How To Paint Or Stain A Door

Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | December 14, 2011

The most important rule to remember when painting or staining a door is to begin with a smooth, very clean surface. The slightest bit of dirt or lint can ruin your painstaking paint job. Start by cleaning the door well with a mild soap and water, taking care to scrub away any rough spots.

Home improvement 101: How to paint or stain a door

Now that the door is clean, it's time to move on to the paint or stain. A door can easily be painted while still on its hinges.

Smooth out any rough spots with sandpaper. If there are dents or gouges in the door, repair them before applying paint. If the door has already been painted, you have the option of painting over the existing layers or removing them. Removing them is an involved process that includes chemicals and scraping. If you can paint over the existing layers, that will make your job easier. If the door has never been painted, a layer of primer should make the finish layers adhere better.

Remove all hardware from the door, being careful to save the screws.

Using a high-quality paint and brush, start with the center of the door and work your way outward. Paint from the top of the door down to the bottom, taking care to avoid drips and splashes. Your paint job should be even and smooth. Try to always paint in the same direction, so any brush strokes left visible after drying will be uniform.

If you choose to stain the door, it might be best to remove the door from the hinges and place it on a flat surface. This helps ensure that the stain will be applied evenly, without running or streaking.

Prepare a door for staining, by sanding it down to a smooth surface. Follow the manufacturer's directions for your particular type of stain. Always use lint-free rags to avoid imperfections left behind. Stain all sides of the door, then allow it to dry for at least 24 hours between coats. If the odor of the stain has gone away, then it is likely ready for another coat.

A few final tips

Avoid painting or staining within a few days after a good rain, as humidity can affect your finished look. Always work in a well-ventilated area, and expect to paint or stain your door with at least two coats, perhaps more. Finally, have a small bottle of paint thinner nearby, just in case spills or splashes need to be cleaned up immediately.