Home Improvement Project August: Front Door Upgrade

Let’s get one thing straight, the house isn’t exactly unattractive. In fact it’s quite cute but one of the things that I theoretically liked but that later caused problems was the front door. It was a cute color:
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But there was one problem. Whomever painted the door last had done it backwards. Let me explain how that could happen. First off, instead of buying a proper color for a front door, they had used an eggshell finish interior grade paint that they had leftover from the master bathroom which had at one point been overwhelmingly barn red. Thankfully before we moved in they had the sense of mind to repaint it, but they had left the closet door in the bathroom the hideous color and since they painted the bathroom themselves you can still see tiny spots of the maroon if you look.

Pro Tip: NEVER use eggshell finish on an exterior door. It lacks protection and scuffs easily.

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Now, how did I know they obviously painted the door backwards? Because for no apparent reason the INTERIOR of the door was finished with a nice high gloss sealer which is totally appropriate for the exterior and useless in the interior if you exterior is eggshell. OOPS.

Pro Tip: When you remove a door from its hinges to paint it properly, always check to make sure you know which side the hinges go on the door so you can properly paint the interior and exterior. This is especially important if you plan to use different colors or finishes on each side.

If this happened to you, or if you just want a fresh new look for your door, here’s how you paint it CORRECTLY to maximize a great finish.

You CAN paint the door while it’s hanging. In this case, I didn’t want to do that because the door had a glossy brown original color, then an eggshell latex that was flaking and awful. I needed to take it off the frame and give it a good sanding. I also live in Texas and it’s late July, so I needed to remove it from the hinges to make sure I was able to paint it in the proper temperature conditions.

Pro Tip: If you paint in over 90 degree temperatures, most paints will develop streaking as the liquid base to the paint bakes off too quickly. Coats are uneven and can even be splotchy. If you need to paint and its above 90, your best choice is to paint the object inside under better temperature conditions.

Step 1: Measure your door, then get an appropriately sized but cheap stand in door. If you have a standard door checking the Materials section of Craigslist in your area is a good start. We ended up going to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and picked up a door the right size for under $10.00.

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Step 2: Take your current door off its hinges. You should be able to use a flat head screwdriver to get the job done. Remember to be ready to catch the door when you pop the last hinge, as it very well may fall over.

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Step 3: Remove your door and replace it with the stand in door. In our case the doors didn’t have matching hinge heights so we taped the stand-in into place with painters tape and then pushed a chair up against it, JIC.

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Step 4: Get the door you want to paint outside and sand it. I used 220 grit sandpaper because if I had used 120, then the entire previous coat would have not just roughed up but ripped off. For one side of the door I used about 2 sheets of 220 paper. Sand carefully to rough up the previous coat and allow the new one to take.

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Step 5: Wipe down your sanded door to remove dust from sanding, dirt, etc. If your door had dings in it, this would be the time to fill them in with putty then sand down the putty so that the dings go away.

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Step 6: Take your door to your painting area and begin painting. If it’s below 90 degrees, feel free to paint outside. Be sure and put a drop cloth wherever you are painting. We painted in the dining room and used a cloth drop cloth on the table and plastic underneath. We used paint rollers to apply our paint, be sure you get high density rollers.

Pro Tip: For an exterior door you most likely want an enamel paint. Finish is up to you, but a gloss finish paint will stand up better to wear and tear. We chose an exterior rated enamel paint with a gloss finish.

We used acrylic based paint because the Home Depot worker grabbed acrylic enamel instead of the oil based enamel I asked for. Even though the worker picked the WRONG paint, Home Depot doesn’t have a return policy for paints. I suggest going to Lowes for paints because they *will* take back Valspar paints. However, I suggest Home Depot’s paint brushes and rollers to Lowes because they have better selection and are much cheaper. Because you’re painting a door you’re going to want a small roller. You will see why in a sec.

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Step 7: Apply 2 coats of paint following the instructions for your particular paint. Different paints have different wait times between coats. Note that an oil enamel will likely have a 24 hour wait time between coats. Acrylic and Latex paints have shorter wait times, generally between 4 and 6 hours.

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Pro Tip: When applying paint with a small roller on a door with recessed panels like mine, first roll the flat raised panel, then work your way around the recess. You will need to apply extra pressure to be sure and get the corners. Work in a radial fashion, meaning perpendicular strokes to the side you are painting. (see pics)

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Step 8: Allow the door to dry the appropriate amount of time.

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Step 9: Remove your stand in door and rehang your improved door.

We used painters tape over the part of our door that touched the weatherstripping as a precaution because there was damage from the weatherstripping on the previous paint job and we were paranoid. After leaving the painters tape on for two days, we had no marring near the weatherstripping and it has not marred since.

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Now enjoy your fabulous door. We’ve gotten lots of compliments on our new door color. Mainly because I picked TARDIS blue and then had a Dr. Who birthday party where I dressed up the door like the TARDIS. You don’t have to feel obligated to be geeky like me.

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