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How To Paint Internal French Doors

As beautiful, unique and appealing as a good set of interior French doors can be, they are, more often than not, sold as plain, meaning bare wood, and nine times out of ten, this simply won't be enough for most homeowners. Some doors might be sold with a factory finish, of course, but this will only be a simple coat of white primer, so a proper coat (or two) will still need to be applied.

Now, we can't all be master painters, but anyone can hold a brush, and whilst it might be tempting to ask a friend or hire a professional to paint your internal French doors for you, consider how simple and relaxing painting can be, and how much money you could save by doing it yourself. There's also the fact that you'll be painting your doors on your own terms, and will be able to add an extra coat every once in a while when you feel the finish is losing its lustre. In terms of the options available, there are, of course, but we're here to guide you through the multitude of paints, finishes, techniques, tools and ideas, which might be flying through your head as you contemplate the blank French doors sitting pretty and ready to be beautified in your home.

Choosing the Paint

When it comes to colour this is very much a matter of taste, though when it comes to interior doors, lighter colours are generally favoured as they help make a room feel more open, warm and lively. Generally speaking, white is a sensible colour, though it might prove a little too plain for some tastes. Grey and light blue colours are also quite popular. The two major types of paint are latex and oil based paint, and we would always recommend latex paint where possible as it lasts longer and is easier to paint over if you have a change of heart somewhere down the line and fancy a change. If you're feeling a little more adventurous, you could even try chalk paint, but it's nowhere near as durable as latex or oil based paints so if you are planning to use your doors a lot or live in a home with small children it's definitely not recommended.

Painting Interior French Doors

First of all, you'll need to make sure you have all the necessary tools at your disposal. Whilst you might be forgiven for thinking all you'd need is a brush, a pair of overalls and the paint itself, remember that most French doors will have glass panels, so it's a more involved process than simply slapping on a coat of paint and going to town. First of all, you'll need various sizes of brushes, as you'll need a larger brush for the wooden panels and a smaller brush for the more intricate parts close to the glass. You might also want to consider a foam roller. You'll also need masking tape to cover the exposed parts of the door you don't want to paint and a craft knife to cut said tape, as well as sandpaper to make sure the wood is soft and level enough for the paint and a dust sheet in order to save your flooring from any drips. Finally. Of course, you'll need the paint itself! And we highly recommend painting your doors before you hang them. For obvious reasons!

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  • First, if the door is not factory finished, gently sand the door until it looks clean and ready for the primer, then use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of the dust. Wipe the door clean with a damp cloth and leave it to dry.

  • Next, use the masking tape to tape off your door hardware (door knobs, hinges and handles etc). You could also use the tape to cover the glass if you don't trust yourself, though you might end up making more work for yourself once the job is finished, as it can be tough to remove. If you do decide to tape the glass, apply it so that is ever-so-slightly overlaps the wood, then cut the tape with your craft knife at the point where the glass and the wood meet. This will give you a far more accurate and close result.

  • If you are using a latex based paint to paint over an existing layer of oil based paint, you'll need to apply a de-glossing agent to prepare the surface for the new coat. You can do this simply with an old damp rag that you won't might chucking out after the deed is done. If you are painting straight onto the wood, skip this step.

  • Use a foam roller or large brush to apply your first layer, painting the bigger panels first. Remember to always follow the grain and not to use too much paint on your brush or roller, as it will clump up and look uneven. Once the larger panels are taken care of, move onto the thinner parts of the panels near the glass using a smaller brush. Finally, if your French doors are fitted with mouldings, fill them in with light strokes. Don't be too eager here!

  • Next, leave your first coat to dry, then repeat the above process after a very light sanding. This should act as the undercoat. The third coat (or topcoat) should be your final coat, unless the paint you are using states otherwise.

  • Once you're satisfied, simply turn the door over and apply the same steps above to the other side.


Spray Painting – It is certainly possible to spray paint French doors, though you would need to use masking tape to completely cover all of the areas you wanted to keep clear, and would definitely need to do your spraying outside! That's just common sense.

Cutting – If you didn't use masking tape to cover your glass and a little of it has managed to find its way onto your panes, you can use a box cutter or utility knife to cut it away once it's dried. This is only recommended, however, if you used latex paint.

Top and Bottom – You don't need to paint the top and bottom of the door as these parts will rarely be visible.

Finishing Internal French Doors Without Paint

Paint isn't the only option for your French doors, especially if they are more ornate doors that you feel would look better left as nature intended. Varnish is always an option is you are fond of the natural wood look, and unlike with external French doors, you won't need to apply any weatherproofing, which many will attest often robs a varnish of its character. When varnishing you can use the guide above, but remember that with many varnishes you'll want to work in a warm room that isn't too hot as if the room is too hot the varnish will dry too quickly and could bubble, and if it dries too slowly there's more chance of dust settling on it. If varnish simply isn't enough, meanwhile, you could use a veneer, oil or wax to bring out the best in your doors natural wooden charm.


As you can see, painting your interior French doors really shouldn't be too much of a chore as long as you are patient, and the best thing about it is that, with latex paint especially, the paint should last for years unless your home suffers from particularly heavy humidity. Hopefully, this guide has helped put any fears you might have about painting your own interior French doors to bed and you're ready to pick up your brushes and get to work!



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If you have a question which isn't covered by one of our handy guides, why not drop us an email and we'll be happy to assist.

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