hard plastic putty knife (only if using the paint stripper)
Take a good look at your door and decide if you can just paint it or if it needs to be stripped. If the current finish is smooth, in nice shape and you're just basically painting it to change the color, then there's not going to be a lot of prep work involved. Count your blessings and try not to gloat about it!
If the current paint is bubbly, chippy or there are a lot of dents and dings in the door you need to fix, then stripping is the way to go. You will get a much smoother and long lasting finish by going the extra step in this case.
So if this applies to you, skip down to where it says How To Strip Your Metal Front Door and then come back up here to start on the painting portion.
- Remove your door hardware. You could tape it off with painter's tape, but really to do it right, you want to remove your doorknobs and lockset.
- If your door has windows, mask off the edges of the glass.
- Clean your front door by washing it down with a wet rag. This will get rid of any dust, dirt or bugs that are stuck to your door. The paint will adhere better and you will have a smoother finish.
- Sand out any imperfections and then do a quick once over of your door with a fine-grit sandpaper to give your surface a bit of a tooth. Make sure to wipe over the door again with your rag to catch any dust particles. For this "tooth" step remember you are just gently running sandpaper over the door, not sanding it for real.
- If you are painting over a totally different color you should use a separate primer. If you are painting over a color in the same color family I would suggest a paint with primer already in it.
- Apply the primer by covering the door completely. Allow to dry.
- Paint your door. Use a paintbrush to paint the edges and corners of the door along with the edges around the recessed/raised panels.
- And then paint the recessed/raised panels and the rest of the flat parts of the door with your roller.
- No matter how hard you try, how well the paint is made or even if the paint has primer added to it, you're going to want to put two coats on. I have yet to meet a one coat paint that actually covered well enough that I was satisfied with one coat.
- After the paint has dried thoroughly you can remove any painters tape, put your door hardware back on and be back in business.
Note: I actually did not shut my door completely for a few days just to give it time to cure before basking it in the sun, but then again you know your neighborhood better than I do. Safety first!
How to strip your metal front door
Since my front door was in such bad shape, I decided to strip it first.
The stripper I used was Ready Strip Safer Paint And Varnish Remover and is safe for indoor use, very low odor (honestly, I couldn't even detect an odor at all with it) and can be used on vertical surfaces (ie you can keep your door on its hinges). What I liked about Ready Strip is it turns from green to white when it's ready to be removed plus there is no special neutralizer needed between the paint removal step and the painting step. You just wipe the door down with plain water.
I just brushed on the stripper and let it sit overnight. Although it starts to work in 60 minutes and can be ready to be removed within 4 hours, it seemed like 12 hours was the magic time when stuff came off easier.
You just use your putty knife to gently scrape off the paint that does not just fall away from the door.
And if you space out and forget that you started to strip your door, then you will be happy to know you can still get the stripper off the door by spritzing it with water and it loosens up again.
Note: Be sure to put on a THICK enough layer of this product. It has a pudding like consistency and should entirely cover the surface.
(the bubbly areas are where it was put on sufficiently and the paint came off super easily)
Why am I stressing this point? It ends up I did not put the stripper on heavy enough in all areas the first go around.
Where I did apply it sufficiently, it came off AMAZINGLY easily. I could literally grab an edge of paint and it just basically fell off the door in huge strips.
Where I put it on too light, I had to tug and pull on the remover to get it up. Not horrible, but it was slow going and got old fast.
I might have even had a minor meltdown on facebook about it!
(at this point I was thinking what the heck have I gotten myself into)
I ended up putting a 2nd coat on some of the areas to make it easier. Again, my mistake not the product's!
Just trust me, apply this thickly and it will be the easiest stripping you've ever done!
Aren't you proud of me? I've totally avoided using any "stripping" puns here.
(stripped and ready for primer and paint)
Frequently Asked Questions:
How to paint a front door without removing it?
I had a lot of questions on facebook about why I didn't remove the door and lay it flat.
It comes down to 1) I'm lazy and 2) I didn't want to go without a front door for very long and most importantly 3) there was really no need for it.
The stripper I used was fine for indoor use (check your product though because MANY are not) and it was thick enough to cling well to vertical surfaces, so it just made more sense to keep it on the hinges!
Best paint for a front door?
The primer I used was Behr Premium Plus Multi-Surface Primer & Sealer and the paint I used was Behr Premium Plus Ultra Stain Blocking Exterior Paint & Primer.
Even though I had used a primer on the door first, I used a paint that included primer just to ensure full and thorough coverage.
Both of these are latex paints, but if I had used oil-based paints on the door previously I would have used oil-based this time (you generally don't want to use Latex over oil-based).
How To Tell If Your Old Door Paint Is Latex Or Oil?
To tell if the old paint on your door is latex or oil, you can put a small amount of one of these onto a cotton ball or cloth - rubbing-alcohol, hand sanitizer, acetone or nail polish and then rub it over a small area of the door.
If the paint is OIL based there will be no color than comes off onto your cotton ball/cloth.
If your paint is LATEX based there will color residue on your cotton ball/cloth.
What sheen to paint a front door?
I used a semi-gloss sheen to paint my front door. Normally I'm a flat or eggshell kind of girl because they hide flaws better, but a semi-gloss or gloss can be cleaned more easily and will also stand up to nicks and dings better. So semi-gloss it was!
View the web story version of this article HERE.
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Great tips! As an FYI - Sherwin Williams has a paint for doors that dries in an hour so you don't have to leave your door open. I used it on two doors, one facing north and one facing south and so far (over a year ago) both held up very well. Of course, you can't really dawdle when you are painting but it was easy to use and fast drying!
