How to Paint Interior Doors Like a Pro

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Over time the interior doors of your home will start looking a bit grubby and worse for wear. This is especially true if you have little ones running around all day.

If money is flush and you fancy a change, you could invest in new doors from a local builders merchant or online from Amazon or elsewhere.

If your budget won’t stretch that far, the next best option is to paint the doors you already have.

Here’s an expert guide to painting your doors like a professional. Note that this guide assumes that you are painting panel doors.

Preparing the door

The first thing to do is remove the door from its hinges and lay it flat. If you have a large enough table, you could rest your door on that. If not, you could use two portable workbenches or sawhorses – each supporting either end of the door.

Removing the door may seem like a lot of unnecessary work, but laying it flat eliminates the risk of the paint running and allows you to work much faster.

You should also take off any door handles and locks, so all you are left with is the bare door. Now, there’s nothing to get in your way and you won’t need to work around the hinges and other door furniture.

Wipe down the door with a damp cloth to remove any dust and dirt. If your door is especially dirty, you might have to work a little harder to clean it up.

Next, you will need to get some sandpaper and gently sand the door down so you have a smooth finish throughout. The point of this task is to ensure there aren’t going to be any ‘high points’ when you start painting it, and to provide a key for the paint to adhere to.

Pay particular attention to any places where paint has built up over time. This usually happens if the door was painted while left on the hinges. It’s easy to miss little runs at the time, but when it comes to repainting, they’re easy to spot. Use a decent stainless steel scraper if the sandpaper isn’t effective.

Make sure you sand down the bits between the panels as well, so you end up with a door that has a shabby chic type of finish to it.

Try to avoid using a power sander on doors as they can be a little hard on the surface of a door. Sandpaper and light-sanding are the best ways to work a door.

Does it need primer?

If the door has a wood stain on it, was previously painted with an oil-based paint or you are wanting to paint a dark-coloured door with a lighter colour, you will need to apply one or more coats of primer as per the instructions on the tin of primer.

Painting the panels

Once you have sanded the door down and applied any required primer to it, the first thing you will need to do is paint the door’s panels – i.e. the bits in the middle!

Using a paint roller, paint the panels in the same direction as the grain of the wood, or up and down if you imagine you were looking straight ahead at the door. Immediately after that, get a brush and paint the shallow bits, again going with the grain of the wood in a clockwise direction.

When painting doors, never go against the grain of the wood, as you won’t have a very good finish.

Painting the rest of the door

The next step is to basically paint the rest of the door. Using a high-density mini foam paint roller, start by painting the middle section with the grain of the wood (not against it) up and down in a vertical fashion, and then paint the horizontal sections of the door from left to right. Note that it is perfectly OK to use your roller across the entire horizontal sections.

Finally, you can paint the border of the door. In this step, you use the roller to paint the left and right borders from top to bottom, and then the top and bottom border sections are painted horizontally.

Use the brush to paint any recessed sections, following the rule of painting with the grain.

Applying the second coat of paint

Chances are, you’ll need to apply at least one more coat to the door to ensure a smooth and even finish.

Allow the paint to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then, very lightly sand down the surface of the door. You want to use really fine sandpaper at this stage. All you want to do is remove any bubbles or raised bits of paint.

Run your hand across the surface of the door before you start. You should feel a few little bumps and raised areas here and there. Start sanding and keep checking as you go until you have a nice smooth surface. When you’re done, clean the dust off the door and apply the second coat in the same way as the first.

Don’t forget to clean your paintbrush and roller when you’re finished.