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How to Paint Internal Doors

High quality interior doors will last for many years if it is properly cared for. Within reason, you can simply repaint a door if the paintwork is starting to look dull. However, after time, you find that there are too many layers of paint or stain for the finish to look good.

If your door’s paintwork is blistered or has started to flake, then you run the risk of making the issue worse by adding another layer. At that point, it makes sense to strip the old paintwork and start from scratch. This can make an old door look brand new.


Before you repaint a door it’s a good idea to strip the old paint off, this applies to a set of doors or just an internal single door. To repaint a door, you will need:

  • Chemical paint stripper
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Paint brush (For applying the stripper, and a different one for painting)
  • Flat braded scraper
  • White spirit or water (depending on the stripper you are using).
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint or stain
  • Rollers
  • Dust sheet
  • Masking tape

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  1. If you have a very old door (one that dates back to the 1960s or before) then you will need to check that the door does not contain any lead pigments. You can use a lead testing kit to do this. If you discover that the paint does contain lead, then you should use a special chemical stripper for lead paint to remove it.
  2. Be sure to wear gloves and goggles when working. Use an old paintbrush to thoroughly work the stripper into surface – including the moulding and corners. Apply it liberally. The chemical will react with the paint and you will see the surface begin to bubble and rupture.
  3. Use a flat-bladed scraper to chip back some of the paint. If you find that there is another layer of paint underneath, then you may need to add more stripper and wait for it to work. Once the stripper has finished working, scrape away the paint to reveal bare wood. Carefully shave paint away from the mouldings.
  4. Neutralize the bare surface with white spirit (or water, as appropriate), carefully working it into the surface with a cloth be sure to completely remove all traces of the stripper.
  5. Finally, sand the surface with a fine grit sandpaper and wipe it clean, it is now ready to paint or stain.

How to Paint an Oak Door

Once the door has been stripped and sanded, then it is ready to be painted. Note that oil and solvent-based paints both give off fumes that can be harmful to your health, so you should ensure that the room is well ventilated at all times while you are working on the door.

If your door has wooden panels, then paint those first with a roller or a large brush, then use a smaller brush to pint the vertical mouldings round the panels. Next, paint the centre vertical and the cross-rails working from top to bottom. Finally, paint the outer verticals and then the edges of the door.

If your door has glass panels, use masking tape to protect the glass, and start by painting the mouldings surrounding the glass, using a cutting-in brush. Next, paint the cross rails, then the outer verticals. Finish with the outer edges.

With flush doors, you can achieve a good finish by dividing the door into eight sections, working from the top left, across the door, then down. Blend each area into the next one while the paint is still wet. Use vertical strokes that run in line with the grain.

How to Stain an Oak Door

Staining or varnishing a door is quite similar to painting a door, however you should be aware that different woods respond to stains in different ways, so the colour you get may not be what you expect after having looked at the tin. That’s why it’s a good idea to test it on a piece of wood that is similar to the door (or on an unobtrusive part of the door) before you start work. You can mix or dilute stains to get a specific shade.

Make sure that the door is clean and dust free, before you start work Apply the stain with a paint brush, working in a similar way to how you would for paint. If you have a moulded panel door, start with the panels, then the mouldings, and work around one half of the door, and then the other. It is important that you follow the grain, and always ‘pick up’ wet edges before they try, otherwise you will see a visible edge where the new stain meets the stain that has already dried.

Work quickly and try to apply the stain evenly without any overlap. When you finish a section, rub the door with a lint-free cloth to even out the stain and get rid of any overlap. Be sure to use a good quality, clean paint brush.

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If the stain needs more than one coat, then let the first coat dry (make sure it is completely dry, be patient with this!) and then go over the surface with fine-grade sandpaper. Wipe the door down with a lint-free cloth, and then apply a second coat. In some cases, you might want to apply a third coat – this is more common with exterior doors, however, where a tough finish is desirable.

Make sure that the varnish dries between each coat. Don’t forget to stain the edges of the door, because the stain will help to ensure that the door is protected from the elements and that it won’t absorb too much moisture in a humid home.

If you want to paint or stain a door so that it has different colours on each side, paint the edges the same colour as the door on the side that it opens, because this is the edge that is going to be seen most often, and this will give it a more uniform appearance.


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