How To Paint Interior Doors: An Essential Guide

Close up of freshly painted door

Doors see a lot of action, which is why the paint on them can age faster. People bump into them, get oils and dirt from their hands on the paint, and doors get dings and scratches from objects.

It’s easy to see why people want to know how to paint interior doors; they want to be able to touch them up themselves!

Whether just refreshing your doors or tackling a large home improvement project, you need to know these steps and the following tips to pull off your project.

How To Paint A Door Perfectly Step By Step

Step 1: Pick Your Preferred Paint

The first step is to decide on a paint color. There are many options to pick from, including:

  • Paint brands (ex: Sherwin Williams, Behr, and Glidden)
  • Paint finishes
    • Matte – no light reflection or shine
    • Eggshell – minimal shine
    • Satin – low sheen (ideal for interior doors)
    • Semi-gloss – medium shine
    • High-gloss – maximum reflection of light

In addition to the above paint variations, you have the entire spectrum of colors to explore. For example, you might prefer neutral, warm, or cool colors, depending on your home improvement goals.

One of the most common paints for interior doors is one of many neutral colors in satin or semi-gloss. This color and finish combination provides a beautiful visual contrast that is well-balanced and pleasing to the eye.

Step 2: Get Your Painting Tools Together

Whether you decide on simple satin white doors or a more colorful combination, you can’t reach your goal without the right tools. You will need to gather the following items:

  • A one or two-inch angled brush
  • A four-inch foam roller with handle and paint tray
  • Plastic sheeting to protect flooring and walls
  • Painter’s tape and utility knife
  • 150 to 220 grit sandpaper
  • Smooth cloth
  • Wood filler and putty knife (if repairs are needed)
  • Face mask and safety goggles (required for prepping doors with lead-based paints)

Step 3: Prepare The Door For Paint

Before you jump ahead to applying a fresh coat of paint, you need to prepare the door and ensure that you have a clean, flat surface to work on. You can either remove the hardware or leave it in place and use the painter’s tape to protect the knob, latch, lock, and hinges.

You’ll need the wood filler and putty knife if there’s any damage to your door deeper than a light scratch.

If the door has dirt or grease on it, you will need to gently wash and dry every area you intend to paint to prevent unwanted imperfections later in the painting process.

The next step is to lightly sand down the front and back of the door to flatten the paint while giving the door some texture, which helps the new paint layer you will apply grip more tightly. Don’t forget to wear a mask and goggles to prevent irritants from getting into your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Now, it’s time to use the smooth cloth to wipe away the sanding dust. You should vacuum the surrounding area after sanding to remove any remaining dust that might get caught in the paint later.

Step 4: Begin To Apply The First Coat

When your door is ready to paint, lay out the plastic sheeting to protect the floors from unwanted drips and splatters. Open the paint of your choice, whether Sherwin Williams (which has great color options) or Benjamin Moore; don’t forget to stir the paint while it is in the can to ensure even color.

Pour some of the paint into your roller tray and use the brush or roller to apply the paint to the door. Don’t overwork the paint with unnecessary strokes, or you’ll have raised areas in the dry paint.

Step 5: Sand And Apply Second Coat

Allow the first coat of paint to dry, then sand the door once more before applying the next coat. Most paints require at least two coats to provide full-color saturation and enhance the longevity of the new paint.

Be sure to give the paint enough time to dry fully before using the door. If you’re painting the entire room as well as the door, you should paint the door last to prevent marring from entering or exiting the room.

Check below for a few more advanced pointers on how to paint interior doors like a professional.

Use These Pro-Level Painting Tips

Painting a door white

Tip #1 – Paint A Door In Place

While painting, you can avoid shifting or damaging the frame and trim by leaving the door on its hinges. This tip will also reduce your painting time by allowing you to move to the other side of the door more quickly without waiting for the paint to dry.

Tip #2 – Oil Paint Test

Did you know that latex paint doesn’t adhere to oil paint? You will need to prime doors with oil paints from a previous home improvement project. If you skip this and paint over oil, you may find the new latex paint layer rubbing off on anything that comes into contact with the door.

If you’re unsure whether your pre-painted door has oil or latex paint, you can test it with a rag dipped in alcohol. Latex paint will transfer to the rag, while oil paint will stay in place. If the old paint is oil-based, you only need to sand and then prime the door with an appropriate priming paint.

Tip #3 – Leave The Edges Alone

As the seasonal temperature and humidity change, most doors are susceptible to expansion and contraction. Paint can interfere with this natural occurrence, which means you can leave the upper and lower horizontal edges unpainted.

Tip #4 – Painting Paneled Doors

While a foam roller is fantastic for flat surfaces, it can’t always reach into smaller areas on more detailed door styles. Use the angled brush on the indented areas of the panels to ensure complete coverage. Then, use the roller to paint from the center of the door to the edges.

Use Rea Pro Construction To Up Your Home’s Curb Appeal

For assistance or to learn more about how to paint interior doors, fill out our contact form. We offer professional interior painting and more to help you achieve your home improvement goals.