The Right Way to Paint a Door

Aspire doors up close

Repainting your doors is a great way to revitalise your property. A fresh coat of paint on an external door can make your home look much more appealing, increasing the all-important “kerb appeal” if you are looking to sell your home. Repainting an internal door can completely change the look of the room and is a low-cost way to revitalise boring or dated décor.

You may think that repainting a door is a rather simple task – after all, a door is just a big rectangle made of wood, but there is a right way to go about the job. If you do it wrong you could end up with a streaky, uneven finish. Here are a few tips to help you make sure your new paint job looks great.

Painting Interior vs Exterior Doors

It is important that you choose the right paint for the type of door you will be working on. Most paints and varnishes are fine for indoor use, but if you will be painting an exterior door then you need to use a weatherproof paint. Another thing to consider is whether the paint is oil or latex based. If you are painting over an existing coat then you must use the right type of paint – latex based paints won’t adhere well to a surface that is covered with oil based paint, for example.

You don’t always have to remove the existing paint coat if you are using the right type of paint (but light sanding and an undercoat will make the finish look nicer), but if you want to put a water based paint on a door that has already been painted with latex paint, you will need to strip the existing coat first.

The most common mistakes and problems with painting doors include:

Paint Bubbles

Paint bubbles form when the paint is unable to adhere to the surface underneath. This can be caused by using the wrong type of paint, or by painting on a surface that is either damp, dusty, or too hot. One common misconception when it comes to painting outdoors is that you should do so on a very, very hot day. While it is good to paint when the weather is warm and dry you should try not to paint something that is directly exposed to the sun. So, wait until the sun is not shining on your front door before you paint it!

Blocking and Sticking

Paint blocking is the term that is used to describe two surfaces that have been freshly painted, and that stick together when they are placed next to each other. This can occur with low quality paints, and it can also happen if you paint a door or window then close it too quickly, not giving it time to dry. Ideally, if you are painting a door you should remove it from the doorway and lay it flat, paint it and then give it plenty of time to dry before re-hanging it.

Take the time to prime and sand the surface that you plan on painting, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding topcoats and finishes.

Foaming and Cratering

Foaming and cratering is a common issue that can have a huge number of causes.  It is normal for very small bubbles to form while you are painting a surface, but with high quality paints the bubbles will break easily to leave a smooth finish. If you use a low quality paint, bubbles are more likely, and they can also form if you shake a can of paint that is only partially filled, or if you apply paint too quickly using a roller. For best results, purchase the best quality paint you can afford, prime the surface before painting, and work slowly and methodically.

Lap Marks

Lap marks are lines of paint that are denser or darker than other areas of paint. They appear if you apply paint over an area that was painted earlier and has already started to dry. The best way to prevent these unsightly marks is to make sure that there is always a “wet edge”. Try to paint in small segments, working quickly enough that you don’t leave a dry area. Paint “wet to dry”, working towards the unpainted area then back in and over the just-painted section for a smooth and professional finish.


Flashing, or poor sheen uniformity, can create dull areas and shiny patches that make your paint job look unprofessional. The best way to avoid this is to seal the wood before you start painting. The primer and undercoat will help to create a uniform surface, so that the final coat looks as smooth as possible.

Roller Marks

Roller marks are the pattern that the paint roller leaves on the painted surface. This is a common problem if you use a lower grade of paint or a low quality roller. Similar “stipple” can occur if you use low quality paint brushes too.  You are more likely to see roller marks when you are painting with latex paint. To prevent this problem, pre-dampen the roller cover and then thoroughly shake out any excess water before starting to paint. Try not to lift the roller from the door too often while painting, and take care not to allow too much paint to collect at the ends of the roller.

As you can see, most of the problems that occur when painting a door are things that can be prevented if you use good quality paint and work methodically and at a steady pace. If you rush the job or keep having to stop because of distractions, that’s where problems will start.  Give yourself plenty of time to complete your paint job, and prime the surface of the door before you start work. As with any other DIY task, taking the time to do it properly first time is much more efficient than rushing the job and ending up needing to re-do it because of unsightly streaks, cracks, bubbles or lap marks.

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