A few weeks ago I asked for opinions on what color to paint my very beat-up old back door, and the color that both Steven and I agreed we liked best was…
Before-and-afters like these are so satisfying. Even when the project is a pain, comparing the before pictures to the after makes it worth all of the trouble.
I had never painted a door before, and I thought it would be pretty straightforward, but then Murphy showed up. Nobody ever invites him, but you turn around and there he is, enforcing his terrible laws and rules. In the course of fixing the stuff that went wrong, I did pick up some useful tips and info about painting a door, though.
First I had to pick out the paint. I’ve used Benjamin Moore paint for all of the walls and cabinets in my house, so I figured I’d go with one of their paints. When I did a bit of research, I discovered that they have a paint specifically for exterior/interior doors. Perfect! But when I went to my local Ace Hardware store that carries the Benjamin Moore line, they didn’t have it. I tried another Ace, and they didn’t have it, either. So I called around and found a place that carries it, but that’s when I discovered that it’s like $47 per quart.
This door isn’t really worth $47, so I went to buy a quart of the best outdoor Behr paint, the Marquee line. When I was trying to figure out the color I wanted, a Behr employee suggested that for a door, I should try their alkyd satin enamel paint designed for doors and trim. It’s supposed to be good for minimizing brush-strokes, and at about $15/quart, the price was right, so I got a quart mixed up in “Coral Fountain.”
I actually took the dustpan you can see on the wall below with to use as a color reference when I picked out the paint.
Ok, so with the paint in hand, I needed to prep the door for painting. I took this exterior shot after I had already started doing a little patching and sanding, so it wasn’t quite this bad, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how it got some of the marks and stains that were on it.
If the wood on this door had ever been sealed, it was long enough ago that it had pretty much all worn off, but I still wanted to give it a round of sanding before coating it with a primer. The scratches and gouges on the door and the frame needed to be dealt with first, though. Someone’s dog obviously scratched at the door to be let out, so that was the main area I needed to fill, but there were just a lot of other random dings and scratches. This would have been quite straight-forward, except that at like 10:00 pm, when I grabbed my tin of wood-filler from the garage, I realized it was dried up. Ugh, annoying, but I had more wood-filler, this time in a tube. No matter how hard I squeezed it, though, it wouldn’t come out because it was also dried up.
Almost resigned to having to wait until I could go buy more wood filler the next day, I went rummaging around in my basement cabinet to see if I had any more filler. I found a tin, and when I opened it, it wasn’t dried up at all. Hurray! I slapped it on liberally, then went to bed. The next morning, I added more to a few spots I had missed, and while doing so, I noticed that the filler I’d put on the night before was still gummy. Hmm, not what I was expecting.
Confused, I read the back of the can, where it gave instructions to mix the filler with a wood hardener. What wood hardener? Oh, the one that was a little tube behind the wood-filler tin in the very back of the dark cabinet. Neither of the other wood-fillers I had were the two-part kind, which was why they had dried up, but also why I didn’t think to check what kind this one was. Oops.
After I had gummed up a few sanding disks and scraped away as much of the wood filler as I could, I re-filled the holes with properly-mixed wood filler, then sanded again with my random orbital sander, cleaned up the dust, and primed.
Before I got started painting I looked up tutorials for how to properly paint a door. And then I found reasons to ignore most of the suggestions.
1. Take down the door, and place it on sawhorses for painting.
This summer I added a vintage wood screen door, partially because it would make it possible to take down the door for painting, and still keep my cats indoors and bugs out. But it’s too cold for that right now, so the door stayed in place.
2. Remove the door hardware.
Too much trouble, and with the door still up, impractical. Also, this hardware isn’t in good shape, so a little paint won’t do too much more harm. I taped it off with blue painters tape instead.
3. Use a roller to apply paint, then brush out.
Two brushes, a 1-inch one and a 2 1/2-inch one, saved me the trouble of having to clean up a roller and its tray.
4. Apply the paint to the recessed areas around the panels, then the panels themselves, then the rest of the door.
I tried to do this, but the paint was drying too fast. So instead of painting all of the panels and then all of the rest of the door, I ended up working in sections, painting a panel and the area around it before moving on to the next panel. I used the 1-inch brush for the recessed areas, and the bigger brush for everything else.
After the first coat of paint (I did two), I left the door open for as long as I could before closing it. The door fits into the frame pretty badly, and in a couple of spots the paint stuck to the frame. So when I did the second coat, I put painter’s tape on the frame in the spots where the paint had stuck before. This successfully prevented damage to the second coat of paint.
Another thing I had to deal with was that the wood veneer on the panels was peeling away in a bunch of spots. Before painting, I squeezed wood glue beneath the panels as best I could, then taped them down with painter’s tape while the glue dried. There were tiny pinhole gaps between the veneer and the panel in several places, which were especially noticeable when coming up the stairs from the basement, so I smoothed some paintable caulk into the gaps with my fingers, and then painted it after it had dried.
This nail scrubber works perfectly for getting dried paint and caulk off of your hands, by the way!
Something funny I realized when I was painting this door is that the color is a good match for paint that was once on some of the mouldings and doors in the house. It has almost all been painted over many times, except for this coat on the underside of the built-in storage benches in our breakfast nook.
It’s funny how colors come around again, isn’t it? I wonder if that paint is from the fifties, when those infamous pink tile bathrooms were popular. I’ll confine my use of pink to surfaces that are easy to repaint, so there are no pink tile bathrooms in my future.
Primer: Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Primer
Paint: White Alkyd Satin Enamel Interior/Exterior Paint in “Coral Fountain“
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