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How to Paint Interior Doors

Preparing to Paint a Door
A person removes doorknob hardware from a door.

Take the following steps before painting interior doors.

  • Remove the door knobs and all other hardware from your interior door to simplify the paint application. If you’re replacing the old hardware, make sure the new hardware will match. 
  • Choose paint recommended for interior doors, such as types with a durable gloss or semi gloss sheen that makes it easy to clean.
  • If possible, paint in a well-ventilated area or use a fan to circulate the air.
  • Before painting, clean the door with a degreasing cleaner. 
  • Fill holes and repair imperfections with sandable filler or spackle. 
  • Use 120-grit sandpaper to gently sand the door for a smoother surface that will absorb primer or paint more easily.
  • After sanding, remove dust from the area before priming or painting.
  • Put down drop cloths.
Painting an Attached Door
A person paints an attached interior door with a roller.

Some interior doors are heavy and challenging to remove, but you can use this method to paint a panel door that remains on its hinges. An advantage of painting attached doors is that you don’t have to wait for one side to dry before painting the other.

  • Cover hinges with painter’s tape if you want to keep them free of paint.
  • When painting a panel door, a paint brush may be more effective than a roller.
  • Begin by applying paint to the inside of the top panels. Smooth out the paint, working with the grain. Coat the recessed areas first and then the faces of the panels. 
  • If the door has a vertical center stile, paint this next and then blend in the brush marks from the center stile when you paint the horizontal rails. 
  • Paint the rails, or the horizontal framing members, starting with the top rail and working your way to the bottom. 
  • Paint the remaining vertical stiles, starting on the left. Feather the brush marks from the rails while they are still wet. Keep the line as straight as possible along the edge where the stiles meet the rails. Brush or roll the edges, but be careful not to get any runs on the face of the door.
  • Make sure the door can remain open long enough to fully dry. If a door is closed while still wet, it could stick to the door frame.
Painting an Unattached Door
An interior is placed across two sawhorses.

When reviewing how to paint a door, you may find that painting an unattached door, placed flat on a pair of sawhorses, encourages an even coat without drips or runs and makes it easier to paint the edges.

  • To remove the door, wedge a flathead screwdriver or chisel in the joint between the hinge and the top of the hinge pins. Lightly tap the screwdriver with a hammer until the hinge pins come loose. With a helper supporting the weight of the door, remove the pins and carry the door to your chosen location for painting. 
  • Place the door flat on the sawhorses.
  • Begin by painting the edges with a brush.
  • When painting a paneled door, begin with the recessed panels, then the horizontal rails and finally the vertical styles. 
  • Let the door dry completely on one side before flipping it over and painting the opposite side. 
  • Remount the door after fully dry.
Painting a Flat Door
A person paints a flat door with a roller.

Compared to a panel door, a flat door can be painted relatively quickly with a paint roller, although you can use a brush if that’s your preference. 

  • Use vertical roller strokes when painting a flat door, or long, smooth brush strokes. 
  • Finish the edge around the hinges with a small brush. 
Tips for How to Paint a Door
A person paints a door frame with a brush.

Consider the following tips when painting an interior door.

  • Choose whether you need to prime the door before painting. If the door was originally painted with latex paint, priming should be unnecessary. If it was painted with oil-based paint, prime before using a latex-based paint.
  • When painting wood doors, make sure all six sides of your door are covered to protect it from rotting, cracking and expansion. 
  • If you leave the bottom edge unpainted, cover it with a clear wood sealer to prevent moisture from entering the wood. Any water will cause the wood to warp and swell, resulting in a door that won't close properly.
  • If a second coat of paint is needed, sand the door lightly and then wipe it with a tack cloth before repainting. 
  • Paint the trim and door frame in matching or complementary paint colors.

Painting interior doors is an effective and fairly easy way to refresh your home’s appearance indoors. 

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