How to Paint a Front Door -

How to Paint a Front Door (& Repair it, Too!)

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Learn how to paint a front door and repair rotted areas. It’s an easy DIY project that will totally transform your entry and up your curb appeal.

How to Paint a Front Door -

One of the things that struck my babes and me when we were touring around the suburbs of Atlanta in search of a new home was the surfeit 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 when we chose the house we now call Home, I knew I’d be painting the door PDQ.

Besides, our wood front door was rotting at the bottom, so I’d need to repair that, too.

Remember how it looked?

black front door

And there’s that rotten wood. Our guess is that they attached the storm door years after the house was built, but by that time, the elements had done their damage.

rotten wood on a front door

Overall, the entry needed a lot of work, but step one was to paint that door.

If you recall from our Short Term Goals post, our other plans for the entry area included getting rid of those ridiculously overgrown hedges and replacing that single lantern with two.

black front door and entryway

We went out to Lowes and got a bunch of Sherwin Williams paint chips. We wanted something lighter and more colorful, but not too colorful – something that would play well with the washed-out brick color.

I’m always partial to blue, so I focused my energy on those hues. As luck would have it, both Handan and I landed on the same color – Stardew – a soft blue that by total coincidence is a near-perfect match for the color of our kitchen island.

And according to the wizards who run the internet, blue means calmness and trust, so trust me – it’s a fantastic color!

Though our front door is now protected by the storm door, we chose an exterior paint. Not only are exterior paints more resilient to rain and snow, but they hold up better to the sun’s bleaching rays. Fortunately, I’m told it doesn’t snow much here, so our door has that going for it. It it does start snowing here, I’m packing up and heading to south Georgia. I’ve had enough snow for one lifetime, thank you!

Since we now live in an HOA, even something as innocent and simple as painting our door must be approved by The Council of Supreme Elders Architectural Committee. I’m not a rules-y kinda guy, but I’m learning to live within the confines of our HOA. I think as long as we don’t start sticking pink flamingos in our front lawn, we’ll probably be okay.

I’ve even managed to flop around our front yard shirtless while toiling away under the hot Georgia sun on a few occasions without attracting a noteworthy police response, so I think we’ll be okay!

Anyway, before I could paint our front door, I had to repair it, and in order to do that, I needed to take it off of its hinges.


How to Paint a Front Door (and do some other stuff to it, too!)

How to Paint a Front Door -


Before removing the door from its hinges, I first removed the knob and deadbolt. I had installed the knob and deadbolt seen in all of these pictures immediately after moving in. We’ve become converts to the Smart Locks of the Future.

Well, present, I suppose.

But anyway, with a pudding brain like the one that sloshes around in the balding watermelon I call a head, I need all the help I can get when it comes to keeping the house secure. I have all of our exterior locks integrated with The Cloud, so I can check the doors from anywhere in the world – as long as I have my phone and an internet connection. Better yet, I can lock and unlock them from anywhere in the world. If anyone would like to donate a trip to Bora Bora, I’d be more than happy to show you how I can lock my doors from anywhere in the world.

Any takers?

Huh. Sure are a lot of crickets around here!

Anyway, it comes in real handy when you leave the house and realize some time later that you forgot to lock the front door.

Or so I’ve heard.

Of course, I’d never forget! ๐Ÿ™‚

removing doorknob before painting

Then 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.

pulling the weather strip off a front door

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!

rotten wood on a front 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.

pouring ca glue into rotten wood

Once I had it good and soaked with CA glue, I poured in some hardener.

hardening rotten wood with ca glue

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.

fixing rotten wood with ca glue

I sanded the excess CA glue in preparation for the wood filler.

fixing rotten wood with ca glue

Ahhh, Bondo – my favorite wood filler. This is the 70s muscle car of wood fillers. Other wood fillers perform like Yugos in comparison.

bondo wood filler on a door to be fixed

Bondo is a two part filler that uses a red cream as a catalyst.

mixing bondo wood filler

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.

mixing bondo wood filler

Artistry was not an option. I just gooped it on and spread it around.

sprading bondo wood filler on rotten wood of a door

Good enough!

sprading bondo wood filler on rotten wood of a door

I let it harden for about 30 minutes. I could see that it would need a second coat in one spot.

sprading bondo wood filler on rotten wood of a door

I used my detail sander to remove the excess before the second coat.

using bondo to fix rotten wood

Then I mixed up another small batch and spread it on to fill the remaining gap.

using bondo to fix rotten wood
using bondo to fix rotten wood

Thirty minutes later, I sanded it again until the filler was flush with the rest of the door.

fixing a patch of rotten wood in a front 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 60-150 grit.

sanding a front door before priming and painting

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.

calaning a front door before painting

Okay, we’re finally at the “how to paint a front door” part. That didn’t take too long, did it?

(Don’t answer that.)

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:

priming a front door before painting

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.

priming a front door before painting

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 a 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.

painting a front door
painting a front door

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!

painting a front door

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.

painted front door

But, hey! Look at that repair job! You’d never guess that wood was rotten and falling off.

painted front door

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.

