Painting Interior Doors A Complete Guide

Painting your home’s interior doors can give any room a whole new appeal, and it’s an easy way to brighten and redecorate any space.

However, many folks feel intimidated regarding DIY projects like painting interior doors. But, don’t worry. We are going to show you everything you need to do to ensure quality results with very little mess.

Below we’ll show you the tools you’ll need, how to pick your paint, prepare your door, and paint interior doors either on the hinges or removed from the door frame.

Painting Interior doors

Painting Interior Doors: Selecting the Right Tools for the Job

The best way to achieve professional results is by selecting the right high-quality tools for the job. You want to invest no less than $10 on a top-quality 2 to 2½-inch sash brush for painting your interior door and trim.

Or, if you wish to use a roller instead, look at those with microfiber roller sleeves. These rollers hold more paint while providing a smoother finish than foam rollers.

Also, don’t be afraid to spend a bit more on a good paint tray, mineral spirits, drop cloths, paint tape, and 120-grit and 220-grit sandpaper (or a power sander). You may also consider buying a plastic tarp if you’re removing the door to paint.

You also want safety equipment such as goggles and a NIOSH-rated respirator or mask. You’ll also want to have a full disposable paint suit with disposable gloves and foot covers in cases involving lead paint.

You may need other supplies if you have holes or cracks to fill. We’ll cover those a little later.

And, of course, you’ll need your paint and primer, which we’ll discuss in more detail in an upcoming section.

Determine your door’s previous paint type

lady sitting on the floor painting interior door

For older doors that may have been painted with lead paint, it’s very important that you have the above-mentioned safety gear to protect yourself. Lead-based paint is very common in structures painted in 1978 and prior.

Lead can easily be absorbed into the body through the atmosphere or direct skin contact during the sanding process. Lead exposure has been linked to brain and organ damage.

If you’re not sure about the age of the previous paint, you can test it using a lead testing kit to learn if the paint contains hazardous toxic metal.

If the paint contains lead, it’s essential to use extreme caution when removing it using the safety equipment mentioned above. Also, consider removing the door to paint in an isolated environment away from children and pets.

And for lead dust removal, you’ll need a high-efficiency HEPA vacuum with a particulate air filter. Wet wiping can also help capture lead dust. You can learn more information on how to clean up lead dust at this website for lead information published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Or, you can contact the National Lead Information Hotline by calling 1-800-424-LEAD.

Painting Interior Doors: Picking the Right Color and Type of Paint and Primer

There are pros and cons to using latex or oil-based paint. For example, latex is easier to use and clean, while oil may require thinning and is tougher to clean. That said, oil-based paint is often more durable.

Picking the Right Paint for Your Interior Door’s Trim

Here’s a tip from top designers. If you’re painting your door in a light neutral color or white, use the same color for the surrounding trim. If you’re using a darker shade, you want to pair it with a neutral tone or off-white color. When painting an interior door in a darker color, first paint the trim, and allow it to dry for no less than 24 hours while leaving the door open or protecting the trim with painter’s tape on the door.

Colors to Consider

As for color, many folks like to coordinate the color of their new paint to accent the main color scheme of a particular room. You can download handy apps that analyze the color you wish to match and have it tell you exactly what color or colors you should be considering.

Ultimately, the primary color will depend on your taste. Bright colors like red and yellow can liven up any space, while dark colors like navy blue, black, and grey can give a room a more sophisticated appeal.

Choosing Your Finish

You can expect grime and fingerprints on interior doors, especially if they are exposed to high levels of human traffic. This is why you want to paint with a semi-gloss or gloss finish, instead of eggshell or flat, since they make cleaning the surface much more effortless. Glossier paint also allows doors and trim to really “pop” or stand out brilliantly against the wall’s flatter paint surface.

Painting Interior Doors: Preparing Your Door

guy sanding interior door

Here are a few universal steps to prepare to paint interior doors.

Step #1 Clean

Clean the door using mineral spirits or a degreasing cleaner.

Step #2 Remove the doorknob

Remove it completely before painting to ensure the paint doesn’t splatter on your doorknob. Paint can harm the doorknob, causing it to stick or clog the locking mechanism.

Step #3 Repair cracks and holes

You’ll want high-quality spackle or wood filler and gypsum plaster for holes and cracks. You may also need an adhesive filling compound. This substance will shrink very little after it dries, and you can paint over it without priming (sometimes, you don’t even have to sand).

Apply just a little wood filler or spackle on a putty knife, then scrape it into the crack or hole as evenly as you can. Allow it to dry for at least two hours, then take another look to see if you need more filler or spackle before sanding the filled-in sections smoothly.

preparing the door for painting

Step #3 Sand and Prime

After repairing any imperfections, you should sand the entire door’s surface using 120-grit sandpaper. You can either do this by hand or using a power sander.

