Learn how to paint a front door 2 ways and repair rotted areas. It’s an easy DIY project that will totally transform your entry and up your curb appeal.
What is it with front door colors in the South?
When we moved to Georgia, we noticed a ton of black doors.
It seemed like every brick house had one.
Now, to me, all those black doors looked classic and stately – a little same-same after a while, maybe – but handsome nonetheless. I don’t remember seeing so many up North, so I found them to be an interesting change. Digging into the significance of a front door’s color, I learned that a black front door brings elegance and calmness to a home and serves as a protective barrier.
All good stuff, right?
Well, not to my babes.
She’s got a superstition against black doors. She heard something bad about them from a friend long ago and it stuck with her. Something about it bringing bad luck and sickness to a home or some such.
Not good stuff.
So one of the first things I had to change in Georgia was the black door color. Of course, I also had to repair a bunch of rotted wood, and I’ll get to both in a moment.
Then, when we moved to Florida, we started to notice a lot of brown doors. Now brown doors mean something different entirely.
Take, for example, our brown door.
According to those who know such things, a dark brown door like that means there are some very private and introverted people living inside.
Ummm…have you met us??
Besides the clearly wrong message our front door was sending, it just didn’t look good. The house has too much red going on already anyway – red brick, red roof, red mulch, red landscape rocks. A brown door on all that red just wasn’t cutting it.
So we decided to paint it with the same color we used in Georgia – Stardew by Sherwin-Williams. I’ll show you how I sprayed the Florida front door, and then we’ll take a look back at the Georgia door, which I rolled.
How to Paint a Front Door
Method 1 – Painting a front door with a Paint Sprayer
On the plus side, this brown door was in terrific shape, so I didn’t have to make any major repairs before painting.
Since we no longer wanted the door knocker nor the little plaque hanging above, I removed those and filled the holes with wood filler.
When the wood filler had hardened, I removed the door and brought it around to the garage so I could work on it. Since this house doesn’t have a storm door, I covered the door-hole to keep the heat, bugs, snakes, frogs and whatever else slithers, crawls, hops, jumps and flies out of the house.
I sanded down the wood filler and then lightly sanded the entire door with 220 grit. Since it had been painted multiple times in the past with latex paint, I only wanted to scuff the latex. If you sand latex too much, it’ll start to peel, but because it’s basically rubber, you’ll end up in a losing game of sand-the-rubber. Just a scuff is more than enough!
When we moved to Freeport, my babes bought me one of the most useful tools ever to help with door, window and plywood painting. These Stack Racks make painting two sides of multiple doors a breeze. Though I wasn’t painting multiple doors, they still made tackling both sides of our front door so much easier!
Instead of using a foam roller, I used my new paint sprayer for this door, and let me tell you right now, I will never use anything else to paint a door ever again!
Spraying instead of brushing or rolling gives an unparalleled finish. I can’t believe I’ve been using rollers for so long when a much better alternative was right at my fingertips!
Okay, so we’ve had a Wagner sprayer for years, and it’s good, don’t get me wrong. But we recently upgraded to a Fuji Spray Semi-Pro 2 paint sprayer, and holy guacamole – it is a revelation! Yes, it is pricier than the Wagner, but if you’re faced with a kitchen full of cabinets to paint or any other large painting project, it is a worthwhile investment. It is so easy to use that it will allow you to do yourself what you may have otherwise hired pros to do. I still have a lot of interior walls to paint, and I’m planning on tackling them with my Fuji Spray. I’ll write about that when it happens.
For both the paint and primer for this project, I switched to Sherwin-Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel.
This is a fundamentally different type of paint and primer than latex. It does not dry to a rubbery finish. It is an ultra-durable paint that is perfect not only for trim and cabinets, but for doors, too.
After thinning the primer with water, I sprayed a couple of light coats. As with all primer, I wasn’t trying to turn the door white. I was just giving something more for the paint to bite onto.
When the primer had dried, I painted the door with the same color we used in Georgia, Sherwin-Williams Stardew. We only had it for two years (not even) in Georgia, so we weren’t nearly sick of it yet! 🙂
The color above looks a little weird because I’m under a red umbrella, and it’s giving a red cast to everything around it.
Look how beautiful the paint lays on the door – no brush or roller marks in sight and no drips.
After several light coats of Stardew, I reinstalled our front door.
Bonus: painting the side panels
We decided white would be a better choice for the side panels than blue. To make the job easier, I used the same trick I used when painting our French doors in Connecticut.
This trick makes painting around glass panels a breeze.
If you’d like to learn more about how to paint French doors the easy way (or any glass-paneled door, window or side panel), check out the post below.
This Fuji Spray paint sprayer is so precise, I only needed minimal masking to paint the side panels. One of the great benefits of a higher-end paint sprayer is a more precise spray pattern with minimal overspray.
Method 2 – Painting a front door with a roller
Our Georgia door looked like this when we moved in.
