How to Paint an Exterior Door the Right Way

Curb appeal instantly boosts a home’s value — but even if you are not selling a home, a freshly painted front door is always a welcome sight.

Surface prep is important when you are painting, but it’s especially important for a wooden exterior door because the weather will constantly abuse the surface.

Begin by removing the hardware so there is no chance of getting paint on it. Next, you will want to scrape and sand any areas of peeling finish. In this case, the door was previously painted without proper preparation. There is so much peeling paint that we are removing the door from the hinges, so we can put it on sawhorses to work horizontally.

After the peeling areas are scraped and the entire door has been sanded with 100-grit sandpaper, we clean it off and begin applying an oil-based primer. The primer does three things: It seals the wood, it fills small divots in the surface and it creates a better surface for the finish paint to adhere to.

Sealing wood that’s subject to moisture is important, especially where the open grain at the top and bottom of the door can soak up water like a sponge. In this case, the peeling was so bad that even after priming there are still some low places that are evident. To fill them in, we are applying a thin layer of auto body filler that will be sanded out flush with the surface before we apply the finish paint.

After two coats the door should be ready to re-hang.

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Backed by his 40-year remodeling career, Danny served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. His extensive hands-on experience and understanding of the industry make him the go-to source for all things having to do with the home – from advice on simple repairs, to complete remodels, to helping homeowners prepare their homes for extreme weather and seasons.


  1. ‘Not sure what’s going on. I’ve been painting for years. I am painting an exterior door that gets little abuse from weather. It has a factory finish green paint on it so I sanded a little, primed it with 2 coats and started with my rose gloss paint. I used a roller since the brush left marks. The paint peels like a large sheet of latex. Should I have used an oil based primer? The paint isn’t oil based. It’s blotchy and uneven and I’m thinking of using a heat gun to remove it all. Not sure what to do.


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