A little sanding, a little Zinsser BIN spray and then a few coats of Rustoleum ORB, and they were ready to rock.

But this is the only picture I took. ๐Ÿ™

door hinges

Just before reinstalling the hinges, I added a new door sweep.

installing a door sweep to a newly painted front door

With Baris and Handan’s help, I re-installed the door, and then I re-installed the knob and deadbolt.

Now I can once again lock the door from anywhere…including here:

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, and in them you’ll notice a few other changes.

How to Paint a Front Door -

Yep, the Hedge from Hell has been banished to the underworld.

We removed the old single lantern and installed two new ones. I covered the old lantern’s junction box with a piece of cedar I cut and stained, and then I mounted a flagpole on it.

How to Paint a Front Door -

Stardew is a beautiful color – especially on our front door! It complements the brick perfectly.

How to Paint a Front Door -

We love having the storm door there – it lets tons of light in, and the dogs like to sit inside and watch all the action in the neighborhood. The only downside is taking pictures of our front door through it! So to better show the door in all its painted glory, I did a little Photoshop magic to remove the storm door from the following photograph.

How to Paint a Front Door -

As much as I’d love to have that look all the time, we’d need to do a lot of repair work if we removed the storm door. Whoever installed it….oh, don’t get me started – you know the deal with these contractors! Besides, the storm door keeps our newly-painted door nice and dry, so we won’t end up with more rot!

How to Paint a Front Door -

For those following along, here’s how we stand with the short-term project list.

The Navage Patch Short Term Goals 2020 Checklist

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  1. Your entry way is so welcoming and 1000X better than it was. That paint color is gorgeous. The symmetry is so nice. The flag(s) look great. You have really been busy , getting so much accomplished on that list.

    1. Thank you, Carla! It’s been the busiest summer I can recall, lol! We love the way everything is coming together around here, and now that some of the major projects are completed (or close), we finally have time for crafts again! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Looks great!! I actually laughed out loud at โ€œpudding brain in a watermelon skull!โ€ The idea of the flag mounting on top of the junction box was genius!! It looks so classic!! And gives an element of elegance to the home!!

  3. This post is very helpful! We bought a 20 year old house last fall that has quite a bit of rotten wood. The details of filling in the door that you shared will translate well to some rotting window sills and other wood pieces we have. We are in a mountain community (in north Georgia) in a frame home with lots of shade, and all the humidity and rain has done some damage over the years.
    I enjoy your dry humor – it keeps me coming back!

    1. Hi Kim, I’m happy to hear you found this post helpful! Minwax also makes a wood hardener that you can find at Home Depot. And like I said, CA glue works just as well (especially for smaller areas)! Good luck with your projects. I expect I’ll be dealing with more rotten wood in the future, too. This climate is sure conducive for it!

  4. The new colour is definitely much better, it looks great with the bricks. And thank you for showing how you repair rotten wood. I thought that it would have to be replaced with new wood, never heard of fixing it with glue, so thank you for the useful information!

    Did you paint just the front side of the door? What if you have to paint the both sides and the door is horizontal? Would you paint a layer, then turn the door and paint the other side, then a second layer, turn the door, etc? Or would you paint all the layers on one side, then turn the door and paint the other side? I have to paint a lot of internal doors soon.

    1. Thank you, Valentina! Good question! Painting both sides takes a bit more time. I like to finish one side first and let it cure overnight. I then put soft towels or rags on the sawhorses to protect the new paint. Like you, I too have started painting all of our interior doors. I started this way – using sawhorses – and then I got fed up with it. I have a much easier method now, but it involves a paint sprayer. I’ll be sharing that post at some point in the near future.

  5. My wish has been granted. That one light placed on the brick was upsetting my sense of balance and perfect placement. I mean, who places a light away from the door. So, with the removal of the gargantuan shrubs (that only looked good at Halloween), the PERFECT placement of the new light fixtures and the lovely door color, I am once again experiencing the lovely calm of perfection. Okay, so that’s a little overboard but it really is beautiful. Great job, Greg!

  6. Nice! Looks so much better, especially with that overgrown hell hedge gone. I prefer the blue over black too, it makes yours stand out against a sea of sameness.

  7. You guys are amazing. Such vision. I love what you are doing with the house. Thank you for the blog, tips, and letting us enjoy your journey. You guys need to have a DIY show.
    If I may ask, where did you find the two tall black planters on the front porch? I have been looking for those exact planters since I saw them at Sam’s Club a year ago.

  8. Well my Southern Yankee friend, as always job well done.
    I hope you kept some of those winter clothes you will need them. I still after 23 years in the South get a kick out of the snow flurry panic. School will close the day before just because it might snow. Bread and milk will disappear off the grocery shelves. And I know it’s because they don’t have the snow removal equipment here, that we Yankees are used to, but it’s still good for a chuckle now and then.
    Oh and red doors are supposed to be good luck, in case you need to paint your back door. And hey we all need a little good luck coming in through the back door once in a while. Keeps our bases covered I figure. Can’t wait for the next post.

