How to Paint a Door

How to paint a door: Get great results, even on panel doors.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

Next Project
Time

A full day

Complexity

Intermediate

Cost

$51–100

Introduction

Painting paneled doors is the ultimate painter's challenge. To make it easier, we tried different tools and paints and watched pros work. Here's what we found.

Tools Required

  • Bucket
  • Dust mask
  • Orbital sander
  • Paint brush
  • Paint roller
  • Paint scraper
  • Putty knife
  • Rags
  • Roller sleeve
  • Roller tray
  • Sanding block
  • Shop light
  • Shop vacuum
  • Tweezers
  • Utility knife

Materials Required

  • Foam brushes
  • Paint
  • Paint drip remover
  • Primer
  • Sandable filler
  • Sanding sponges
  • Sandpaper

Picking your paint

While you’re picking a paint color, also think about sheen. With a flat finish, scuff marks and handprints are hard to wipe away. High gloss is easy to clean but accentuates every little flaw, so your prep and paint job need to be perfect. Satin and semigloss are good compromise choices.

Note: Painting a door typically takes three to five hours, depending on the condition of the door and how fussy you are. But add in the drying time and it’s a full-day project. So if you’re painting a door you can’t live without, like a bathroom or exterior door, start first thing in the morning so it can be back in service by day’s end. 

Project step-by-step (14)

Step 1

Picking your paint

While you’re picking a paint color, also think about sheen. With a flat finish, scuff marks and handprints are hard to wipe away. High gloss is easy to clean but accentuates every little flaw, so your prep and paint job need to be perfect. Satin and semigloss are good compromise choices.

Note: Painting a door typically takes three to five hours, depending on the condition of the door and how fussy you are. But add in the drying time and it’s a full-day project. So if you’re painting a door you can’t live without, like a bathroom or exterior door, start first thing in the morning so it can be back in service by day’s end. 

Painting Prep Tips

Pros often paint doors in place. But from prep to painting, you’ll get better results if you remove the door. Working in your garage, shop or basement allows you to control lighting and drying conditions better. Laying the door flat will also minimize runs in the paint job.

Here’s what to do after you remove the door:

  • Clean the door with a household cleaner;
    • Almost any cleaner will do, as long as it cuts grease. Areas around doorknobs are especially prone to greasy buildup.
  • Remove all the door hardware to get a neater paint job and save time;
  • Slice through paint buildup around hinges and latches.
  • Fill dents and holes with a sandable filler such as MH Ready Patch.
    • Pro tip: You’ll probably have to fill deep dents twice to compensate for shrinkage.
  • Remove old paint from the hardware. Start with a product intended to remove paint splatter such as Goof Off Pro Strength Remover or Goo Gone Painter’s Pal.
    • You can use paint strippers, but they may also remove clear coatings from the hardware or damage some types of finishes.

painting prep tipsFamily Handyman

Step 2

Sand the Door Smooth

  • Start with light sandpaper or a sanding sponge (180 or 220 grit). This will roughen the surface a little and allow the primer to adhere better.
  • Smooth out chipped paint and imperfections from previous paint jobs.
    • This is usually the most time-consuming, tedious part of the project.
  • On flat areas, level out old runs and brush marks with a hard sanding block. For the shaped profiles use a combination of sanding pads, sponges and scraps of sandpaper.

painting a door prep sand the doorFamily Handyman