How to Paint the Front Door Red

It’s Spring here at the Neeland Cottage!

Today, I painted our front door bright red, because every cottage needs a bright red front door. It’s true. Look it up on Pinterest if you don’t believe me.

Top: Red Door Cottage from Toronto Designers, Balboa Island Cottage from My Painted Garden. Bottom: Tipperary County, Ireland cottage from Lakeside Cottages, Comstock Cottages in Carmel, photo by Tales from Carmel

Top: Red Door Cottage from Toronto Designers, Balboa Island Cottage from My Painted Garden. Bottom: Tipperary County, Ireland cottage from Lakeside Cottages, Comstock Cottages in Carmel, photo by Tales from Carmel

 

I thought I’d take this opportunity to school everybody on how to paint doors.

How to Paint a Front Door

Part of the reason I was hesitant to start this project was because I thought that I would have to completely remove the front door, prop it up on sawhorses (that we don’t have) and sand it down completely before even starting. First of all, who has that kind of time? It would add hours on to a project that essentially needs to get completed in one day, because, let’s face it, we need our front doors on the house for a reason. I thought that this would have to be a major, possibly expensive, undertaking.

Before painting the front door

Here is our Before picture. Notice the distinct lack of a red door. It’s just a regular old door. Obviously something must be done.

However, that is NOT TRUE! I could prime, paint several coats, return to the paint store for more supplies, and reaffix the hardware all in the span of one afternoon. It was a great quick project– inexpensive (all the supplies cost about $30), pleasant (I like to paint), short (could be done in one afternoon), and makes a HUGE impact when done. Michael did all the dishes, and all I had to do was sit on my butt for the afternoon with a paintbrush. That’s my type of home improvement.

Door Before Painting

This door, before painting, was functional, but unimpressive and severely weather-beaten.

Step 1: Pick the Right Day

Picking the right day is possibly the most important decision you will make for this project. You want it to be warm/cool enough that you can leave your front door open for several hours. You want to make sure someone will be home for all of those hours, because it’s not like you are going to leave your front door open when the house is empty. Also, you don’t want it to be too rainy or windy, because both of those could cause damage in the middle of painting.

Got it? Ok.

Step 2: Get Your Supplies

Pick the right paint. Almost any red paint looks good on a door. Check out Pinterest if you don’t believe me. We picked Primary Red from Sherwin Williams (SW 2910), which is just about as red as you can get. Think laquered-nail-polish red. Or Rockabilly-lipstick-red. We opted to get Gloss paint to punch it up a bit. Normally, I make all the aesthetic choices for the house, so when Michael insisted that we get a REALLY red door, I figured that this was a good decision.

Mmmmm pretty red paint.

Mmmmm pretty red paint.

With the red paint, we used over half a quart. With other colors, you may not need as much, as red has notoriously bad coverage.

Other supplies you will need:

  • A paintbrush. I like Purdy ClearCut Stiff 2.5″. It is easy to clean up, the right width for both covering and detail work, angled and tapered to get in all the corners. For a bright red color, I went ahead and got a new brush. Red is some nasty paint, and if I failed to completely clean the brush, I didn’t want to run the risk of ruining a brush that I wanted to use for other projects. Note: Some people prefer to paint with rollers, especially for a smooth door with no panels. This is completely up to you and I have nothing intelligent to say on the matter.
  • A drop-cloth. Instead of buying one, I cut a large trash bag open so that it lays flat. It was exactly the right size to go under my painting area and collect any drips from the door.
  • Some primer. We’ll go over this in more detail later.
  • Some screwdrivers to remove any door hardware
  • A stiff brush (or sandpaper) to remove any dirt and debris.
  • Painter’s Tape for unremovable hardware or windows within the door.

 

Step 3: Remove All Hardware

You can leave the door hanging in place, so don’t worry about the hinges. Some people prefer to tape around the hardware on the door, but I went ahead and removed it all to get that extra-professional look. On the off-chance that we ever switch our hardware, I wanted to make sure that we had the entire door underneath covered. Hardware might include a deadbolt, doorknob, house numbers, peephole, door knocker, mail slot, or kickplate.

