How to Repaint Your Front Door

A few fresh coats—three thin ones, to be precise—does the trick, whether your style is bright and cheerful or deep and sophisticated. Follow these steps to a smooth finish.

painted front door
Photo: Addie Juell

Repainting your front door is a quick and easy project that revives your home in much the same way a new allover coat would, but for a fraction of the time and cost. (There's definitely no need to bring in a professional painter for this job.) All it takes on your part is a free afternoon, some primer and paint, and a little elbow grease. You can buy a combination primer-and-paint formula, but we find that you get a stronger bond when you use a separate, good-quality primer and paint. For better coverage, have the primer tinted to complement your paint. And be sure to choose a semi or high gloss exterior formula—it will stand up better than a more matte one to nicks and scrapes—that is designed for your door's material.


  • Two sawhorses
  • Three drop cloths or tarps
  • Flat-head screwdriver or chisel
  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Painter's tape
  • Paint scraper
  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask
  • 120-, 220-, and 320-grit sandpaper
  • Wood filler (for a wooden door)
  • Putty knife
  • Tack cloth
  • Wide paint brush
  • Small paint roller
  • Exterior primer
  • Exterior paint
  • Paint bucket
  • Paint stir stick
  • Metal polish

Prep for Painting

It's ideal to remove your door. First, set up a pair of sawhorses in a well-ventilated area with a drop cloth or tarp underneath. Take the door off its hinges by working the flat-head screwdriver between the hinges and the top of the hinge pins, tapping the screwdriver handle with the hammer until the pins loosen, and pulling out the pins. Enlist a friend to help you move the door and lay it across the sawhorses.

If you have a storm door, close it, or tack up another drop cloth or tarp to cover the door opening and keep bugs and debris out while you work. Remove all the hardware (knobs, lock, knocker, numbers, kickplate), and tape over built-in features such as a peephole or inset glass panels. If you can't or don't want to remove your door, take off or tape over the hardware and any glass, and open the door slightly to allow access to its edges. Tape off the molding around the door and (if you don't want to paint it) the back side of the door. Spread a drop cloth or tarp on the ground to catch any stray paint drops.

Sand the Surface

Put on the safety goggles and dust mask. Scrape any peeling areas with the paint scraper. Sand the existing paint by hand until the door feels even all over, starting with medium 120-grit sandpaper and working your way up to fine 220-grit sandpaper; if the door still feels rough, finish with 320-grit sandpaper. Wipe down the door with the tack cloth to remove paint dust and debris. If your wooden door has cracks, press a small amount of wood filler into them with a putty knife, then scrape the surface flat. Let dry completely, then sand the repaired spots until smooth. Wipe down door with tack cloth.

Prime, Paint, and Polish

Pour primer into the bucket, give it a stir, and dip in your brush. Start painting at the top of the door and work your way down, doing any bevels, crevices, or details first with the brush, then covering the flat panels with the roller. Let paint dry completely according to the manufacturer's instructions, until primer no longer feels tacky to the touch. Sand with 320-grit sandpaper; wipe down with tack cloth. Repeat to cover the door with three thin, even coats of paint, sanding between the second and third coats. While paint dries, polish hardware.

Put It Back

Reattach hardware, and replace the door on its hinges.

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