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How to Paint an Exterior Door

The exterior of our home is one that we should be proud of - it’s the part that everyone sees. A home can look run-down if doors and window frames are left to the elements. You could have the most beautiful home inside, but surely you’d like the exterior to reflect this?

There are many factors to consider when wondering how to paint external doors. Do you have the right paint? How do you prep the door? When’s the best time of day to paint exteriors? 

And, how to paint external wooden doors is another matter entirely.

Can You Paint External Doors?

External doors can be painted. In fact, you can paint every external door type; wood, uPVC, and metal. Although the painting process for each material is different, it can still be done well, without having to pay for a professional service.

External doors are open to the elements. Over time, the weather will cause your door to fade and the paint to flake off. This isn’t down to bad craftsmanship. Over the years, the exterior of your door will become worn by the weather and will require a bit of TLC.

It’s not just the door that needs some attention. You can also paint exterior door frames and hinges. These bits of hardware can be a little finicky, especially when compared to painting your front or back door.

Now, let’s not forget about our door handles. Door handles are long-lasting. It’s very rare that they’ll require a lick of paint - especially as they’re usually uPVC or metal, and don’t have any paint on them to start off with. But, even so, you can paint exterior door handles, too.

When to Paint an Exterior Door

Painting internal doors? No problem. External however… that can be a little trickier. It all depends on the weather. In the UK, that can be a little difficult - who wants to paint a front door in the rain? Although you don’t have to paint a front door while it’s hung, you don’t want rain pouring into your house if you’ve taken the door out of its frame.

In terms of when to paint an external door due to its condition - this largely comes down to personal preference. You will know when your door needs a fresh coat of paint. The old paint may be flaking and the wood may have faded. As soon as your door starts to look a little drab, it’s time to start thinking about painting it.

How often do you paint exterior doors?

Again, this largely comes down to personal preference. As long as the door isn’t damaged or rotting away, you can repaint it as many times as you want.

Exterior doors are kept looking good by general wipes every now and again. But painting them, this probably won’t need to be done for many years. If you’ve just installed a new external door, you won’t need to think about painting it for 10 years. Although, there are many factors that will contribute to the amount of time between painting: the material of your door, how often it’s used, the weather conditions where you live, whether your door is under a porch roof or not. All of these factor into how often you’d need to paint it.

Do you paint an exterior door before or after hanging?

This is a widely discussed topic - some may even say controversial; in the design world at least.

If you already have an external door and you’re wanting to paint a new replacement door, we’d advise that you paint it before hanging. You’ll need to carefully measure up where the hinges and handles are going to be placed first though. As it’s an external door, finding the time to paint it can be tricky - painting it before hanging is a much simpler solution.

If you’re wanting to paint an existing exterior door, most people find it easier to paint the door hung. External doors are heavy and difficult to maneuver. If you have the right weather for it, painting your door already hung would be the easiest solution.

This all comes down to the confidence that you have in your painting skills. If you’re not much of a painter and are worried that you’ll get the paint all over the handle and hinges, it’s probably a good idea to take the door down. Or, paint the exterior door before installation.

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What Paint to Use for Exterior Doors

You need to choose specialist paint for your exterior door. The paint must be water-based acrylic, latex or alkyd-based oil paint. For protection against the weather, oil paints are best. For quickness, water-based paints dry a lot faster.

The paint that you choose needs to be specifically for external hardware and must be the same as what is already on your door. If the old paint is currently water-based, you can’t go over it with oil paint.

The best paint for exterior doors is to use an oil-based primer with latex paint.

How to Paint External Doors

So, we want to paint an external door. Where do we start?

Firstly, with the weather.

If you’re in the UK, the best time of year is late spring. If you’re painting your door outside, there needs to be no rain and wind. And, it needs to be relatively warm. If it’s too cold, the paint won’t dry. Another factor: you shouldn’t paint in direct sunlight. The sun can make the paint dry too quickly and you’ll be left with streaks.

For inside painting, as long as it’s warm and dry, you can paint your door whenever you like - just ensure that it’s fully dry before reinstalling.

Begin by deciding whether you’re painting the door hung or not. If not, remove the door from the frame and lay flat. You’ll also need to remove any hinges and handles that may get in the way. If you’re going to paint your door hung, use tape around the hinges and handles to prevent painting those as well (unless you want to, of course).

If there’s a bit of damage to your external door, fill the holes with bondo or wood filler. Before carrying on further, wait for the filler to dry.

For painting external wooden doors, remove the top surface of the door with sandpaper. Give the door a wipe down to remove any dust left over.

If your front door has windows, use newspaper to cover the glass to prevent any paint splashes. You can stick the newspaper to the door with tape.

You then need to prime and paint your door. For the primer, go for a neutral colour. This won’t impact the colour of the paint that you’ve chosen.

Painting an exterior door: brush or roller?

If your door has panels, use a brush to paint the crevices first. A roller is too big and bulky to get into these small spaces.

A paintbrush doesn’t absorb the paint, so you may find that paint will run down the door. So, for the rest of the door, you’ll use a roller. Cover the entire door with paint as well as going over any areas where the paint is dripping.

For painting with a roller, run the roller in the paint, and then use the textured side of the tray to remove any excess - this prevents over-painting the door and removes the chances of the paint running.

Wait for the paint to completely dry before turning the door over to do the other side. When done, remove the newspaper from the glass and hang the door back up.

Painting exterior doors is a long process. But, it’s one that ought to be done. It improves your kerb appeal, while maintaining the longevity of your door. External doors are expensive. By spending time painting and treating your door, you’re giving it a much longer lifespan.

If you’re planning on removing your door before painting, our guide about how to fit an external door, may be of interest.

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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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