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How to Paint a Metal Door (Like the Pros)

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Get a streak-free look with these steps to painting a metal door.

Is your metal door all rusty and you’re unsure if you can repair or replace it? Sometimes, all your doors really need is a fresh coat of paint, but in which situations? Allow me to show you how to paint a metal door, what paint to use, and how to paint without brush marks.


Can You Paint a Metal Door?

Painted steel doors last longer than their unpainted counterparts, making it well worth applying new paint instead of buying a new door.

Painting a metal door can be an easy DIY home project if you have the time, patience, and tools for the job. While the painting process is not complicated, you will need a steady hand and some free time on your hands. If you don’t have these, it’s best to call in a professional.

People also turn to professionals because the materials and tools (like professional sprayers and ventilation) needed can be pretty expensive.

Professionals are required when your existing metal door has a lead-based paint layer. Lead paint is toxic, and you shouldn’t handle it if you don’t have experience with this. However, calling in a professional can also be a costly job, so make sure you inquire about prices in your area.

Some people think that if a metal door is rusty or has paint that is peeling, they should change it. When dealing with a rusty but still structurally solid door, sand the rust before priming and painting as usual.

If the rust has caused holes or fractures in the door, it may be necessary to replace it totally. Otherwise, you can just repaint the door.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on a Metal Door?

High-quality exterior acrylic-latex paint is an excellent choice for metal doors. If you want the paint to last longer, choose a glossy variety; it’s more durable and easier to clean. Gloss and semi-gloss paints are a good option for front doors.

Generally more expensive than water-based paint ($20 to $50 per gallon), oil-based paint is made up of pigments, alkyds, or plant-based oils. This makes it durable against everyday use.

However, it is prone to cracking, peeling, and fading over a long period, so choose a product with built-in fade protection.

How to Paint a Metal Door Without Brush Marks

In the following instructions, I’m going to show you how to paint a metal door using metal paint and a brush and roller.

You also have the option of using spray paint for metal. The advantage of spray painting a door is that you can definitely avoid brush marks and achieve an even finish.

Before you begin, keep in mind that paint drying times and environmental considerations can make this a multi-day operation.

What You’ll Need

  • Paint tray.
  • Small paintbrush.
  • Trim-size paint roller.
  • Short-nap roller cover.
  • Exterior primer.
  • Satin exterior paint.
  • Safety goggles.
  • Dust mask.
  • Fine-grit sandpaper.
  • Degreaser.
  • Sponge.
  • Sawhorses.
  • Hammer.
  • Screwdriver.

1. Remove the Door

For optimal results, removing steel doors from their frames is recommended. Place a screwdriver under the head of the hinge pin and use a hammer to tap it upwards. Do this with all hinges until you’re able to remove the door.

2. Remove the Hardware

You don’t want to paint over hardware bits, so it’s best to remove them. If you paint them, you’ll find it more difficult to put them back or to change the screws (due to hardened paint on the surface).

3. Secure the Area

Add painter’s tape over the areas you don’t want to paint. Cover windows and kick plates. Place the door on two sawhorses before you start painting it.

4. Clean the Door

Use a quality degreaser to clean the surface of the door. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use a degreaser compatible with metal surfaces. After cleaning the door, wipe it dry using a towel.

5. Sand the Door

Safety First

Put your safety goggles and dust mask on. Dust particles can cause breathing issues and eye injuries.

Use fine-grit sandpaper to remove any loose paint off the surface of the door.

6. Prime the Door

When your door has a smooth surface, you can start applying the first coat of primer. Use a small brush to apply primer on the inside panels for doors with recessed panels.

Proceed with rolling the primer onto the mullion (the vertical section in the middle of the door) and finish with the rails. Let the primer dry for at least 30 minutes and apply a second coat.

7. Paint the Door

Add at least two coats of paint to the door, allowing it to dry for 30 minutes between each coat. To avoid brush marks, use a small brush for any profile details. Use the roller for flat areas (or, if your door is completely flat, just use the roller).

8. Rehang the Door

When the paint is dry to the touch, remove the painter’s tape. Put all the hardware pieces back in their original place and hang the door just as it was.

How to Paint a Steel Door Without Removing It

If you want to paint a steel door without removing it, you will need to schedule your work around a period of no rain. This works for both spray painting and brush/roller applications.

Prepare the door one day and then begin your first coat of primer the following morning. If you begin early enough, the paint will have enough time to dry come night.

Begin the second coat the following morning, with the goal of having it dry by nightfall. Continue in this manner until all coats are applied.

Remember

Cure times for different paints and primers also depend on whether you are painting an interior or exterior door.

Extra Tips For Painting Metal Doors

If you want to properly learn how to paint a metal door and get a professional finish, here are some extra tips that might help.

  • Always clean the surface before painting it. That includes using a degreaser. Wash the surface of the door using mild detergent to remove persistent dirt.
  • Choose a rust-inhibitive primer before painting. Like Rust-Oleum automotive primer.
  • Remove any old paint that might be peeling by scraping, sanding, or brushing the surface of the door.
  • Repair dents and small holes using epoxy-based composite.
  • Prime the door, especially if you live in a humid environment.
  • Use a galvanized primer like Valspar galvanized primer for the aluminum door, so the paint adheres better to the surface.
  • Use a rust converter like Jenolite rust converter to prevent rust from reappearing.

FAQs

Before diving right in, consider some of these common questions I get asked.

What is the Most Durable Paint for Metal?

Oil-based paint is considered more durable for everyday use because it doesn’t contain any water. However, it is also more likely to crack, chip, and fade over long periods of time. Consider using a primer such as Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer.

Will a Quart of Paint Cover a Door?

If you want to paint an exterior door that has been primed, a quart of paint should suffice.

Should I Use a Brush or Roller to Paint a Metal Door?

Use a roller if the door has a smooth surface, and use a smaller brush for doors with recessed panels.

Can You Spray Paint a Metal Front Door?

Yes, you can. If you choose to spray paint your door, you will need to remove it and transport it to a well-ventilated place. You will also need spray painting equipment and sawhorses to support the door.

Should You Paint Both Sides of a Metal Door?

This comes down to personal preference. Most people want to see the same color on both sides. That’s not always the rule though, so if you want the two sides to have different colors, that’s also an option.

Why Does Paint Flake After Painting?

Paint usually flakes when you apply it on a damp surface or when the painted surface has been constantly exposed to humidity.


The Verdict

Painting a metal door isn’t a complicated process. Part of it is knowing what products are right and how to prep the surface for painting.

Once you gain that knowledge, learning how to paint a metal door is quite easy. It just tends to be more time-consuming if you want to paint it without removing it.

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About the Author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author and Award-Winning Interior Designer. Using her years of hands-on experience, she now writes about design and DIY. She currently resides on the rocky East Coast of Canada with her family and slobbery bulldog.