10 Unusual Tips on Repainting a Front Door

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This post is the beginning of an upcoming series on repainting a front door. Each step in the process has its own finer details, which I will also cover in separate posts. However, when I created the timelapse for last week’s YouTube video I noticed there were some general points when you see it as a whole:

Tip #1: There is overlap in each step.

Each section was labeled with a title, but did you see me with a paintbrush when I said “First coat of paint…”?


I was still sanding primer for a good 15 minutes.

Overlapping painting steps: each step begins with a last glance from the last step. No paint brush here! One last sand and wipe down of the door before painting.

No paint brush here! One last sand and wipe down of the door before painting.

The perfectionist in me wanted to split up the individual videos so you could see the second once over (last chance) that happens right before the next step. It really looks like the exact same thing I finished doing in the last section.

But I also realize this is the reality of a project. You always try to complete one task in a single session. Yet you always look one last time right before starting the next step and find something to modify.

It’s better to fix it now before the next layer amplifies the problem and it is harder to correct.

Maybe this fix happens because the lighting color is different, a change in direction of the light, or you had a chance to sleep.

I ultimately decided to leave each timelapse intact to show this reality.

The consolation prize is that if you repaint your door properly you will enjoy it longer than the actual work. And it will last far longer.

Tip #2: You might not need all these steps for your front door repaint job.

What is the condition of the old door? Is the paint in good condition?

If the old paint is in good condition you can get away with cleaning with TSP and a light sand before two layers of your new paint color.

However if it is chalky, peeling or showing other signs of wear that a simple clean with TSP cannot remove, stripping the old paint and following these steps is your only good answer if you want to keep the door. Buying a new door and skipping to the primer step is also a good option.

If you are like me, with peeling paint on the front door I’d rather not replace at the moment, stripping the old paint is not negotiable. If I left it on, it would look awful. Even if I scraped as much as I could, it would still look…exactly like I painted over chipped and peeling paint!

The old latex paint peeling off the front door.

The old latex paint peeling off the door.

Even worse, the old paint would continue to delaminate and take the new paint with it. I’d be wasting perfectly good paint.

Tip #3: Each step has a purpose.

Only do what you have to do (tip #2), but if you have to do a step, make sure you do it all the way–two layers, sanding, etc. to get a professional finish.

Stripping the old paint.
Necessary for making new paint look good and last longer if the old paint is delaminating or in bad shape.

First coat of primer.
Primer is the bonding layer between the door and the color coat, extending the life of the paint job.

Second coat of primer.
Filling in the areas that were missed or very thin in the first layer of primer. No paint job is perfect the first time.

Sanding primer.
Smoothing the surface and creating more surface area for the paint to bond to the door.

First coat of paint.
That gorgeous new color!

Sanding the paint.
Like sanding primer, this gives you one last chance to smooth the surface, removing any last blemishes, as well as creating more surface area for the final coat to make a stronger bond.

Second coat of paint.
A second layer of paint creates an even and vibrant color. As in the second layer of primer, no paint job is perfect and the second coat fills in any gaps or thin spots.

Tip #4: Every step after stripping the paint should be done horizontally.

Pop the hinge pins off and lay the door flat. Horizontal surfaces are less likely to encourage drips.

If you have a fiberglass door, it is light. So that’s one less excuse. 😉

The pins are not really that hard to get out, especially if there are two people involved.

I completed the entire paint stripping step with the door still on the door jamb. It started that way since I was not sure how much time I would be allotted on the afternoon I chose to start the project. I also did not know how fast the Max Strip paint stripper would work.

In the end, keeping it in place made it easy to put some serious pressure on the scraping tool without the door falling off sawhorses (or, in reality, the paint buckets).

Tip #5: A temporary door may be necessary.

Obviously you’ll want to repaint a front door on a more temperate day. However, there may be other elements, like bugs, children wandering out the door, wind, etc. that might make you think about “installing” a temporary door.

No front door, no problem! Head on outside and vacuum the rocks!

No front door, no problem! Head on outside and vacuum the rocks!

Push pins and a bed sheet work well.

A temporary front door with a sheet and a blanket keep the bugs at bay and kids inside.

The temporary front door.

Otherwise, you have an open door policy…literally!

Obviously you’ll want to work on repainting the front door on more temperate days. However, there may be other elements, like bugs, children wandering out the door, wind, etc. that might make you think about “installing” a temporary door...rather than having a literal open door policy.

Each step basically took an afternoon (except the paint stripping step taking the naptime of the child who vacuumed the rocks over several days) with progress stopping when the temperatures dropped outside. Thus, necessitating the presence of the real door overnight.

Tip #6: Strip, prime and paint in the shade.

The sun will warm up the door causing the paint to dry faster than you can go. You want to be able to keep your leading edges wet so you can make sure the brush strokes match the direction of the wood grain.

We set ours up in the garage. That way we could enjoy the afternoon shade or start with the garage closed if we got out the door (literally!) in the morning.

Painting the front door inside the garage.

Painting the front door inside the garage.

Tip #7: The ability to control light sources is best for detecting blemishes.

Highlighting paint blemishes with a shop light.

Highlighting paint blemishes with a shop light.

Moving a shop light or some other bright light is one of the best ways to detect any paint boogers, dust particles or other high spots.

If you work outside in the shade this might be difficult. But after dusk you are good to go with a light source.

A garage is a place where you can control the light at all times of the day.

Tip #8: Flotrol!

Yep, that’s a tip all in itself. Use Flotrol to help both primer and paint smooth out brush strokes. The stuff is phenomenal.

I feel a separate post with some experiments coming on…

Tip #9: It takes a long time to repaint a front door properly.

Multiple steps. Multiple coats. Manufacturer suggested dry times (or, more likely, overnight).

Does look like we over complicated this?

Even I feel that way in the middle of the project.

However, I have to say the finished product is worth the effort. You will enjoy it far longer than the work you put in. This is definitely part of your curb appeal and makes you feel welcome when you come home.

#10: Buying a new door is an option.

There is no getting around the time and energy needed for stripping and the steps involved in repainting. No one is judging if you want to start over with a new door and get the job done faster.

Before and after repainting a front door.

Before and after repainting a front door.

Happy painting!

Detailed posts for each step:

Stripping Paint Off a Fiberglass Door

More to come!

In depth videos of each step:

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1 Response

  1. March 11, 2020

    […] 10 Unusual Tips on Repainting a Front Door […]