That's good to know! I actually could have closed the door, but it gets like a sauna between the storm door and the regular door, so I was trying to push that off as far as I could. I'll check out the SW for my back door though! If I leave that one open, who knows what little animals will come walking through the door!
I couldn't remember the name - it's called Snap Dry and it worked like a charm! Love your page!!
We had a new front door installed last year. The installer talked me out of a glass front door for the reason you talked about..getting too hot causing the paint to bubble eventually. Still not convinced. I can't open my front door now unless I want squirrels visiting. ?But , your door looks fantastic!
LOL. Yeah, I prefer to keep the squirrels outside too 🙂
You did a great job with the tutorial, Pam. Very informative and funny. We live in a development with an association, so we are not supposed to change anything on the outside of our houses. But I have noticed a couple of people have ignored the rules and painted their front doors, so I am tempted to do it myself. (Or more honestly, have my husband do it.) I really like the color you chose, so I'm going to hang on to this post for future reference. Thanks!
Thanks, Leslie! I always feel my tutorials are so dry just because they're step by step, so glad you liked it 🙂
Great tips! I’m getting ready to paint my front door and will definitely be referring to your post!!!
Pam, I love your new front door. Absolutely gorgeous color and I bet you smile every time you see it. I also commend you for taking on the challenge to go from a dark color, stripping it and re-painting your door with a bright light color. Your tips are super helpful and make me want to consider painting our own door in the near future. Thanks for the info and inspiration.
Barbara Chapman ~ French Ethereal
Love the new bright color on your front door, Pam! Definitely pinning to my Perfect Paint and Stain board for future reference. I like that you painted your door "in situ" instead of taking it off the hinges ~ such a chore to rehang!
Thanks for a great tutorial,
Your tutorial was very helpful. I am planning on painting my front door a pumpkin orange. It is a metal door, the current paint is in good condition (probably what came on the door) I just want to change colors. It sounds easy, wish me luck!
How fun! Good luck with the orange door!!!
Painters on Cape Cod
I was planning to give a new look to my front door with the help of paint. But like most people I was also worried should I remove my doors or not? But after reading this blog, now my problems are resolved. The blog provides a good piece of information on how to paint the door without removing the front door. Thanks for sharing this blog!
I really want to make my front door look really nice this year. I like that you pointed out that if I want to paint it I should sand it down first. It would be nice to get a window insert for my front door.
Thanks a lot for sharing this blog. It is very helpful. Most of the homeowner are looking for the way to get their door painted without removing. Your blog is guiding in the right direction. To get your entire house or doors painted well, you should avail the painting service from the experts.
This is fantastic! My only issue is that I don’t know if the existing paint on the door is oil based or latex. Any way of determining this?
I too would be interested in knowing if there is a way to determine!
An easy way to tell if the old paint on your door is latex or oil is to put a small amount of one of these onto a cotton ball or cloth - alcohol, hand sanitizer, acetone or nail polish and then rub it over a small area of the door. If the paint is oil based there will be no color than comes off onto your cotton ball/cloth. If your paint is latex based there will color residue on your cotton ball/cloth.
Thank you so much! The alcohol-dabbed cotton ball got a bit of red on it, so the red paint I want to cover with deep blue is latex.
I am so sorry for taking so long to get back to you! And thanks for asking the question - I've added it to the article.
But an easy way to tell if the old paint on your door is latex or oil is to put a small amount of one of these onto a cotton ball or cloth - alcohol, hand sanitizer, acetone or nail polish and then rub it over a small area of the door. If the paint is oil based there will be no color than comes off onto your cotton ball/cloth. If your paint is latex based there will color residue on your cotton ball/cloth.
How about laying off the roller marks to mimick the grain
Great job painting your door! I have done a few doors as well and try to avoid taking off the door locks and handles because they don't always go back together very well. Also latex enamel doesn't truly cure for a week or more, and when door is closed it may stick to the weather stripping around the door frame and pull the paint off around the door edges. I have found that applying blue painters tape onto the weatherstrip and leave it on a few weeks avoids that.
I have a metal door, do I still have to strip it
Mine was metal and in really bad shape. But if you don't have bubbling of the paint like I did you don't have to strip it. You can just sand down smooth any little imperfections to get a smooth surface and paint right over the old paint.
Trying to determine if I can go with a paint and primer built in. I am painting over my brick red door with a deep blue (slightly lighter than navy). Do you think a separate primer is still needed?
Thanks for such a helpful article!
You will probably need at least 3 coats of a paint w/ primer built in, just because red is a really hard color to cover over and still have the new paint show as the correct color/tone. Personally I would probably do one coat of white primer and then the deep blue paint just so I'm starting with a clean slate color-wise.
My metal door has small dents in it is there anything I can do to cover them
Good question! You can fill dents with a patching compound. Your local hardware store or Amazon should carry one called Zinsser Ready Patch that works on metal and is for both exterior and interior use. Use a putty knife to put it on and press into the dents. Then let it dry and sand smooth.
Loved your post! I want to paint my door but don't want to remove it! Could you recommend a door color for a red cedar shingle house besides white? I have always wanted a red door but not sure that would work too well. I will probably be resigned to white.
I have a new primed not painted fiberglass front door
Any suggestions as to what type of paint to use
I was excited to try the ready strip after reading your post but omg the smell was so strong and bad I couldn’t even use it. Even my husband with diminished smell after Covid said it was bad.