how to paint a steel front door

three different colors of steel front doors
Tools Needed
1 Screwdriver
2 Painter’s Tape
3 Dish Soap and Water
4 Sponge
5 Paint Stripper
6 Foam Paint Rollers
7 Roller Trays
8 Angled Paint Brush
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Materials Needed
1 Gloves
2 Paint Scraper
3 180 Grit Sandpaper
4 Primer
5 Exterior Paint
6 Paint Stirrer
7 Drop Cloths
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Total Cost
$25-$50
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Estimated Time
2-3 Hours
Skill Level: Beginner
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Project Overview

person painting a door with a paint brush

Whether your exterior door is looking a bit worse for wear or you would simply like to change the color to reflect your style, painting a steel front door is a pretty straightforward process. You just need to make sure to choose a primer and paint that are up to the task, and be willing to commit a bit of time and energy to the project.

All of the tools and supplies required are easily acquired, and some homeowners may have most of what they need on hand. If you want to tackle this project, simply follow the steps below.

Step-By-Step Instructions

1

Remove The Door

variety of front doors

Whether you choose to remove the hardware or use painter’s tape is entirely up to you. If you prefer to have it completely out of the way, then use a screwdriver to detach the door handle, deadbolt, and other items like door knockers.

Otherwise, if you intend to continue using the hardware, carefully cover them with painter’s tape. Make sure that the edge of the painter’s tape doesn’t cover any of the door’s surface. Otherwise, it won’t get painted with the new color.

Typically, it’s easier to paint the door when it is removed from the frame. Open the door and unscrew the hinges using a screwdriver.

Once that is done, take the door and lay it on a flat worktable, with the side that will be painted facing up. If you need to protect the floor below the door from primer or paint, set drop clothes on the floor, making sure they extend about one foot beyond the edges of the door.

2

Prepare the surface

person cleaning a metal front door surface

To determine what steps will be necessary to paint the door, you first need to assess the current condition of the existing paint. Before you paint a steel door, you want to make sure you are working with a smooth surface. Often, the easiest way to take off the paint is to use a chemical paint stripper. Read the directions on the container and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Typically, you’ll need gloves and a paint scraper to handle this step, but the paint stripper label can provide definitive guidance.

If there are any imperfections remaining on the surface, use pieces of 150 or 180 grit sandpaper to smooth the areas. Often, this can be done easily by hand.

Before you paint, you want the front of the steel door to be clean of dust, dirt, and debris. Use a mild cleanser, like a mixture of dish soap and water, and scrub the surface with a sponge. You can also use TSP cleaner if you prefer.

Once the steel door is washed, rinse it thoroughly with water and let the surface dry completely before proceeding.

3

Prime The Door

person priming a steel front door in preparation for painting

If there are any surfaces or edges that will not be painted, you’ll want to use painter’s tape to cover them. This can include the edges around the door as well as windows and certain trim pieces.

Often, it’s smart to prime before you paint, especially if you’ve fully stripped the door or are painting over an existing color. Using a primer helps to ensure you get a final look that closely resembles the paint chip you selected for the final color.

What primer you use will depend on your specific needs. Look for options designed for exterior surfaces. Also, don’t necessarily default to white. Some darker final colors are better served by gray primers while certain paint colors require a specific color of primer to achieve optimal results.

When in doubt, look for primer recommendations from the manufacturer of your chosen paint, using the selected color as a reference point.

In most cases, you’ll only need a single coat of primer. Put some primer in a roller tray and use a paint roller to hit the majority of the flat surface. Then, use the 2-inch angled brush to reach and recesses or angles. Once the service is primed, let it dry for a minimum of 24 hours.

4

Paint the Door

person using a paint roller to paint a door

After the primer is dry, you can paint the door your chosen color. Make sure to use exterior paint, as interior versions won’t stand up to the wear and tear or exposure to the elements as well.

When you open the paint, use a paint stirrer to mix it thoroughly. This helps to make sure the color is evenly distributed.

Use a new roller tray, pouring paint into the recess. Then, with a new roller brush, paint on a light coat of your color on flat surfaces and use a new or clean angled brush for recesses and crevices.

Let the first coat dry completely, then apply a second coat using the same technique and let it dry completely. Make sure to avoid drips and brush marks as you paint. If drips occur, address them quickly to help maintain a smooth finish.

Conclusion

As soon as the paint is dry, you can reinstall the door. Simply use the original hinges and attach it to the door frame. Once in place, test the door to make sure it swings properly, tightening the hinges on the door or jamb if necessary.

The final step is to reinstall the door hardware that was previously removed. Screws will easily penetrate the painted surface, so you can use the original holes.

Now that the door hardware is added back to the door, your project is complete. You can enjoy your newly painted door for years to come.

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