5 Easy Steps to Paint an Exterior Door

Take a look at this house. What do you notice right away? Don’t say the dead grass in the front lawn…that’s still a work in progress 😉 What I see right away is a white door on a yellow house. Yuck! Okay, I know what you’re thinking…“That door would look so much better painted red!” Wow, I thought the same thing so I did it and wrote a tutorial for you in case you want to paint your front door as well!


What you’ll need:

  • Dish soap, warm water and a sponge
  • Painter’s tape
  • Indoor/Outdoor primer
  • Exterior latex paint
  • Sandpaper
  • A screwdriver to remove door hardware
  • A foam brush and a foam roller
  • A razor blade


You need to start with a clean door so the paint will stick correctly. If the door has oil, grease, grime, or even bugs stuck all over it (ours did), the paint will either not stick to the door or it will look sloppy. I used dish soap, warm water and a sponge. Nothing fancy.

Sand down any bumps on your door to get a smooth finish. Our door had sticky stuff from a wreath hanger on it so I had to scrape it off and sand the uneven spots.


It is not necessary to remove the door from the hinges. I used a foam roller and foam brush rather than a paint brush and found that there were hardly any drips.

Make sure you remove the doorknob, the deadbolt, and anything else that may get in your way of painting. The hardware is easy to remove so don’t try to tape it off and paint around it. You’ll inevitably get paint on it.

As you can see in the picture below, I taped off the window panels. I did this by making the strips of tape longer than needed and then used a razor blade to cut it to the exact length once it was on the door. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have taped it. When I removed the tape, it took some of the paint off with it and it didn’t look right. I had to re-paint the inside pieces of the window panels. There are many opinions on the internet about whether you should tape off the window panels or just paint them and scrape off the excess paint on the glass with a razor blade. Having done both in this situation, I would recommend not taping the glass and simply scraping off the excess paint once the paint has fully dried.

Make sure you tape the weather strip on the bottom of your door. This strip is not meant to be painted and will flake and crack over time if you apply paint to it. Additionally, you’ll want to tape off the strip on the inside of your door (where your dead bolt slides out) and on the side of your door where the hinges are. It’ll help keep everything looking neat and clean (see picture in the bottom center below). Don’t forget to put a drop-cloth under the door just in case you drip paint! You can see mine in the photo on the bottom left.


It doesn’t matter if your door was white to begin with…you should still prime it! Make sure you buy a priming paint that is safe for EXTERIOR use. The primer creates a rough, sticky surface for the exterior paint to adhere to. Our door is a fiberglass door but you can use primer on pretty much any surface. Be sure to apply the primer using the exact same method I outline below for applying the paint. Wait an hour for the primer to dry completely. Once you’re sure it’s dry, you can go ahead and put on your first coat of paint! WOOHOO!



I chose the color “Positive Red” by Sherwin Williams. Their Emerald line of paint is considered top of the line for exterior use but they do not sell it in quart size. Therefore, I bought the next best choice which was their Resilience exterior paint. One quart was plenty for three coats on my door. In my opinion, a semi-gloss or even a gloss finish will look the best. It’ll hide imperfections and fingerprints much better than a flat or satin finish will. With that said, I did my door in a satin finish. Do as I say, not as I do.

I  recommend using a 4″ foam roller and a foam brush (available in a pack of 10 for $1 at the Dollar Store). It’s important to apply the paint with a foam brush/roller because a paint brush will leave brush strokes all over your door and if you’re like me, that would drive you INSANE.

There is a method to painting an exterior door and it really makes a difference. If you don’t follow this method, I guarantee you will be unhappy with how your door looks.

  • Use the foam brush to paint around the four panels FIRST. If your door has a window panel like mine, paint in and around that too.
  • Next, use your foam brush to paint along the left and right strips inside the door (the side of the door where the hinges are and the side of the door where the deadbolt comes out…see photos below). After that, use your foam roller to paint the four rectangles in the middle of the door.


  • Finally, use your foam roller to paint the four horizontal panels of the door and then the two vertical panels. By painting WITH the wood grain (or faux wood grain in my case), you’ll notice the paint job looks much more professional than if you were to paint against the grain.

IMG_8881 (1)

Let it dry for an hour or two and put your hardware back on the door. Call it quits for the day. You’ve done a great job but the night air needs to do the rest! They tell you to wait 24-48 hours in between coats for a reason. It’s important not to rush a job like this. Repeat step four if additional coats are needed.


The most tragic thing you could do is paint your door and be done with it. You just did so much work! Don’t you want people to see it!? Call attention to it with some flare! A few inexpensive tricks can make a huge difference. Add a kick plate, change out the hardware, and throw a decoration on there for less than $100.

Front doors take a beating. Add a kick plate for protection. Plus, it adds SO much charm! Black kick plates will cost you $50 or more so I bought a cheap aluminum kick plate on Amazon and spray painted it flat black with Krylon Exterior Spray Paint in Flat Black to match the new door hardware I bought. You’d never know the difference.


Speaking of new door hardware, I bought this Valhala set off of Amazon for less than $75 with shipping (it’s $129 at Home Depot). Check out the difference between the old doorknob/deadbolt and the new set!

We bought this star last year on a vacation in the White Mountains so we decided to drill it into the house above the door to add a little charm!


Finally, I needed a decoration for the door. I didn’t want to ruin my new paint job by putting a nail through the door, so I opted for a less damaging solution. I found a red, white, and blue ribbon (it was Fourth of July weekend) at the Dollar Store for, you guessed it, ONE DOLLAR! I tied some black ribbon through the back of the decoration and secured it to the top of my door with a thumbtack.

And there you have it! A simple solution to a dreary white door. Take a look at the before and after photos below and let me know what you think! If you’d like to receive emails automatically each time I post a new blog, feel free to sign up in the “follow” section on the right!

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7 thoughts on “5 Easy Steps to Paint an Exterior Door

  1. Casey says:

    This is awesome! I am getting married in June and me and my fiancé are closing on a house now. The first few things I’m going to do includes painting the shutters and painting the door! I’m so happy I stubbled upon your blog because this really helps!


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