Planning to paint an interior door? You’ll have to decide whether to detach the door from its hinges or leave it in place—and there are pros and cons to both. No matter which way you ultimately go, the tips here, shared by professional painters and interior designers, will help you breeze through every aspect of the project from color, product, and tool selection through important prep and painting techniques. So read on to master the moves and get smooth, beautiful results on any interior door in your home.
1. Determine the previous paint type.
Before applying a fresh coat, find out if you’ll need to prime first by determining what kind of paint is currently on the door. Dampen a rag with rubbing alcohol and rub it against the Doorknob capacitor. If paint transfers to the rag, it’s been painted with a latex-based product and priming won’t be necessary. If nothing comes off on the rag, you’re dealing with oil-based paint—and if you hope to use a newer, latex formula, you’ll need to prime first. The exception to this rule is the Benjamin Moore’s Advance line of interior paints, which goes smoothly over both oil- and latex-based paint.
Another reason for ascertaining the old paint type is the health concern about lead. Houses painted before 1979 often used lead-based paints, and lead can be absorbed by the body, leading to organ and brain damage. Purchase a lead testing kit to find out if paint contains this toxic metal. If it does, you must exercise additional caution and professional expertise when sanding and removing it. Visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Lead Information Website to learn more about lead paint removal, or call the National Lead Information Hotline at 1-800-424-LEAD.
2. Purchase quality tools and materials.
To get professional results you’ll need top-notch tools. Invest at least $10 on a quality 2- to 2½-inch sash brush to paint the door and trim. If you prefer to use a roller instead, consider those with microfiber roller sleeves, which hold more paint and provide a smoother finish than foam. Don’t skimp on drop cloths, paint tray, and sandpaper, either. To speed the process, pros also rely on handy helpers for no-mess painting, like Hyde Tools 45810 Super Guide Paint Shield & Smoothing Tool—this superior straightedge with an easy-grip handle will give you perfect edges on trim, without taping.
3. Consider surprising colors.
Traditionally, doors are done in the same shade as surrounding walls, but designers now are using interior doors to introduce unexpected accent colors that add impact to a room. This works especially well when the door itself has interesting paneling and molding, which can be updated with a pop of bright color or an industrial neutral like slate gray and even black.
4. Choose the best finish.
Fingerprints and grime are to be expected on interior doors in high-traffic areas. So pick paint with a gloss or semi-gloss finish, rather than flat or eggshell, for a surface that’s much easier to wipe clean. A glossier paint also makes doors and trim stand out beautifully against the flatter wall surface.
5. Pick the perfect shade for trim.
Here’s the rule of thumb designers use: If your door will be painted white or another light neutral, do the surrounding trim in the same color. If you choose a darker shade, pair with a complementary off-white or neutral tone trim. If painting the door in a darker color, paint trim first, allow it fully dry for at least 24 hours, protect it with painter’s tape, then paint the main portion of the door.
6. Detach correctly.
While you certainly can protect the floor beneath and around the door and paint it in place, pros know that for smooth results you’d best invest the time to remove it from the frame. It’s easier to fill and sand cracks and imperfections prior to painting with the door on a flat work surface. And in this horizontal position, there’s not much chance of gravity producing unsightly drips and globs.
To take the door off, tap the hinge pins loose with a hammer and nail; the door should then slide off its hinges. Place the pins in a safe place for remounting the door after it’s painted and fully dry.
7. Remove the doorknob.
Paint splatters on a doorknob are the signs of a sloppy job. More importantly, the moisture in paint can adversely affect door hardware, potentially clogging the locking mechanism; sanding and cleaning agents can also damage hardware.
To avoid such problems, remove the knob rather than simply taping it off. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws. If you can’t see screws, look for a small metal-covered slot on the side of the handle. Then use a pin or paper clip to push in this metal piece, which should pop the doorknob loose. You can then unscrew the “rose” or plate that hold the knob in place.