Painting Interior Doors

This story shows how to stain and varnish trim.


Painting doors is usually the last task of an interior painting project. When you get to this step, you can either paint the doors in the frame or take them down and paint them. Removing them takes a little more time but is easier in the long run, and the result will prove more satisfactory because you're working on an uninterrupted surface. And if you support the doors on sawhorses or some other horizontal structure, the finish will level itself out more smoothly.

No matter how you plan to paint the door, remove the knobs, lockset, striker plate, and any other hardware. That way you won't have to paint around them, which can leave swirls in the finish.

To remove the door, pull the hinge pins as shown. Then mask the hinge plates with two coats of rubber cement and set the door on a horizontal surface. If you support the door with screws driven into the top and bottom as shown below, you can flip the door (with a helper) and paint the other side before the first one dries. Using the screws as supports keeps the sawhorses from marring the wet paint.

Prestart Checklist

From 1 to 3 hours, depending on your skills and experience

Screwdriver, sawhorses, scraper, sanding block, sash brush, 2-inch brush

Removing , sanding, priming, and painting a door

Clean door and repair damaged areas

Drywall screws, primer (if necessary), putty, sandpaper, latex enamel

Door prep: Step 1

To remove the door, start with the bottom hinge. Set the tip of a flat screwdriver just under the edge of the hinge pin and tap the pin until it comes away from the hinge plate. Repeat the process on the middle and top hinge. Friction will hold the door till you remove it.

Door prep: Step 2

Pull the door off the hinges and set it on its edge. Previous paintings invariably leave paint ridges on the edges of the door. These ridges can look distracting and cause the door to stick in the jamb. Use a chisel to remove excess paint. Sand the edges.

"Handles" make flipping easy

To provide supports for your door that won't mar any wet paint, predrill the ends of the door about 5 inches from each corner. Drive 10 d nails or #10x4-inch screws into the holes and support the door on them. When you've painted one side, grab the "handles" and flip the door.

Brushing a slab door: Step 1

Brushing a slab door is much the same as painting a wall with a brush, although technically, you don't have to cut in the edges of the door. Apply the paint in sections, starting in an upper corner and smoothing the coat vertically with the final stroke. Make sure the final stroke goes beyond the edge.

Brushing a slab door: Step 2

On the next section, paint toward the wet edge, feathering it and finishing with a vertical stroke. Continue down the door, covering the entire surface. Finish with light upward strokes from bottom to top to blend the coat in. Carefully remove excess paint from the sides, top, and bottom of the door.

Using a roller

To paint a door with a roller, start in the center of the door and work outward. Paint the top half first, taking care to not start a stroke at the edges (which will push excess paint onto the sides of the door). Then paint the bottom half and finish with light strokes from bottom to top.

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