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Painting a Door

Updated: Jan 7

Got a door that you'd like to change the colour of, or it's looking a bit worn? A coat of paint can be enough to give it a lift! Have a read to see how.

As doors are typically made of timber, you will need an oil based paint. After getting the preferred paint and checking if it needs an undercoat as well, you will need to decide whether to paint it on the hinges or outside.



  • Relatively easy - no doorframe to paint around

  • Avoid getting horrible fumes in the house

  • Avoid making a mess inside


  • Watch out for undesirable bits blowing onto fresh paint and getting stuck there

  • You have to carefully unscrew and reattach to the hinges. Reattaching to the hinges can be tricky, and if you want a good finish, you should consider painting the screws and hinges too

  • You may have to wait for it to be touch dry before painting the other side



  • Avoid detaching and reattaching the door to the hinges

  • Avoid bits blowing onto the fresh paint

  • Paint both sides in one go


  • Avoiding getting paint on the doorframe, floor and walls - if you get paint where you don't want it, wipe it off quickly with turpentine. At the same time, you want to paint a whole side quickly if you have a difficult paint (e.g. red), potentially facing a quick but difficult decision to make

  • Keeping the doors and windows open, even if it's a hot day, and keeping the fumes out of the room you're sleeping in (I actually woke up with a headache because of oil paint fumes)

If you're painting on the hinges, then skip taking the door off!

Unscrew the Door Handle and Locks

You may need to refer to the instructions for the lock and/or door handle (search for the model number on the internet). For ours, I had to remove a cover plate with a steel putty knife before unscrewing it. Make sure not to lose the screws.

Detach from the Hinges (if painting outside)

First, you will need to clean the paint out of the screw heads using a small nail, needle tweezers or similar.

Cleaning out paint in door hinge screws with a nail
This will save you major headaches with unscrewing the door

Unscrew the screws. In this case, two at the top hinge, all at the bottom hinge then the remaining screws in the top hinge. Again, make sure not to lose them - although they may be easier to replace than the door handle screws.

Slide the door along the hinges. If you pull straight out, you risk damaging the timber.

Sliding a door along a hinge to avoid damage to timber
Undamaged timber is what we want

Place on a frame. Try to minimise the contact area so the underside can dry well.

Resting a door on a table in a garage
We probably should have removed the glass from the table here

Installing a Vent (optional)

If you have ducted air conditioning, a vent is a good idea - otherwise you trap hot or cold air in the room with the door closed.


Apply the undercoat first if necessary. The steps are the same for undercoat, first coat and second coat. Follow the repainting times on the appropriate paint can.

I recommend painting the top edge. If you detached the door, also the bottom edge. This protects the timber from water.

Next, the two side edges. If attached to the hinges, have it fully open for the hinged edge. Quickly wipe off any paint that gets onto the door frame, using turpentine or equivalent cleaner if necessary.

If on the hinges, when painting the main sides, use a brush at the top corner near the door frame and also at the bottom edge. For the side that is closer to the door frame, also use a brush along the door frame edge. Use a small roller everywhere else. If outside, you can use a roller on the whole side.

Use the brush and the roller together so you are doing one third or one quarter of each main side at a time. Especially for difficult paint like red, apply the paint thickly and as quickly as you can to avoid premature drying. Premature drying means uneven coverage. Also consider having the window of the room shut to slow down the drying time - this can be an advantage if you're inside.

Painting a door teal outside in a garage
Use a roller on a whole main side if you're outside - easy!

Door painted teal and attached to hinges
Left face - watch the door frame along the side edge. Right face - easier

Reattach the Door (if detached)

If you detached the door, after waiting for the paint to dry, reattach by starting with the top screw in the top hinge - without tightening fully yet. You may need someone else or a wedge to hold it up. Next, the bottom screw in the bottom edge, also without tightening fully. After all the screws are in, tighten them.

Reattach the Door Handle and Lock

You may need to follow the instructions for the door handle and/or lock. In my case, start by reattaching the catch, then the spindle, then screw on the handle with the two screws - but not tightly. I then fitted the screw in locking pin before tightening the screws. Finally, I pushed on the cover plates.

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