You don’t have to remove the interior of the door hardware, like the actual latch. The important part is anything that obscures the surface of the door.

Removing the door hardware is a good idea if you want to have a nice, professional look. It's ok to leave the inner mechanisms in place.

Removing the door hardware is a good idea if you want to have a nice, professional look. It’s ok to leave the inner mechanisms in place.

Have a table or bin nearby to collect ALL hardware pieces. If you feel like you are likely to misplace them, tape all the screws and small bits together or to a labeled piece of paper.

Step 4: Lay Out Supplies and Other Prep Work

Tape your dropcloth in place underneath your work area. Your work area will likely be right inside your front door, because you will be working on your door while open. Some people paint their doors while closed, but this is the wrong way to do it, because the door overlaps with the door frame and you will not be able to access the full area.

Arrange your supplies (your brushes and paint) within arm’s reach.

Door Priming Setup

Having your supplies nearby, possibly on a protected chair, makes for much less work overall, because you don’t have to hold the paint or reach down a lot.

It can help to have a chair nearby so you don’t have to hold the paint yourself. Be sure and cover the chair with additional trash bags if it is important to keep it clean.

If you have any windows in your door, now would be a good time to tape them off.

Step 5: Clean the Door

It’s best to paint on a clean surface.

I don’t know what your door looks like, so you can figure out how to clean it yourself.

As for our door, it was a mess of old stain, dust, and pollen particles that had stuck to it like people in Velcro suits to a big Velcro wall. Rather than actually clean the door with cleaning supplies that may or may not have worked and ultimately ended up taking time to dry, I took a stiff-bristled cleaning brush and brushed the heck out of the surface of that old door. This ended up being a genius move, because not only did it brush off all the dirt, but it also brushed off a good deal of the remaining stain, saving me the trouble of actually sanding the door like some kind of professional.

It's like cleaning and sanding all in one step! This will mess up your front door. Luckily, I'd already decided to paint it.

It’s like cleaning and sanding all in one step! This will mess up your front door. Luckily, I’d already decided to paint it.

If you do this, I would recommend closing the door and doing it outside.

If you do this, I would recommend having someone in the house who is capable of opening the latch without a doorknob, or you will be stuck outside forever.

Once your door is cleaned of whatever your door is dirty from, be sure that it is DRY before moving on to the next step.

Step 6: Prime the Door

For this step, I will admit that I am not the expert and you should not take my advice. Instead, I will talk about what I learned during this process.

First of all, the purpose of primer is to get paint to stick to a surface. If the door is already painted, that might suffice, but our door, as I mentioned, had once been stained, but the finish had mostly worn off in weather over the years.

It doesn't have to be a thick coat. This is functional; not aesthetic.

It doesn’t have to be a thick coat. This is functional; not aesthetic.

After starting, I read on the Internet that only oil-based primers should be used over any oil-based stain or else it will flake off, but since I already had latex primer and had already used it by the time I read this, I decided that the Internet was wrong.

Prime the entire door. Remember, it doesn’t have to look pretty, because it will get covered up with real paint as soon as it is dry. Primer is like the door’s underpants.

Door underpants. Also: When painting, it's best to keep the work area clean, because it makes for much less work overall.

Door underpants. Also: When painting, it’s best to keep the work area clean, because it makes for much less work overall.

 

Step 7-10: Paint the Door

Once your door is primed, you can move on to the real show.

If you are using the same brush, be sure to wash it out thoroughly between the primer and the paint. Also be sure to dry it. You can mostly pat it dry with paper towels and get the last amount of water out by taking it outside and shaking it vigorously at all the people who pass by and give you weird looks. Ignore them. They will soon appreciate the beauty of your gorgeous red front door and forget all about your yard antics. The brush is dry enough to use again when you can no longer get any water out of it.

