In preparation for our move and listing our house, I finally finished painting all of the molding in our home office and now I’m moving on to painting the doors of our upstairs hall closet. Years ago, a professional painter gave me tips on the best way to paint paneled wood doors and the results are so much better than when I used to just paint a door from the top to the bottom. I’ve also figured out which painting tools work best for me so I thought I’d share my best tips for how to paint an interior door like a pro!
The success of any paint job always starts with good prep work. You can either paint your doors in place or take them down and paint them on sawhorses – I prefer painting them on sawhorses. If your door already has knobs on it, remove them – it’s easier than painting around them. Since I take my doors down to paint them, I also remove the hinges. Next, fill in any gouges or imperfections with wood filler and sand those areas until smooth in addition to lightly sanding the entire door with fine grit (220) sandpaper. Vacuum or use a cloth to remove most of the dust and then sweep a tack cloth over the door to get the rest of it.
The next step is to prime your doors if they aren’t pre-primed or you aren’t painting over a previously painted door (unless you’re using latex paint on a door that was previously painted with an oil-based paint – then you’ll still need to prime). Priming is ideally done in the same order (edges first, etc. as I’ll describe for painting). An advantage to taking your doors off of the hinges to paint is that you can easily get to both the top and bottom edges, which can be important because some door manufacturers will not honor a door’s warranty if any of the door’s six sides (the front, back, and four edges) are left unfinished. For new wood doors that are pre-primed, the only prep work needed is to prime the top and bottom edges of the door, which for some reason are usually unprimed.
Now it’s time to paint! Many people have success painting doors using just a brush, but I like to use a combination of a paintbrush and roller (I use the brush for the recessed molding areas and a roller for the flat surfaces). For me, using a combination of the two is faster and results in a much smoother finish. The roller that I like to use is the same one that I used in painting the bookcase and cabinetry surrounding our stone fireplace – a WhizzFlock 4″ roller:
Rather than simply painting the door from the top to the bottom, you can get the best paint job by painting in a certain order. For a standard 6-panel door, paint in this order:
1. Start by painting the edges of the door:
2. Next, paint the door panels:
3. Then, paint the vertical strip down the center:
4. Next, paint the horizontal rails:
5. Finally, paint the vertical strips on each side:
Once you’re done, allow the paint to dry and then apply a second coat. Some people recommend sanding between coats but the WhizzFlock roller that I use results in such a smooth finish that I don’t do that. After two coats, allow the paint to dry (ideally at least 24 hours) and then flip your doors over on the sawhorses and repeat the process for the second side. Cover your sawhorses with a cloth to prevent the newly painted door from sticking to them (and make sure that the cloth you use is smooth with no texture to it, or you could end up with a textured pattern in your door once it comes of the sawhorses – unfortunately I speak from personal experience here 🙂 Once your second side is dry, simply rehang your doors and reinstall your door hardware. Done!
I’m off to put the second coat on my doors – I’m doing this little door painting project in our office so once the doors are fully painted and hung back up, I can finally put our office space back together. We’ve been living with our office desk in our dining area and our new bookcase in the kids’ playroom so I can’t wait to get everything back to where it belongs!