Tips on Painting Interior Doors

Painting an interior door can be easy.

The door should be the last thing you paint in a room. Do the job when the door will be able to remain open until the paint dries. In other words, don’t plan to paint the door to your only bathroom right before a large party in your house. Before you start the painting project, make sure the door is clean and free of grime. Once that is done, you are ready to get started.


For the best results, purchase a high-quality brush. According to Old House Web, quality brushes have split ends and flexible tips and are at least one-half longer than they are wide. For example, a 3-inch brush should have bristles that are at least 4.5 inches long. Also, the bristles in the center should be slightly longer than the outer ones.

For most doors, use a 2- to 3-inch brush for the door and a 1-inch brush for the trim. Tapered brushes give you more control in corners and when cutting in. You can use a roller with a minimal nap to apply paint to wide areas, but you should immediately brush the paint to give it a smoother finish.

Removing the Door

The easiest way to paint a door is to do it while it is still on its hinges. Simply place a drop-cloth or piece of cardboard under the door to protect the floor from drips. However, if you choose to remove the door, lean the door against a wall for painting. Place a small block between the door and the wall and two small blocks under the bottom edge of the door. You can place the door flat across two sawhorses, but this can cause the paint to puddle. Wait to rehang the door until it is dry.

Removing the doorknob will ensure the best finish.

Removing Hardware

For the best paint job, remove the hardware from the door (even if the door remains on the hinges). It might seem like more work, but covering the hardware with masking tape and painting around it takes just as long and can mar the door’s final appearance. If you choose not to remove the door, painting expert Brian Santos suggests cleaning the hinges with rubbing alcohol and then masking them with rubber cement. The cement will protect the hinges from paint and peel off when you are finished.

Painting Sequence: Paneled Doors

Most doors are either paneled or flat. For paneled doors, start by painting the frames or moldings of the panels from top to bottom. Next, paint the recesses and center of the panels. Paint the vertical rails or stiles that lie in between the panels, and then the horizontal rails. Last, paint the outer rails and edges of the door.

Painting Sequence: Flush Doors

For flush doors, start at the top and work your way down. Paint small, 10-inch sections at a time if using a brush until you reach the bottom of the door. If using a roller, run the roller the full height across the door face, then follow up using a brush that has been lightly dipped in paint. The brush will give you a smoother finish.

Getting a Smooth Finish

For the smoothest finish, apply several light coats rather than one thicker coat. If the coat is too thick, it can drip or sag. Wait for the paint to dry. Then, between coats, lightly sand with a 120-grit sandpaper. This will smooth out any roughness. Brush away all dust before applying the next coat.

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