How To – Care And Painting Of Exterior Front Doors

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    The front door of your home is the place you welcome all of your visitors for this reason you want it to look good, function well and for it to be secure. Part of keeping your exterior doors in their best condition for many years is taking time to repaint the surfaces and take care of the hardware.

    Exterior doors are now usually made with a steel cladding. The steel on the door provides extra security along with providing a material that will not react to harsh conditions of rain, cold and sunlight. They won’t shrink or expand in heat or cold and they won’t rot or get damaged from light bumps. Unfortunately as great as steel is you will eventually need to paint it to make it look good.

    Some exterior doors have a vinyl or fiberglass cladding that represents wood but does not require maintenance.  Doors of this type are fine if they have a steel core for security. Although they do not normally need maintenance it is best if you care for them the same way you would any plastic material that you let outside. Clean it often with mild soap and apply vinyl conditioner the same type used in automotive interiors.

    Another way to protect your investment and give you extra security and function is adding a glass / screen door. This will keep the weather off of your more expensive front door and allow you to answer the front door and still have a barrier between you and the person on the other side.

    Solid or Core Wood Doors may be found on older homes and if they are historic, decorative and in good condition you may want to keep it however they will not provide the same level of security as a steel door. Maintenance of a Wood front door is pretty much like handling the care of any exterior wood item. Expect to paint it often and restore any rot or damage. If you get a crack in the frame or panels of the door then it is time to replace it. Screen doors are a must for solid wood exterior doors or you will find yourself repainting every year.

    What Type Of Paint Do You Use To Paint A Door?

    Since there are three or four different types of material used for exterior doors you will have to select both your primer and paint to match the material.

    Steel Doors

    Starting with Steel doors you can basically use the same type of prep and paint products you would use on your car. If you have small dents you can fill them with Auto Body Filler and then use a primer surfacer to even out the damaged area.

    A primer sealer should be used to prime the door after you have sanded it of all imperfections with a 200 grit sand paper. Final sanding with 400 grit sand paper of the primer before final painting will provide a smooth surface for your top coat.

    The best top coat for a steel door is an enamel based paint. If you want you can go for the best product and purchase a urethane paint with hardener and this will give you 5 to 10 years of protection maybe longer if you have a screen door.

    Enamel and Urethane paints are available at your Automotive Supply Center or Online and although they are primarily metallic paints you can get your supply shop to mix any color by bringing in a sample.

    Fiberglass & Vinyl Doors

    Fiberglass and Vinyl doors can be handled pretty much in the same way as Steel Doors. The best top coat will be an Enamel or Urethane paint and you can make repairs with autobody filler and fiberglass but the primer is different.

    Vinyl must be prepped with a special solution that will etch the surface and allow adhesion of the primer. The primer is also different because it is slightly flexible and unlike primer on steel this primer will not crack.

    Since Fiberglass gives the appearance of natural wood if you wish to maintain this color it will take a large amount of skill and many layers of translucent paints however to restore the door if it is not damaged you may want to use a matt finish polyurethane simply to protect the surface after you have cleaned it well. If it is damaged or faded beyond restoration then a solid color will give you a good effect and many more years of use.

    Wood Doors

    Wood Doors require a different type of primer and paint however some small damage that is too small to be fixed by gluing in a new piece of wood can be repaired with Auto Body Filler or a Wood Filler.

    Since wood is a porous material the best primers and paints will need to penetrate into the wood to provide good adhesion. For this reason many people like to use an Oil Based exterior paint and primer. This is a good solution and a Gloss paint will provide the best protection over time.

    If you are painting a pine door or one with visible knots then you want to use an alcohol spot primer over each knot to seal out the resins of the wood. If you don’t spot prime the knots will bleed and the paint will chip off about 6 months after you complete your job.

    How To Paint A Door

    The best way to prep and paint a door is to take it off its hinges but this is not always possible especially in high traffic areas where you don’t want your door removed for many hours.

    If you can remove your door then you should setup some saw horses to support it.  Use heavy layers of duct tape on the saw horse edge to protect the door from scratching during the process.

    Finish the prep of the door by repairing any small dents and then sand the whole door with a 200 to 400 grit sand paper to prepare it for primer. For Vinyl and Fiberglass doors you should spot sand any damaged areas and then clean the surface with a fine sanding sponge or green scrubby pad then wash the door down.

    Because of the drying process you want to paint the jam of your door first and then the edges of the door. Paint all four edges so that they are sealed and won’t allow moisture to penetrate the core. This is not as necessary on steel doors because they will not attract moisture but by painting the jam of the door and its edges as soon as you have completed prepping the door you can make sure the door is able to be hung and won’t paint/glue its self shut.

    If you are priming and painting with enamel or urethane paint an air sprayer applicator is best however you can use a new clean paint brush that is chemically tolerant and won’t melt in the paint or reducer.

    Latex and Oil based paints can be  applied with a roller and then brushed out with a wet paint brush. By using a roller you will cover a larger area faster and a brush will let you get into details and introduce a textured finish.

    Rehanging The Door After Paint

    You want to give yourself as much drying time as you can before you rehang your door so beginning this job early in the morning and painting before lunch should provide you with a completely dry door before the sun goes down.

    Since you are repainting your door your hinges should not have been removed unless you were replacing them or repairing the wood under them. Hang the door on its hinges and then if the door has not completely dried you can use a paint stick to prop the door slightly ajar until it completely drys.

    Final Note

    Restoring and Painting your front or exterior door is a project that will take more then a few hours if you do it right and take your time but if you do take your time the job you do will last for many years.

    If you live in a high traffic area then you should do your best to paint your door while it is on its hinges. This will give you the ability to close it as soon as you are done but it is best that you make sure the edges are dry and use door jam wedges to secure the door a couple inches open until it drys. One from both directions should do the trick.

    Finally you should consider installing a glass / screen door for added security, function and protection of your exterior door. At about $100 to $150 the investment is worth it and you will enjoy the ability to let air flow through your door and reduce your cooling bills while still giving you protection from the elements.

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