    1. Thank you so much, Melita! I’m looking forward to winter – I have a feeling it’s going to be right up my alley down here – cool but not much snow!

  9. Looks great!!! I much prefer the blue door to the black door! Black would get so hot if you needed to shove it open with a bare arm because your hands were full! Where is the picture of the front of the house without the nasty bushes? I can tell they are gone but what does it look like??!!

    1. I wish it would chase away the haint that’s stuck in the big window above the door! Unfortunately, that particular vapor-spirit is going to cost >$5000 to chase off!

  10. You sure are knocking off items on your list! Love the door color, too. Good to know how to fix rotten wood. I should not be trusted with Crazy Glue, though. I have learned the hard way that I do better with Super Glue Gel as it moves slower than I do and I can usually outrun it! It doesn’t run so I can reposition things a bit, also. Looking forward to seeing your house “done up” for Halloween!

    1. We’re busy as beavers around here, Kathy – the neighbors must think we’re nuts! We’re looking forward to Halloween, too! Just hope the kids can come around this year!

  11. The door looks great! And, inspiring… my black front door has had marks from old sticky tape for years. But…how long did you have the door off the hinges? I’d be nervous about only having my storm door there over night.
    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Alison, we only had it off for that one day. I started in the morning and had it back on in the afternoon. It’s definitely something you want to start in the morning so you have enough time to finish!

  12. Awww maaaann! Why didnโ€™t you tell me about that rotten wood hardening miracle stuff BEFORE I gave away that really cool rocker?? Sigh!
    OK, so you mention two ways to do it… the Bondo hardening product you paint on (Iโ€™ve been reading up on it now for the next cool but rotten item) and the CA glue chemistry experiment. If you had your choice of the two, which is better / easier / stronger? Thanks for all your expertise & insights!
    Love that door & how itโ€™s all shaping up. As usual, the Navages will soon be the envy of the neighborhood!

    1. Hi Julie, okay before this door, it’s been a long time since I’ve used traditional hardener. Long enough, in fact, that I forgot what I last used it on! I’ve been looking at the price of hardeners vs CA glue & insta-set, how much of each you need, etc. From a cost standpoint, there’s not too much difference. The CA glue route may be a little more expensive, but it has one big advantage: speed. Most hardeners take a few hours to cure. My method is instant. But how long will my fix last? I have no idea. I just made it up on the spot. But since it’s just the corner of a door, and not something structural, I think it will hold up just fine. You could go down a huge rabbit hole with hardeners. Ask the “wood experts,” and they’ll poo poo the products from Bondo, Varathane, Minwax etc as not being strong enough and being manufactured for speed instead of long-term strength. They will tell you that the only way to properly treat rotten wood is with complicated two-part epoxies. But remember, most of us aren’t repairing holes in boats or anything super critical – we just need to harden some soft wood, fill the gap, paint it and get on with life. So all in all I give my vote to CA glue and insta set, because I use that stuff everywhere and on everything, not just rotted wood. Good luck to you!

      1. Excellent advice! Thanks so much for taking the time! Good luck with your next project… looking forward to reading all about your adventures!

  13. The curb appeal looks great! Can’t wait to see the whole front! I have a door bottom that needs attention and your instructions are great. But I’m trying to figure out the purpose of the glue/hardener. Is it to prevent more rot by sealing it? Can bondo be used alone? Or will it not stick to the rotten wood?

    1. Hi Marlene, the Bondo is thick, so it would be sitting on top of soft wood. By hardening the soft wood, it gives a solid foundation for the Bondo.

  14. I would love to see a post about how you re-positioned the wiring for the new sconces. My house is full of awkwardly-placed lights and I am intimidated by the question of how to move the electric source to the more desirable location or locations. How did you run the wire through/past brick and wood trim to get the new lights installed?

    1. Hi Sarah, that was a complicated job, so we hired a professional electrician to do it for us. He had to cut four holes in the interior wall just inside the doorway – 1 at floor level on either side of the door and 1 at lantern level on either side. He then ran wire up from the basement to the floor level holes. from there, he was able to fish the wires up to the lantern level holes. From there, it was easy. As long as there are walls with empty space between them, you can run wiring pretty much anywhere. But with wiring jobs like this one, it’s a good idea to let a pro handle it!

  15. Wowzers! What a difference a paint color makes. It looks so inviting!? Your handy work is on point.??? Just one question. What is going on??Black Galaxy originally on the counters, Blue Volga on the counters (which to me, looks like celestial bodies), Jupiter on the island, and then, Stardew on the front door! Is there a “Universal” theme happening????I know you caught that! Can hardly wait to see more!

    1. LOLOL! I never put all of them together like that! Now that you’ve brought it to our attention, I’m sure I’ll be consciously looking for more galactic-themed products! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Hahahaaaa I’m just browsing and don’t need to paint yet, but sure enjoyed the smooth legs note. I didn’t know men can have hairless legs too!