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Painting Exterior Doors

A Guide For Painting Exterior Doors

Painting exterior doors is not difficult and can really improve the outside appearance of your home. Projects can usually be completed over a weekend or on a single day, depending on the weather, the type of paint you use and the current condition of the door.

Below, you will see suggestions for old, new, factory-painted, factory-primed, steel and wood. The necessary steps sometimes overlap. So, you may want to scan through each section to be sure that you don't miss anything and for future reference.

New Wood

A new wooden door may come with a primer coat, if it is to be painted. Those that are meant to be stained will be "bare wood". The wood is sometimes treated to make it more resistant to weather and insects. Check with the manufacturer if you are unsure about that.

A new wooden door should be painted on both sides before it is hung. This not only simplifies the process, but also ensures that no sticky paint gets on the inside of the doorframe, the hinges or the locking mechanisms.

If you are working with a door that has a primer coat, sanding should not be necessary, unless there are any visible splinters. The color should be a light to medium gray.
Before painting exterior doors, any dust, dirt or debris should be cleaned from the surface. There shouldn't be much on a new door to clean.

If you have a bare wood door and you want to paint it, you will need to apply a primer coat first. You can use oil-based, latex or acrylic, just be sure they are labeled for exterior use. Acrylics dry faster, particularly in humid climates and are more flexible as the wood expands and contracts from heat and cold.

New Steel

Most new steel exterior doors come pre-painted from the manufacturer. Unless you really hate the color, re-painting should not be necessary. Exterior doors made of steel have only a primer coat and is a simple matter of picking paint and a color.

Older Wood

Older wood will need to be sanded and/or scraped. An electric hand sander makes the job much easier and the palm-sized models are very affordable. You will want to use 80-grit sandpaper for areas that you can't get to with the power sander.

You will need to remove the exterior doors from the hinges. Remove any knobs and locking mechanisms, as well as other hardware. Use masking tape to cover all windows. Once the sanding is done, you will need to apply a primer coat and wait for that to dry completely before applying the outer coat.

Acrylic is the best choice for painting exterior doors made of older wood, as it is for new wooden doors. The older wood does not usually expand and contract as much, but there will be some changes.

Older Steel

Re-painting older steel is considered more difficult by people that don't like to spend time on preparation. But, all that you really need to do is remove all of the hinges and hardware, then get some 50-grit sandpaper and sand until the surface feels smooth.

An oil-based rust-inhibiting primer should be applied to the entire door. Then, you can use any oil-based, acrylic or latex exterior paint for the final coat.

When you are painting exterior doors of any kind, remember to do the inside edge and get some help with the re-hanging. Once it's dry and the hardware is reattached, you can stand back and admire your work.

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