Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to: Paint steel entry doors

Earlier this spring I posted about whether to paint my front door or not since I was sick of the original putty color of the door. After many hours of debating, reading your comments and checking out doors in my neighborhood I finally decided on a color - red! My front entrance revamp and front flowerbed makeover were good starts to adding color to the front of the house but I still needed to paint the door. I decided to start with the side entrance to my house since it's not as important as the front door - I mean, what if I made a huge mistake?!?

Doors can be painted either hanging or removed from the frame. Since I'm a wimp and was doing this alone, I decided to paint mine while hanging. If you want to remove the door from the frame, use a center punch and hammer. Strike the hinge pin from the bottom until it pops up. Drive the hinge as far as possible with the punch, then using a pair of pliers, grasp the hinge pin and pull the pin out while twisting.

  • A gallon of Behr's exterior paint (which already had primer mixed in!) in Red Red Wine
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Painters tape
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Rubber gloves
  • Razor blades
  • Soapy water (mild detergent in warm water)
  • 2" quality brush
  • 2" foam roller
As with any project, preparation is very important. I paid close attention to the prep steps since I would only get one chance to paint this door!


  1. Put on gloves and wipe the door clean with mineral spirits. Allow the cleaning solvent to dry completely until there is no residual odor.

  2. Lightly sand door with 220-grit sandpaper.

  3. Wash door with a mild detergent in warm, soapy water. Rinse and dry door.

  4. Mask off all surfaces that will not be painted, including glass.

  5. Remove hardware (handles, etc.) or tape over them. I went the lazy route and taped since I was nervous about whether I could put the doorknobs back in by myself.


*Ensure you use high-quality exterior paint (either oil-based or 100% acrylic water-based latex paint). Lacquer paints are not recommended.*

Now here is where people disagree. You can use either a brush or roller to paint and let me tell you, I tried both with this door. According to some people paint brushes are the way to go since they don't leave bubbles but what I found is that they do leave brush marks - lots of them. Rollers have given some people bubbles but I found that it gave a smoother finish so after doing a couple of coats with the brush I did the final 2 coats with the roller.

  1. Get some paint on your brush or roller. (I will say that brushes get into the panels easier but then go over them with the roller if you decide to use a roller)

  2. Apply paint evenly in continuous strokes extending six inches past the edges of the door if possible. You should paint in the following order: (1) panels and sticking, (2) vertical center areas, (3) horizontal rails, (4) outside vertical stiles and (5) edges of door - sides and top.

  3. Let the paint dry completely following the manufacturer's recommended drying time between coats. High humidity and/or low temperatures will extend the drying time. I waited about an hour between coats even though the manufacturer said to wait two hours. My reasonings was that it was 80 degrees and I was working directly in the sun so it dried fairly quickly.

  4. Repeat as needed. I found that the red paint needed six coats to get to the shade I wanted.


  1. Nice job. Such thoroughness and patience! I'm impressed.

  2. Great post! And it looks sooooo gooood! I can't wait to work on painting my doors...eventually... :)

  3. Fantastic finish! Choosing whether to use brush or rollers can make all the difference. It is a good decision to use both, but I agree with you that rollers give a smoother finish, especially the ones with polyester covers.


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