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How to Paint Interior Doors with Professional Results

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By : Jilda Peterson    99 or more times read
Over time, the interiors doors in any home start to show wear and tear: Edges get worn away and nick and scratches appear. You may not really notice it because you see the doors every day, but if you look closely with fresh eyes youíll undoubtedly agree that your interior doors could use some sprucing up. Freshly painted doors with a flawless finish will make your entire home look cleaner and newer. Here is how to get the job done.

First, Repair Cracks, Dents and Defects

Paint is not going to do a good job of hiding dents and dings unless you repair them first; in fact many cases, just painting over an indentation without first repairing it actually makes the defect more noticeable. Standard wood putty applied and sanded according to label directions will do the trick. If the door is badly damaged, however, you may just need to replace it. After repairing any cracks or dings on the door, take a close look at the door trim and molding and repair that as needed also. If you have more than a few simple fills to make on the door, it is best to remove it from the hinges and set it on sawhorses.

After sanding the door, trim and molding, wipe it down with clean water to remove any sawdust. Also take the time to wipe away and dirt and grime if sanding is not needed. Use liquid soap and water, then change the water and wipe the door down thoroughly with clean water to remove all soap residue. Residue can cause adhesion problems for the primer and paint. Before painting, either remove the hardware and door knob or mask it off carefully with blue painters tape.

Primer should be applied before paint when you are going from a darker color to a light one or if working with wood that has never been painted before. If you are re-painting the door in the existing color, primer is not generally needed as long as the door is cleaned. Any repaired and sanded areas, however, should be primed before painting.

Hinged or Unhinged?

There is much debate over whether to paint a door on its hinges or set on sawhorses. If you had to remove the door to repair it, then you may as well paint it on sawhorses. Itís also wise to set the door on sawhorses if several coats of paint are needed. If you are simply painting over the existing paint in the same color, you may be able to work with the door in place. Itís necessary to secure it so it doesnít swing while working and, of course, the door needs to be swung away from the frame in order to paint evenly. Work methodically from top to bottom and wipe your brush after dipping it in the primer or paint to reduce the chances of causing unsightly drips and runs; if you do see a run, paint it away immediately. When painting a door on its hinges, itís also necessary to protect the flooring below it with a tarp or old sheet.

The advantage to painting the door on its hinges is that you can do one side and then the other without having to wait; on sawhorses, you have to wait for one side to dry thoroughly before flipping it over. However, if you are changing colors of paint and will need to do several coats, working on sawhorses will usually result in the most professional finish.
Jilda Peterson, author and staff designer at, specializes in Southwestern wall sculptures and decorative wall grilles.

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