how to paint exterior door trim

how to paint exterior door trim
Tools Needed
1 Tarp
2 Sandpaper
3 Paint can opener
4 Painter tape
5 Paint stir stick
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Materials Needed
1 Ladder
2 Paint tray or bucket
3 Putty knife
4 2-inch paintbrush
Total Cost
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Estimated Time
2-3 Hours
Skill Level: Beginner
The total cost and duration may vary when hiring a handyman!

Project Overview

exterior door trim

Door trims usually surround your exterior and interior doors and openings to entryways or hallways. When you prepare your exterior door trim for paint, ensure that you have gathered all of the supplies or tools and readied them before painting. Although painting a door trim will not consume a lot of time, it often requires plenty of tedious preparation that relies heavily on the condition of the door trim; it will help ensure your paint job looks great. Follow the steps outlined below to ensure your trim looks smooth, fresh and crisp and you get professional results.

Step-By-Step Instructions


Clean The Trim

painting of an exterior door trim

Arrange two scrub sponges and two buckets (you may use a Scotch-Brite scrub). Keep one for washing solution and the other for clear water rinsing. Avoid washing the trim with a cloth or rag, because it might dull a lustrous surface or shine a flat one. The objective is to get rid of the grime and prevent you from pushing it into the wooden surface during sanding.

You should clean only a single section at a given time; this will ensure the wood will not dry before rinsing off the cleaner. To rinse properly, dip your sponge in clean water then wring it, wiping the wooden surface clean in a single pass. When you start washing a new area, begin within the clean region to avoid the risk of streaking.


Prime The Trim

exterior door trim colors

Try a heavy-duty cleaner on stubborn stains, or you can cover them using a stain-blocking primer. In case marker or ink stains resist initial cleaning, try to remove them using a special cleaner like Goof Off. Or, they will bleed through your new paint. Sand all the woodwork till it becomes smooth; use a180-grit sandpaper to remove all the shine. Do not use coarser-grit papers as they may remove more than required. If the exterior layer of paint is gummy, smooth it with self-lubricating or clog-resistant sandpapers (like SandBlaster paper by 3M). It uses an anti-load coating that prevents the sandpaper from clogging.

To figure out if the new coat of paint will hold well, scribe an “A” gently in the paint layer using a sharp razor blade. Firmly cover the mark with a duct tape then yank it swiftly. If the paint sticks to the duct tape, it is unsound, and you must remove it immediately. Using a 2-inch carbide-blade scraper, eliminate all areas that have hardened grime, chipped paint, flaking and thick globs of paint. Buy a scraper that nicely fits in your hand and has replaceable carbide blades. Pulling your scraper toward the wood grain, use elbow grease and finesse to rake the paint but avoid gouging the wood. Keep scraping until you get crisp (not sharp), nice edges in the wood and the remaining paint will not budge.


Paint The Trim

person painting an exterior door trim

When you finish scraping and sanding step, use an old paintbrush to dust off all the areas then vacuum the woodwork using a brush attachment. Scrape tight and small areas with a 1-1/2 inch putty knife. With a pushing motion, go under the surface of the paint and work from areas of loose paint to areas where the paint tightly adheres, which will help bevel the remaining layers of paint and make a good transition between undamaged and damaged areas. It will also renew the details in the woodwork.

Position a light source, like a hand-held bulb, that shines across the wooden surface to check for loose paint, blemishes and rough edges on the wood surface to see what you need to fill. Using a pencil, lightly circle or mark the spots that require work. Fix depressions, cracks and other defects before painting. If you fill holes with several layers or a heavy coat of paint, initially they may look nice. However, the results will not last long. When the paint dries, the filled areas will usually reopen. It is ideal to fill all holes, chips, and cracks with a spackling compound. Use one that dries quickly and does not shrink.

Apply a little more filler than required to every hole using a putty knife, then smooth it by gently pressing down. Then use a wide putty knife to feather out and spread the filler, keeping sanding to a bare minimum. With a two-part filler fix all the damaged corners. Wood fillers such as Minwax or Bondo are ideal as they will not shrink, are tough and stick well. Open the canister of paint, using a paint-mixing stick, thoroughly stir the paint and mix it as per the directions on the canister. Pour the paint carefully in a paint bucket or tray. Run the brush firmly along the edges of the door trim that touch the wall.  Start from the top and slowly work downwards. Paint the side edges of your door trim first and then paint the front part of your trim.


Once you finish painting the exterior door trim, allow it to dry completely.  Then wipe down the trim using a damp cloth if you have used water-based paint and a tack cloth in case you have used oil-based paint.

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