Besides being the wrong color, this wooden door was rotting away along the bottom edge. Before I could paint it, I had to fix it.
With Handan’s help, I removed the door from its hinges, and we carried it outside and set it up on sawhorses. Some people like to paint doors where they hang. I even used to do it. But they’re so much easier to work on when they’re lying flat than standing up, so these days, I always take them off the hinges, even if I’m just painting and not repairing.
I removed the old door sweep. The wretched thing had been worn down to the nub over the years.
Go ahead and feast your eyes on those nearly-bald legs, madam. Some women struggle their whole lives with razors and waxes and never have legs as smooth and silky as mine.
Genetics, ladies. I hit the jackpot when it comes to premature balding of the legs. And if you think mine are smooth, you should see my dad’s. He’s the envy of the blue-haired set in Connecticut.
Okay, okay, eyes up here, madam. There’s rotten wood that needs fixing!
How to repair rotted wood on a door
Normally, this would be a job for a rotted wood restorer, but as I did this repair shortly after moving in, and I didn’t have my shop fully set up, I just used what I had on hand, and that was CA (super) glue. Lots and lots of CA glue. I buy it in big bottles – it’s much cheaper that way. I also use an instant hardener – absolutely fantastic stuff. Creates a powerful exothermic reaction that gets so hot it smokes. Just don’t get the glue and the hardener on your skin. It burns like hell, and you get to watch your skin smolder.
Ask me how I know.
Anyway, CA glue and insta-set works wonders on rotten wood.
I just flooded the whole area. Note that I’m using the thinnest CA glue, so it really penetrates into the rotten areas.
Once I had it good and soaked with CA glue, I poured in some hardener.
That white stuff is boiled and hardened CA glue that has reacted with the hardener. The rest of that wood is now hard as a rock.
I sanded the excess CA glue in preparation for the wood filler.
Bondo is a two part filler that uses a red cream as a catalyst.
I mixed it up quick and set to work. Bondo sets fast – you only have at most a few minutes to work with it before it begins to harden.
Artistry was not an option. I just gooped it on and spread it around.
I let it harden for about 30 minutes. I could see that it would need a second coat in one spot.
I used my detail sander to remove the excess before the second coat.
Then I mixed up another small batch and spread it on to fill the remaining gap.
Thirty minutes later, I sanded it again until the filler was flush with the rest of the door.
With the rotten wood fixed and filled, I moved the sander to the rest of the door. Scuffing up the black paint would help the new paint adhere better. I think I was using 100 grit sandpaper for this, but anything would be fine from 60-220 grit.
After running the sander over all the flat areas (I quickly hand-sanded the recessed parts), I cleaned the whole door with Krud Kutter Gloss-Off. I like to use this stuff whenever I can when painting over an existing glossy surface. It does a great job of removing shine by creating tiny etches all over the finish when applied.
Method 2 – Painting a front door with a roller
Even though many paints come as paint-and-primer-in-one these days, it’s a good idea to use a dedicated primer for something as high-use and exposed as a front door. If you want the best adhesion, you can splurge for Zinsser BIN, a shellac-based primer. I didn’t have any in the basement, but I did have Zinsser 123, so I settled for that. With the sanding and deglossing prep I did, it would be more than adequate for the job.
You don’t need a thick coat of primer – just enough to cover the surface a bit to improve adhesion. In other words, you don’t need this much:
Hey, what can I say? I got a little excited, okay?
Anyway, with the repaired area primed to the bejeezus, I dialed it back for the rest of the door.
When the primer was dry, I started painting. The key here (as with all painting) is multiple thin coats. I put a total of 4 thin coats of paint on this front door.
Painting doors is a breeze with foam rollers, and they leave the smoothest finish outside of spraying.
For the recessed parts, I used the tip of the roller.
I didn’t worry about getting full coverage on the first coat. Thin coats, little bit at a time, build it up slowly.
It’s torture for me to paint like this. I grew up in the school of “one coat, thick as hell.” But trust me, it’s worth it if you want a paint job that will last!
When the final coat was dry to the touch, we moved the door inside to dry further in the air-conditioned house. You may have heard that it gets a tad hot and humid here in the summer, and that can make outdoor painting a maddening endeavor.
But, hey! Look at that repair job! You’d never guess that wood was rotten and falling off.
Okay, so normally in this situation, I’d just go out and buy new hinges in oil-rubbed bronze like I did when painting our interior handles. But these hinges are some wackadoodle hybrid of square and rounded corners the likes of which I couldn’t find in any store.
After a fruitless search, I gave up and decided to paint them.
But this is the only picture I took. 🙁
Just before reinstalling the hinges, I added a new door sweep.
With Baris and Handan’s help, I re-installed the door, and then I re-installed the knob and deadbolt.
Okay, so if you’ve read our Easy DIY Fall Wreath post, you’ve already seen the newly-painted front door in action. Here are some more pics.
Stardew is a beautiful color – especially on our front door! It complements the brick perfectly.