Paint the door red.

If you have a paneled door, I would suggest painting with the grain in the following painting pattern:

  1. Paint the recessed parts of the panels first.
  2. Paint the inside, flat parts of the panels.
  3. Paint the flat parts around the outsides of the panels
Painting in a regular pattern with the grain of the wood will make for a better finished product and help you keep track of where you are in the project.

Painting in a regular pattern with the grain of the wood will make for a better finished product and help you keep track of where you are in the project.

This pattern ensures that your final brush strokes will match, as much as possible, the grain of the wood in the way the door was constructed. The benefit of this is that no one will care what your brushstrokes look like because they will just become part of the door. Plus, having a sequence to paint in means that you will remember which parts of the door have gotten which number of coats already.

Use thinner coats of paint, especially inside the woodwork of the panels, to prevent it from glopping too much. If it does glop, you can go over it with the brush until it looks less gloppy.

Streaky red door

Only one coat of red paint will make for a streaky, childish appearance. When painting with red, be prepared for many more coats than would otherwise be reasonable.

When it is dry to the touch, paint the door again.

And again.

And probably a fourth time.

This does not take as long as it sounds. On a clear, beautiful day, especially in drier parts of the country, the paint will dry fast. With some music on and a friend nearby playing video games, it will be quite pleasant. If you are using a color other than red, the door will probably only take two coats or so.

Between coats, you can prevent your paint and brush from drying out by covering them with a damp paper towel.

Some Additional Notes on Red Paint:

I’ve talked before about how red paint is tricky. There’s something about red that just makes a poorly-covered project look shoddy. While some paints may only need a couple coats, it seems like you can keep painting and painting with red before it loses that “someone scribbled with a dying marker” look that is so easy to achieve. The good news is that after about four coats, the color all fills in smoothly and you can get that candy-cherry finish you’ve been envisioning. Also, while you’re painting, it will look like you’ve slaughtered small animals in the project area, but this obviously is temporary.

Step 11: Put the Door Hardware Back On When Dry

Let the door dry for as long as possible. In my case, I have four coats of mostly-dry (read: probably not dry) red paint glopping up the door surface. I don’t want to have it rub off on the door frame or get those rings around the hardware that you can get when you rush into the last step and hope no one will notice. While I type this, my door is still drying. I’ll have to close it eventually so our house isn’t robbed, but in the meantime, there is a nice breeze filling up our living room, late into the night.

Basically, you want to leave it in this position for as many hours as possible.

Basically, you want to leave it in this position for as many hours as possible.

When the door is honestly and truly dry, put all the hardware back on and go to bed.

This might be harder than it sounds. I hope you took notes when you took the hardware off.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to clean your brushes. That’s probably step 10.5.

You might want to re-open your door early the next morning and let it continue to dry. If you have a tight seal, the seemingly-dry paint might have stuck to the frame slightly overnight. Ours was a little tough to open the next day, but it’s worth it to have the paint go all the way to the edge.

After Photos!

Here is a beautiful after photo of our front door!

Now THAT's what I call a door. It's like shiny glossy lipstick on the mouth of the house, so the other houses will think she's pretty enough to stand next to.

Now THAT’s what I call a door. It’s like shiny glossy lipstick on the mouth of the house, so the other houses will think she’s pretty enough to stand next to.

Combined with our relatively-new door hardware, it's starting to feel like a real house.

Combined with our relatively-new door hardware, it’s starting to feel like a real house.

 

Look how well it coordinates with our new Don Juan Climbing Rose that will totally not die this year!

Our new Don Juan Climbing Rose, which will grow to beauteous heights and spill like luscious droplets of wine over the doorway.

Our new Don Juan Climbing Rose, which will grow to beauteous heights and spill like luscious droplets of wine over the doorway.

With a red door, our house will obviously be on Pinterest and TV within a week.

 

 

 

 

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  1. Talk about a sucessful one day project! Most impressive! The blue-red color compliments your home beautifully!

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