Your front door is an important part of your home’s “face,” and keeping it fresh and stylish goes a long way when it comes to maximizing curb appeal and creating a warm, inviting atmosphere for approaching visitors. Once you’ve selected a door color that suits your personality, the architectural style of your home, and your existing exterior color scheme, you can use the information below to complete a professional-quality paint job.

Choosing a Paint Type and Finish

Whether you’re painting a metal or wooden door, you’ll need to plan on priming the the surface to ensure that the paint adheres to your door’s surface and can withstand both regular use and a variety of weather conditions. After that, you can apply either water- or oil-based paint, depending on what best suits your situation.

Window - Door

  1. Water-based Paint: Latex and acrylic paints are water-based, dry quickly, are not flammable, contain low VOCs, and can be cleaned with soap and water. They’re also more breathable than oil-based paints and can expand and contract with the materials to which they’re applied.
  2. Oil-based Paint: Oil (alkyd) paint goes on more smoothly than water-based paint, and penetrates surfaces, allowing for better adhesion and durability. It takes oil paint up to 24 hours to dry, but may be preferable to water-based paint if you’re painting rust-prone metal or a stained or chalky surface.

Most experts recommend using water-based paints for exterior surfaces, unless special circumstances lead you to use oil-based paint. Water-based paints can be used to cover oil-based paints, but not vice versa.

Whichever paint type you choose, you should purchase an exterior formulation for the outside of your door, and an interior version for the inside of your door. You can have the same color applied to both paints, or you can choose different shades for interior and exterior. In both cases, you’ll want to choose a semi- or high-gloss finish, because these can be cleaned much more easily than flat or satin finishes.

Gathering Your Materials

Before beginning this project, you’ll need to assemble the following supplies:

  • Drill or screwdriver
  • Sawhorses
  • Microfiber cloth or rag
  • Sandpaper or orbital sander
  • Painter’s putty or spackle
  • Putty knife
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint pan
  • Foam brush(es)
  • Paint brushes and/or rollers in small and medium sizes

If you’re using an oil-based paint, you may also need a piece of plywood to cover your home’s entrance while you wait for your paint to dry.

Painting Exterior Doors

Stock photography - Paint

You’ll want to plan this project to coincide with appropriate weather. Most paint can handle temperatures as low as 50 degrees and as high as 85 degrees, but may have issues with drying too quickly, or not at all, outside of this range. Ideally, humidity should be 50% or less and rain should not be in the forecast. After ensuring that the weather is highly likely to cooperate, you can move ahead with the following steps:

  1. Thoroughly wipe down both sides of the door. Use your microfiber cloth or a damp rag to wipe away any dirt or debris. To remove buildup in nooks and crannies, you can use a cotton swab.
  2. Remove all hardware. This includes the doorknob, deadbolt, and kickplate.
  3. Remove the door from its hinges and place it on sawhorses. While you may be tempted to paint your door in place, removing it will help you complete a better quality paint job. You may want to enlist a partner to hold the door steady while you use a drill or screwdriver to remove it from its hinges.
  4. Fill any holes or cracks with putty or spackle. Carefully inspect your door and fill any minor gaps or dings.
  5. Use caulk to seal any gaps between window areas and the body of the door. If your door includes window panes, this is a good time to update weatherproofing.
  6. Lightly sand the door’s surface. This will help the primer and paint adhere to the door. Take special care to sand down any chipping or peeling existing paint. When you’re done, wipe away any resulting dust.
  7. Use painter’s tape to protect glass panes. Apply tape around the perimeter of each pane of glass.
  8. Apply primer. Use a foam brush to paint any detailing around window panes and or recessed panels. Then use a brush or roller to fill in the main areas of the door.
  9. Lightly sand the primed door. The primer may bring out some additional rough spots in your door. After it dries, lightly sand the door again, then wipe it down.
  10. Apply paint. You can now apply as many coats of paint as it takes to get good coverage.
  11. Repeat steps 4-10 on the opposite side of your door. Once you’ve finished painting one side of your door, you can flip it over and paint the reverse side.

Painting Exterior Door Jamb & Trim

Window - Door Frame

In between applying coats of primer and paint to your door, you can work on freshening up you trim and door jamb using many of the same materials and processes:

  1. Remove any hardware. This includes any hinges and plates.
  2. Wipe down the surfaces you’ll be painting. Remove dust and cobwebs.
  3. Fill cracks with putty or spackle. Smooth over any prominent nail holes or gaping seams.
  4. Lightly sand the trim and door jamb. Wipe away any dust after you’ve finished.
  5. Tape surrounding areas. To protect surrounding walls, apply painter’s tape along the top edge of the trim.
  6. Prime and paint. You may need to lightly sand between these steps.

Once you’ve finished painting and reassembling your door, consider adding a decorative wreath, or some pots of seasonal plantings to complete the makeover.

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About the Author: is a full-service home remodeling and construction general contractor serving the greater Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego area. Home improvement is hard, and we make it easier for you every step of the way. That starts by understanding your goals, whether it’s making a space more livable, expanding your home, repairing damage, adding room for relatives, or something completely different. We’ll work with you to ensure you’re happy with the project from start to finish.