Q: We are so tired of looking at our front door. It was moldy, and we tried scrubbing the mold but it didn’t work. So we sanded it, and sanded through the veneer. We’d like to paint the door, but what is the process?
A: Painting the door seems to be the best solution at this point.
You can paint it while it is still hanging in the doorway, or you can take it down and set it horizontally on sawhorses or a flat surface. An exterior door is heavy, so leaving the door on its hinges while you paint saves you from needing to muscle it around. Also, there’s no risk of bending the hinges, and you don’t need to rig up a temporary way to close off your house.
But painting the door while it is horizontal also has advantages. Drips are less likely, as are paint blobs on the hinges or floor. It’s easier to paint all six sides: the top, bottom and both side edges, as well as the front and back. Painting all sides minimizes shrinking and swelling of a door as weather changes and helps prevent water damage to the door if it’s splashed by wind-driven rain.
If you decide to take down the door for painting, use shims to support the bottom edge while you remove the hinge pins, and keep track of which pin matches each hinge, in case a pin is slightly bent. (To free a stubborn pin, hammer a thick nail up on the bottom of the pin.)
Whether the door is vertical or horizontal, remove all the hardware attached to the door or carefully cover it with painter’s tape.
Where you sanded through the veneer, your door is probably ready for paint. But you also need to make sure all other surfaces, including the molding around the top and bottom panels, are clean and scuffed up. Clean by moistening a cloth or sponge in water with a little all-purpose cleaner added. Clean the cloth or sponge and wipe off the residue. When dry, scuff by hand-sanding with a fine-grit sanding sponge or 180-grit sandpaper. Vacuum any dust, or wipe it away with a microfiber dust cloth. Don’t use a spray intended as a dusting aid — it might contain silicone oil, which keeps later finishes from curing properly.
To complete your preparation, spread a dropcloth and gather tools. Have a good-quality two-inch sash brush with synthetic bristles that end at an angle, which will help you get paint evenly into corners and recesses. Also get a “weenie roller” — a skinny type about one inch wide and up to six inches long — plus a paint tray sized for the roller and a spare roller cover or two.
For paint, use a satin, semi-gloss or gloss water-based paint, possibly one made specifically for doors. Read the label and buy the recommended primer, unless you’re getting paint that doubles as primer. Water-based paint has a tendency to stick to other painted surfaces (or, in the case of doors, to weatherstripping) even after the paint is dry to the touch. Door paint resists sticking, and it’s also easier to clean if fingerprints collect — which they are sure to. Examples include Modern Masters Express Yourself Front Door Paint ($34.47 to $40.69 a quart, depending on color, at Home Depot) and Sherwin-Williams’s HGTV Home Interior & Exterior High Gloss Paint and Primer for cabinets, doors and trim ($16.48 a quart at Lowe’s).
Moisten the bristles and the roller, making them easier to clean, and blot out excess water against a cardboard scrap or a rag. For each coat, brush paint over each door edge. As you finish the edge, run the brush along the corners to remove any drips. Don’t load the brush with paint for this; the bristles should be nearly dry.
Then paint each panel. First, brush paint on the molding around the edge. Switch to the roller for the main expanse, because rolling is faster and creates a more even coat. If you don’t want the slightly textured surface left by the roller, immediately go over the paint with the brush nearly dry.
Finally, paint the flat areas around the panels. If you have left the handle and lock in place, paint around them first using the brush. Then, switch to the roller. Painting the center vertical panel usually comes first, but if your door doesn’t have that, start with the top horizontal piece, then the outside verticals as far down as the middle horizontal. That’s next, then the rest of the verticals, and finally the bottom horizontal. Or you can do all the horizontals, then the two verticals. The key is to make sure you are always adding new paint next to an area where paint is still wet. As you finish each section, follow after the roller with a single pass of the brush if you want to smooth the roller texture or to get rid of drips. But don’t tidy up more in areas where the paint looks thin or rough. Wait for the paint to dry, then touch it up or apply a second coat.
Between coats of the same paint, you can save time and clean up mess by wrapping each tool — and even the paint tray — tightly in plastic bags or plastic wrap so paint doesn’t dry on them.