Lay the door flat to avoid drips and runs
For convenience, it's tempting to leave a
door hanging on its hinges when you
paint. But for a smooth finish, you have to
lay it flat and remove the hinges, knobs and
other hardware. With the door laid flat on sawhorses,
you can spread paint more quickly and
not worry about drips and paint sags. And you
can still paint both sides in a day if you rest the
door on lag screws.
Drill one 3/16-in. hole in the bottom of the
door and two at the top, then turn 4-in. by
1/4-in. lag screws 1-1/2 in. into the door. Spread
the sawhorses apart just enough so that the door
doesn't touch either side but rests entirely on
the bolts. Paint the first side, then just rotate the
door on the single bolt at the bottom of the
door while holding the other two bolts.
Clean off grime before you prime
Washing your old finish is probably the most important
step you can take to ensure good paint adhesion.
Even the best paint won’t stick well to oil and dirt, and
there's lots of both on doors, especially near the
knob, where dirty hands have pushed and pulled
for years. Before filling holes or priming, scrub the
entire door with heavy-duty household cleaner. Let
the door dry completely, then fill any holes.
Beware of paint buildup
Decades of paint buildup can make a door rub against the jamb or door
stop molding. The fastest way to remove paint buildup is with a sharp
stainless steel or carbide scraper.
After scraping, sand the door to smooth the scraped edges. Use
power sanders sparingly—high-speed sanding can melt paint, making
it even more difficult to smooth out.
Use sandpaper rather than a scraper on metal doors. Chemically
strip fiberglass doors if they have flaking paint—you'll quickly ruin a
fiberglass door (smooth or wood grain) if you scrape or sand it.
If your home was built before 1979, check the paint
for lead before you scrape or sand. For more information, go to
Fill all holes, even small ones
You might assume that new paint will hide tiny dents
and scratches, but it won't. In fact, the new coat of
paint highlights minor flaws. Fill dents less than 1/8 in.
deep with spackling compound. For deeper holes, use
a two-part filler or an epoxy wood filler. It's more of a hassle to use
and you usually end up throwing away a lot of partially
hardened filler (mix small batches), but the patch
will be hard enough to take a lot of abuse without
Prime the entire door before painting
Unless the old paint is in perfect condition, you
should prime before painting. Primer blocks stains,
mutes dark colors and helps new paint stick
better. It also seals porous fillers so the topcoat
looks smooth and even. Avoid spot
priming—it will make the topcoat of paint
look blotchy. If you're covering a color or painting on
a new color (anything other than white), use a gray-tinted
primer instead of a white primer.
Search for flaws after priming
Minor flaws in your patching job are hard to see on an old
painted surface, but they'll show up much better after a fresh
coat of primer. After the primer dries, check the door again
with a strong light. Cover any flaws with more spackling compound,
then sand and reprime these areas with the same
roller or brush, feathering the edges so the additional primer
Sand between coats
No matter how careful you are, you can usually find
ridges or bubbles or a few bits of dust and lint in a
fresh coat of paint or primer. For the smoothest
possible topcoat, hand-sand the entire door
after the primer and between coats of paint.
It may seem like a lot of work, but it shouldn't
take more than five minutes when the
door is flat on the sawhorses. Sand with
non-clogging 180- or 220-grit sandpaper
or sanding sponges (look for
“non-clogging” or “stearated” on the
label). Sand just enough to make the
surface feel smooth. After sanding, vacuum
and wipe down the door with a
damp cloth to remove all the dust.
Get a smoother finish with a special mini roller
The best way to avoid brush marks is to avoid using brushes. High-density
foam mini rollers spread paint smoothly and evenly, without brush marks
and without the bumpy surface that standard-nap rollers leave. They
also have rounded ends that almost eliminate lap marks and let you
paint into corners without leaving scrapes or ridges.
Edge in around windows and panels with a brush first, then coat
the rest of the door with the foam roller. Use the rollers for both primer and
paint. They spread a thinner coat of paint than brushes or conventional
rollers do, so you'll need at least two coats. Foam rollers are available at paint stores and home centers.
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Protect freshly painted doors from sticking
It's difficult to know how soon to put a
door back up again after painting. And for
home security, you'll want to get exterior
doors back up as soon as possible. But even
when latex paint is dry to the touch, it can
still stick to the doorstop or weather
stripping and then peel off when you
open the door.
To be safe, wait at least two days before
closing an interior door. This is especially
true during humid conditions, when it
takes longer for paint to cure properly.
With an exterior door, either remove the
weather stripping or cover it with painter's
tape so the paint won't stick.