white house exterior with blue door gold hardware
Photography by Callie Hobbs

A small but impactful project like painting your front door a fresh hue won’t just give your exterior an instant facelift. There’s an even bigger payoff: This simple upgrade could increase your home’s resale value by several thousand dollars. (Psst: You’ll want to embrace the dark side.) What are you waiting for? If you’re all geared up with your new color and brush in hand, we tapped Behr manager Octave Villar to guide us through the process. For his tips on how to paint a front door—and steer clear of the typical pitfalls—read on.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Painting a Front Door

Not Considering the Environment

Yes, this project is a minor one, but that doesn’t mean diving in without thinking of the impact that temperature, humidity, and airflow will have on the process. Schedule your job for a clear, sunny day (not too breezy) with mild temperatures to help with even application and a quicker drying time.

Painting Without a Plan

Haphazardly applying paint does not a happy homeowner (or door) make. Villar suggests starting with the inside panels and working outward so you can paint smoothly and uninterrupted.


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Skimping on Tools

Villar points out that investing in proper, quality tools will save you time and the hassle of potentially having to redo a messy job due to low-grade rollers that leave nap fibers on the surface or a worn-out brush that creates a rough finish.

Adding Another Layer Before the Previous One Dries

Villar says water-based paints typically take two to four hours to dry, while oil-based ones can take up to 24 hours. If you skip this step, you run the risk of creating streaks and bubbles that can be a headache to repair. 

How to Paint a Front Door

The Supplies

  • Mild detergent
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Warm water
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Paint scraper
  • 400-grit synthetic sandpaper (or ultrafine sanding sponge)
  • Trash bin
  • Stir stick
  • Paint tray
  • Painter’s tape
  • Short nap roller
  • Nylon/polyester paintbrush or paint sprayer
  • Angled paintbrush
  • Exterior paint
  • Water-based primer

Step 1: Remove All Nonpermanent Hardware and Clean the Door

This includes knobs and hinges (if you’re taking the door off the frame). Be sure to label the pieces and set them aside in a safe place until you’re ready to reattach them. Then fill a bucket with warm water, add a bit of detergent, and use a sponge to clean any dirt or grime off the surface. Rinse with fresh water and wait until the surface is completely dry before moving on to the next step. 

Step 2: Get Rid of Any Peeling Paint

Gently clear the surface of flakes from the last paint job with a paint scraper. Sweep the remnants into a trash bin.


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Step 3: Sand the Door

Use fine-grit sandpaper to lightly go over the door surface to help extend the life of the new coat and make sure that it sticks. Wipe off any sanding dust with a lint-free cloth.

Step 4: Cover the Remaining Hardware With Painter’s Tape

Tape around the edges of any fasteners or fixtures on the door (think: hinges, doorknobs, the peephole) to shield them from paint splatters.

Step 5: It’s Time to Prime

With the roller, apply the primer, starting with the large, flat areas on the back of the door. Villar recommends an angled nylon or polyester brush for corners and crevices. Let the surface dry (depending on the type of primer you bought, the outside temperature, and the door material, this could take from one to four hours), then repeat the process on the front of the door.

Step 6: Sand and Wipe Down the Door

Once the primer completely dries, use the sandpaper to lightly scuff the primer, carefully clearing the surface of any uneven spots. Wipe the door with the lint-free cloth to clear away any sanding dust.


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Step 7: Now Let’s Paint!

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for—grab a brush, roller, or paint sprayer to apply a single coat (don’t forget to give it enough time to dry!). Then go over the door with the 400-grit sandpaper again. Add another coat and repeat the sanding process once more.

Step 8: Remove the Painter’s Tape

You don’t need to watch the drying process happen (everyone knows it’s a total snooze), but you do need to give it time. Once that’s done—you’ll know if you gently dab an unnoticeable spot with your finger and it doesn’t feel wet or sticky—carefully remove the tape and discard it.

Villar says water-based paints generally dry in two to four hours, whereas oil-based may take up to 24. To be on the safe side, wait as long as possible before using the door so your handiwork lasts.

Step 9: Reattach the Hardware

Put the doorknobs, hinges, and any other accessories back on. If you took the door off the hinges, hitch it back onto the frame. This first impression is, in fact, everything.


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