Once finished, wipe the door down with mineral spirits dampened cloth and use another soft cloth to dry and remove any remaining surface dust.

Next, apply your primer using your brush, or you can first brush your panels and then use your roller to cover the rest of the door.

Leave the primer coat to dry (preferably overnight). Once dry, gently sand the door’s surface again using 220-grit sandpaper.

Anatomy of a Door and Frame

Anatomy of a Door and Frame

Here’s a picture and a glossary of terms that shows the anatomy of a door and frame. This will provide visual references to terms used in the how-to instructions.

Here are the definitions of corresponding terms from the encyclopedia:

  • Top rail – The uppermost horizontal member of a unit of framing, such as a door or a sash.
  • Freeze rail – A door rail which is just below the frieze panel.
  • Middle rail – An intermediate horizontal structural member of a door between the stiles; if it contains a lock, it is called a lock rail.
  • Bottom rail – The lowest horizontal structural member of the frame of a door or window that interconnects its vertical members.
  • Stiles – The vertical components found on the outside edges of the door.
  • Lock stiles – The vertical structural member of a door (or a casement sash) which closes against the jamb (or mullion) of the surrounding frame; the side away from the hinges.
  • Panel – A door having stiles, rails, and sometimes mutins which form one or more frames around (thinner) recessed panels.
  • Mullion – The center vertical member of a double-door opening set between two single active leaves, usually the strike side of each leaf.
  • Moulding – A decorative element used to enhance the framing of the door.
  • Frame or Lining – The door frame or lining is what the door fits within.

Painting Interior Doors: How to Paint An Attached Door

painting bathroom door diy

There are inferior doors that are challenging to remove or just plain too heavy. This method allows you to paint the door while still on its hinges. One significant advantage to using this method is there’s no need to wait for one side to finish drying before you can paint the other. Here are the steps to painting interior doors on their hinges:

  • Cover your hinges using painter’s tape.
  • Using a paintbrush is often more effective than a roller for panel doors.
  • Start by painting the inside of the top panels. You want to work with the grain, thereby smoothing out the paint. Apply paint to the recessed areas first before painting the faces of the panels.
  • If your door has a center vertical stile, begin painting his area next. Blend your brush marks from the center stile into the horizontal rails when you’re done.
  • Continue painting the horizontal rails or framing members, beginning with the top rail while working towards the bottom.
  • Finally, paint the vertical stiles, starting on the left. Feather your brush strokes from the rails (you want to do this while they are still wet). Try to keep your line as straight as you can along the edge where the rails meet the stiles. Now, roll or brush the edges, careful not to let any runs start on the door’s face.
  • Ensure the door remains open so it can fully dry. If a door is closed while the paint is still wet, it’s likely to stick to the door frame.

Painting Interior Doors: How to Paint An Unattached Door

Here are some instructions for painting interior doors while unattached to the frame. You’ll need a pair of sawhorses to ensure an even coat with no runs or drips for this project. Plus, it makes it much easier to paint the edges. Here are the steps:

  • To remove your interior door, wedge a chisel or flathead screwdriver into the joint just between the top of the hinge pins and the pins. Tap the screwdriver lightly with a hammer to loosen the pins.
  • Using a helper to support the door’s weight, remove the pins, then carry the door to the area where you’re going to paint it.
  • Lay the door flat on the sawhorses.
  • Start by painting the door’s edges with your brush.
  • Now begin painting the panels starting with the recessed panels, then start on the horizontal rails before finishing with the vertical stiles.
  • Allow your door to fully dry on one side before you flip it to paint the other side.
  • Once both sides are completely dry, remount the door.

Painting Interior Doors: How to Paint A Flat Door

painting a wooden door

Painting an interior door without panels (flat) is relatively faster and easier. A roller works best, but you can also use a brush. The steps are:

  • Begin with vertical strokes using your rolling or brush. Ensure your strokes are long and smooth.
  • Use a small brush to finish the edge around your hinges.

Painting Interior Doors: Conclusion

We’ve learned that painting interior doors can be a relatively easy project when you follow the right steps.

Just remember to keep children and pets away from your wet painted doors. Always leave painted doors open to help them dry. Also, wet paint signs are handy, especially if you have folks coming in and out.

The right tools, preparation, paint, and technique are crucial for any DIY project, and thankfully with this knowledge, even a novice painter can achieve brilliant results when painting interior doors.

If you want more information regarding how much it costs to paint your interior, check out our article here!