How to Paint an Exterior Door (Plus Tips If It Has Glass Panels!)

published Feb 21, 2023
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A green door with six square glass panels on the upper half, which is open to an entryway with a wood table. On the wood table is a white bowl of fruit and a white vase filled with flowers.

I count myself lucky to have a glass-panel door in my kitchen that opens to the patio. It lets in some extra light and provides a lovely view to our backyard, where I can watch my kiddos play. However, since it rains so frequently where I live in Florida, the painted finish on the exterior side of the door has certainly seen better days. There were several areas where it was severely chipped, and the entire surface had a thick layer of dirt and grime that stood out rather prominently against its white paint color.

Craving a bit of a change, I decided it was time to repaint the door with a fresh new hue. I settled on a deep sage green paint that I had color matched to Farrow & Ball’s Calke Green. The pigment blends in seamlessly with the natural surroundings but also offers a cheerful welcome as you pass into the kitchen. Painting the door wasn’t hard, but there were a few steps I needed to take to ensure it would hold up against the harsh weather. Below are my best tips for painting an exterior door (see above for my results!).

The Best Time to Paint Your Door

Whenever you work outdoors, it’s always wise to check the weather before you get started to make sure no rain or high winds are forecasted. You’ll also want to ensure the conditions will be ideal for the paint to dry. Typically, that means a sunny day between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity levels between 40 and 70 percent. Late spring and early fall are generally the best seasons for an outdoor painting project, but I painted mine on a nice sunny day in mid-winter without any issues (keep in mind that I live in Florida). As for the time of day, aim to paint when the door isn’t in direct sunlight, which can cause the paint to dry too quickly while you’re still working.

The Right Type of Paint to Use

When painting a door that will be subject to various outdoor elements, you should always use exterior paint. This type of paint is specially formulated to withstand moisture from rain or snow, resist mold and mildew, and also provide protection against fading due to exposure to UV rays. While there are a range of different sheens to choose from, a shinier finish such as satin or semi-gloss will offer better durability against scrapes and dings than a matte or eggshell one. Plus, it also makes the door stand out more as an architectural feature.

How to Prep the Surface

The first order of business is to clean the door thoroughly. I like to mix one gallon of water, one cup of white vinegar, and a few drops of dish soap together to create a degreasing solution. Then I simply saturate a rag with the cleaner, wipe down the entire door, and dry it thoroughly. 

Next, you’ll need to decide whether you want to remove the door from its hinges and lay it flat, or paint it in place. I opted to paint it in place because it was easier for me while working alone, and I didn’t have to worry about covering up the door opening with a tarp to prevent bugs or leaves from getting into my home. Whichever you decide, be sure to either remove all of the hardware (such as the door knob, deadbolt, or nameplate) or cover it up with painter’s tape. 

If your door has any areas like mine where the paint has chipped, you’ll need to scrape those off first with a paint scraper or putty knife. Then, give the entire door a light sanding with 120-grit sandpaper and wipe away the dust with a damp cloth. 

If Your Door Has Glass Panels

If your door has any glass panels, you have three options to choose from. You could mask off the glass edges with painter’s tape. Secondly, you could paint without taping and then scrape off any paint from the glass once it has dried. And finally, you could apply a liquid masking product onto the glass that allows you to peel the paint off once it has dried. 

I went with option two because it required no extra prep, and as long as I was careful when painting around the glass edges, I didn’t have much scraping to do afterwards. I used a paint scraper, and it didn’t take long at all to remove the paint from the glass. 

How to Paint the Door

Start by applying a coat of primer to your door. Make sure your primer is compatible with your type of paint, either oil-based or latex. Use a paintbrush to apply paint to any beveled areas or edges and then use a low-nap or foam roller on all of the flat areas. If you opted to paint the door in place, it’s best to start at the top and work your way down, which allows you to catch any drips that may run down. Allow the primer to dry completely.

Similar to the primer, apply the first coat of paint by brushing it onto the edges and beveled areas first and then rolling it onto the flat areas with a foam or low-nap roller. Again, start at the top and work downward. Let the first coat dry completely, and then follow up with a second coat for flawless coverage. Replace all of the hardware or remove the tape once the final coat has dried.