Steel Exterior Doors are used on many homes for Fire protection on doorways connected to a built in garage and also exit doors.
Steel Doors can come in a simple flat face or can be detailed to resemble wood doors with set in panels and some may even have a simulated grain texture.
The great benefit of Steel is that the door will expand and contract very evenly and this is important when your door gets weather beaten by hot summer sun and winter heating and cooling. Not only will it expand and contract evenly it will also hold its shape and not expand and contract as much as a wood door that could swell due to moisture.
Even if the door is steel clad with a wood interior core there is an added benefit over a standard wood door.
Manufacturers paint steel doors in their factory with a baked on enamel paint. This paint is very durable and can last 5 to 10 years under the right conditions. Unfortunately you can not apply the same coating at home.
What Type Of Paint Is Best
There are two product choices for painting your door.
The first is Acrylic Enamel paint that should be applied with a professional spray gun. Acrylic Enamel will provide 3 to 5 years protection and can be sprayed with an inexpensive siphon feed spray gun and air compressor. Airless paint guns will not produce quality results.
If you do not have access to a compressor and spray gun or if your door has been previously painted then exterior latex paint is probably your best option. Exterior latex can be applied with a roller and brush or an airless or compressor driven paint gun. Like acrylic enamel paint you can probably get 3 to 5 years out of an application of latex paint if you prepare the area correctly and the door does not see a lot of use and abuse.
Preparing the Door for Paint
Since the manufacturer’s paint is probably the best paint you do not want to sand it off unless it is damaged, cracking or flaking off.
Begin by washing the door with soap and water. Make sure that you remove all the oil that you can and any buildup of dirt.
Once the door is clean you can use a green scrub pad available in your paint department not your kitchen supplies to roughen the surface of the paint on the door.
If there is rust you will want to remove all the rust and treat with a neutralizer liquid.
If there are dents you will want to use an automotive body filler. After you have leveled the dent with filler you should apply a primer before painting.
Painting the door
If you are painting the door with an air or airless spray gun you should begin at the top of the door and work your way down.
Using a 50% overlap pattern so that your second pass lands half way on the first or the center of the spray pattern is right on the edge of the last pass you made.
If you are applying enamel paint then you want to allow the paint to flash or dry for a few minutes before you add your second coat.
Two to three coats should be enough or one coat more then needed to hide any repair work or the paint color beneath the color you are applying.
If you are using a roller and brush you want to start first by using your brush in the beveled panel areas first.
A sponge brush will give you a much smoother surface then a bristle brush.
Once you have painted all of the recessed panel groves you can then apply paint to the door with a roller. Using a roller will get the paint on quick but will not leave the brush stroke texture that most wood doors would have.
If you enjoy the look of brush strokes to give texture then you should brush the door with a brush wet with paint right after you apply the paint with the roller. Don’t let the paint dry before you do this.
A second coat of latex is recommended but for longest lasting paint you want the thickness of latex to be as thin as possible while still covering the surface well. No more then 3 coats should be required.
Letting the Door Dry
If you did not remove the door to paint it you must let it dry before you close it onto the weather stripping.
A good way to hold the door in place is to place a brad nail in a paint stirring stick and nail it into the door jam then do the same to the door while leaving the door about 4 inches or more open. If the door is solid steel you will need to use tape to secure the paint stick to the door knob.
Once the door has dried a few hours you can then put it back into light service and close it. Allow the longest time you can before doing so to reduce lifting of the paint from the weather stripping.
Caring for your painted Door
You should care for your painted steel door like you would any other painted object. If you see damage then take care of it as soon as you can.
You may also want to install a screen door that has a glass insert.