How to Paint a Front Door—and Elevate Your Home's Curb Appeal

Your front door sets the mood for visitors. Freshen up your entry to help your home make a great first impression.

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painted blue front door
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Learning how to paint your front door might just be the quickest bang-for-your-buck project to boost your home's curb appeal. Plus, you can easily knock out this job in a day or two. Not sure where to begin? Our paint experts helped us put together this step-by-step guide to learn how to paint your front door like a pro.

Considerations Before You Get Started

When to Paint a Front Door

Generally speaking, it's best to paint your front door on a day with nice weather during the spring or fall. Depending on where you live, summer may be too hot and winter can get too cold. All primer, paint, and sealant labels have detailed instructions regarding temperature limitations, so refer to those guidelines and then check the weather to make sure you're good to go.

In addition to avoiding extreme temperatures, paint your front door when it's dry and there's no chance of rain or snow. If unexpected precipitation interrupts your project, shield your freshly painted door with painter's plastic or a tarp.

What Kind of Paint to Use

Because your door is exposed to the elements, choose a high-quality exterior paint that can withstand moisture and fluctuating temperatures. Interior paint will chip and crack if painted on an exterior door.

"You want to use a high-quality exterior paint in a satin finish," says painting professional Colin Nellis, owner of Cincinnati's Five Star Painting. "The quality will allow for less fading, and the satin will allow for more washability and protection in a high-traffic area."

Alternatively, you can opt for a semi-gloss or high-gloss finish for that bold, shiny look, but keep in mind that this finish may require more upkeep over the years.

What Color to Choose

Picking the right paint color for your front door can completely change the look of your home. A bright paint color can make the whole front of your home pop, while a darker shade can help the exterior feel elegant and sophisticated. Whether you embrace a vibrant high-contrast hue, one that syncs with the front of your house, or your favorite color since childhood, this is your opportunity to make your home reflect your personal style.

What You Need:

  • Screwdriver
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Sandpaper (120 grit)
  • Tack cloth (available at hardware stores)
  • Drop cloth
  • Painter's tape
  • Primer
  • Exterior paint
  • 2.5- or 3-inch angled paintbrush
  • 4-inch high-density paint roller

How to Paint a Front Door

With painting supplies ready to go, it's time to dive into the process. Follow this step-by-step guide for how to paint a front door and you'll be golden.

Step 1: Remove the Handle and Hardware

This step is technically optional, but removing the hardware makes your job easier and helps the end results look more professional. Simply remove the door handle and lock, and place the pieces in a plastic bag for safekeeping. Alternatively, wrap the hardware in painter's tape.

It's also a good idea to remove the door completely, if you can. Have a helper hold the door while you unscrew the hinges, and then set the door on a sturdy sawhorse while you prep, sand, and paint the door. This helps prevent drips and allows you to work in a covered yet well-ventilated area, like a carport or garage, so debris won't fall onto the wet paint.

Step 2: Wash and Dry

"Standard prep for painting a front door is pretty straightforward," Nellis insists. "You want the surface to be clean, dry, and dull. We start by hand-washing the door with warm water until it's clean, and then wipe it dry."

All it takes is a bucket of soapy water and a clean cloth to get the job done. For tougher areas, use a scrubber sponge or brush to remove residue. Let the door dry completely before moving to the next step.

"A good rule of thumb is 24 hours," Nellis says. "That way, you can be sure that you don't trap any moisture in the door, which could create premature failures and bubbling in the future."

Step 3: Sand

If your door is in fine shape, a light sanding will do. "I suggest using a 120-grit sandpaper and gently sanding in the direction of the wood grain," says Siobhan Alvarez, a crafting expert and blogger. "This helps prepare the surface for the new layers of paint and primer."

However, if your door is in very rough shape with peeling paint or deep scratches, you'll need to spend extra time sanding. Begin by removing large chips of paint with a metal putty knife or scraper. Next, use a palm sander starting with a low grit (80), graduating to medium grit (120), and then finishing with a high grit (220).

Finally, use a tack cloth to remove dust and debris without adding moisture. Make sure to completely remove all dust so small particles don't get into the wet paint.

Step 4: Lay Drop Cloth and Apply Painter's Tape

Lay a drop cloth around your door to catch wayward paint drips or spills. Apply painter's tape to protect any decorative details on the door that you don't want painted.

Step 5: Prime

Priming ensures smooth and consistent coverage and proper adhesion. Most high-quality exterior paints allow for application right over a properly prepared and previously painted door. Nevertheless, Nellis says that priming is a good idea if you're painting over a previously unpainted door or applying over an existing dark or vibrant color.

Follow the paint label's instructions about how long to wait for the primer to dry before painting.

Step 6: Paint

With your door fully prepped and ready, now is the fun part: giving your front door two to three fresh coats of exterior paint. This application of several thin coats of paint builds up a protective surface on the door.

"Don't rush it," Nellis suggests. "Plan to apply at least two coats and don't lay it on too thick. A high-quality brush and 4-inch mini roller can go a long way with a little practice." Use an angled paintbrush to paint any molding, panels, or edges on the door, and then follow with the roller to create a smooth finish.

Always follow the dry time indicated on the paint label before applying the next coat of paint, keeping in mind that your dry time can vary based on the humidity level and temperature where you're painting.

"You do not need a topcoat when painting your front door if you use a good-quality exterior paint, as this acts as a sealer against the elements," notes Alvarez. Some topcoats can cause yellowing over time due to exposure to the elements.

Step 7: Clean Up

After applying the last coat of paint, promptly clean your paintbrushes and rollers. Once the door is dry, remove the painter's tape, replace the hardware, and put away the drop cloth. Finally, replace the door if you removed it from its hinges.

Mistakes to Avoid

Learn from other DIYers and dodge the following common pitfalls made when painting a front door:

  • Foregoing the prep work. Poor preparation is the biggest mistake, according to Alvarez. Take your time to thoroughly clean, sand, and apply painter's tape.
  • Painting multiple coats too quickly. Wait for your primer and paint to dry thoroughly before applying additional coats. If you don't, it can affect adhesion and cause uneven streaks.
  • Using subpar products. Always choose the highest quality materials, including paint and paintbrushes, to achieve a professional-looking result.
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