How to Refinish Your Front Door

Why I Would Encourage Anyone to Refinish Your Front Door

When Victor and I first moved into our new home back in April, it was green with dark green trim. It wasn’t the worst thing ever, but it certainly wasn’t what we ultimately wanted, so first on our priority list of house updates was to paint the exterior. The nice thing was, not only did the house need it for the looks, it also needed it for the protection, so it made since to knock it out. When we painted the exterior though, we left the front door the dark green color it was when we moved in.

Despite its having gorgeous ornate detailing, our front door all but disappeared behind our storm door. The dark green color under the shadow of our front stoop looked like a black hole and all the beauty of our all-wood door was lost to the naked eye until your hand was on the knob.

A few weeks ago, I finally decided it was time to refinish our front door. I was happy to find that it’s not as difficult or expensive to refinish your front door as you might think! You can make it difficult if you want to, but it really doesn’t require much to give your front door a DIY facelift.

The Benefits of Refinishing Your Front Door

Unless you stumbled upon this post because you’re already planning to refinish your front door, you may be wondering what the point of refinishing your front door is. I mean, a door is a door.

Well, as long as it opens and closes and locks like you need it to, your door is good to go. You don’t have to do anything with it. It’s a bit of a no-harm-no-foul thing. So the good news is you don’t have to do anything special with your front door if you don’t want to.

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With that said though, taking the time to refinish your front door will bring instant curb appeal to your home. Not only that, it’s cost effective and doesn’t take much time to complete at all. You should be able to refinish your front door for under $30 with paint leftover to complete another exterior paint project or two should you choose to do so.

A front door is the welcome center of your home. First impressions matter. When someone drives up to your home, it’s a standout to have a front door that pops. When someone walks up to your door, it’s unique to make them stop a moment and admire the detail before they knock. A door doesn’t have to be magical to make an impression. We all make judgements subconsciously about just about everyone and everything we encounter whether we mean to or not, and a home is no different.

Think of your door like the handshake of your home. People may not remember it one way or another days down the road, but it will have helped make your homes first impression to them anyway. Make that handshake a good one.

Five Steps to Refinish Your Front Door

1. Choose your paint

This is where you get to be creative! Depending on your style, you may want a door that pops against the color of your house, that really makes passersby say “wow”! Or, if you’re like me, you may want something that coordinates with your exterior color scheme, a color that highlights the beauty of your day but doesn’t necessarily make a statement in and of itself.

If your door has a lot of character in its design or if you have other major curb appeal going on (a garden with lots of color, a porch that makes a statement, a gorgeous tree, some front patio furniture, etc.), you may want to opt for a more subtle door color. If you are keeping the rest of your curb appeal more minimal and simpler, then a bright accent door may be just the thing for you!

In additional to choosing color, you also have to choose finish and quality of paint. You don’t necessarily need to know this in advance of getting to the paint counter at your local hardware store, but it does help to have some sort of an idea. It’s important to get exterior paint for your door. Decide if you want a glossier or a more matte look to choose your finish. The glossier a door is, the easier it will be to clean. I went for a semi-gloss. And then choose your paint quality keeping in mind how exposed your door is to the elements (sunlight, wind, rain, etc.). You don’t typically want to go with low-end paint for a high-traffic spot like your front door, but a mid-range paint should do the trick unless your door is very exposed and gets above-average use.

A quart of paint should do the trick.

While you’re there, don’t forget to snag some brushes, too, if you don’t already have them. I would recommend a small roller, a mid-size brush, and a detail brush. Be sure to also grab a roller pan, as well, if you don’t already have one.

2. Clean off your door and set up your supplies

This is an important step, but it shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.

Start by getting out all your paint supplies including your paint, brushes, roller pan, a rag, a tarp or towel, and a roll of paper towels for just in case.

Open the door and use the rag to dust the door of any debris that may have collected. If you have a wood door, this is also a good time to get rid of any splintering spots that may be sticking out. Most wood slivers that are sticking out can be removed really easily.

Once you have dusted down the door, open the door and slide your tarp or towel underneath the bottom of the door so it sticks out on both sides and covers the ground from one end of the door to the other. This will protect your floors while you paint.

3. Paint the large surface space of the door, avoiding areas directly surrounding the doorknob,    

This is pretty straight forward. A front door is pretty simple surface space to paint, so go ahead and dig in there with your roller and brushes and get the major surface space done.

Pour a little of your paint into your roller pan hit your flat surfaces. If you want the door to have a brushed look, once you’ve rolled on the paint, swipe over it with a light touch using your paint brush. After you’ve rolled, get into any textured or carved surface areas using the brush to make sure you don’t miss any spots. As you paint, be sure to look out for any paint globbing or dripping. Go ahead and use your paint brush to smooth and spread out any accumulating paint so there is an even coverage on the whole door.

At this point, go ahead and decide if you want to paint the sides of the door as well. I decided not to paint the sides of my front door because the previous color blended well with the new color I was refinishing it with. The sides of your door are rarely seen, but if you are making a drastic change in door color or tone, it may be a good idea to go ahead and hit the sides. You will want to hit the bulk of the sides with the brush but leave the space directly around the hardware for your detailing brush in step #4.

As you hit the major surface space of the door, avoid getting too close to the doorknob, peep hole, etc. You can get in close to those with your small detail brush in the next step.

4. Use a detail brush to paint around the door’s appliances

Once you have covered the easy-to-reach surface areas on your front door, it’s time to hit those detailed spots.

Many people will recommend you remove the hardware to really get the best paint coverage. You certainly can do this if you want to (if you do decide to do that, go ahead and tag on “remove hardware” before step #3). But I don’t think it’s necessary. As long as you’ve got a decent detailing brush and a steady hand, you should be good to go. It’ll save you a lot of time in the long run to not remove the hardware and just take your time detailing. I like to freehand it, but if you prefer, you can tape off your doorknob, foot plate, peep hole, etc. so no paint gets on those surfaces. If you freehand like I did, be sure to have a paper towel or rag handy so you can quickly remove any paint if you do happen to bump your hardware with some paint.

Take the detailing slow and steady, and if you can, match your stroke style to that of the rest of the door. Even though this will be the smallest surface space, the detailing work will likely take the longest to complete, so be patient with yourself. The results are worth it!

5. Let the paint cure

And now for the easiest step of all. Clean your brushes, fold up your tarp, and let the paint cure. Be sure to leave the door open during this step. If you close the door, it will hit on the doorjamb which may cause it to stick and potentially pull some of the paint off. Set a time for a couple of hours and let the paint settle. Once the timer is up, be sure to touch the paint to make sure it has cured enough. The refinished front door may feel a little tacky still, but it should be pretty well set by this point.

A Few Notes as You Refinish Your Front Door:

  • You may need to paint another coat depending on the color beneath and the color you’re refinishing with. Or you may just want to paint a second coat for good measure. That’s totally up to you. After you complete step #4, just repeat from step #3.
  • If your door has a lot of ornate details like mine does, as you paint the carved surface with your regular paint brush, it may help to have the detailed brush handy to help with globbing. After you thoroughly paint the carved areas, take the time to go over the detailing with your detail brush. When there’s a lot of detail on a door, it can be hard to tell where paint may be accumulating and taking away from the texture and carving. Using a detail brush to clean up around the details will be sure to make it pop.
  • When you’re done, keep the rest of the paint somewhere handy, and be sure to also keep the name and type of paint for future reference in case you decide to use it again for another exterior project at a later date.
  • If you get started on the door and find you need to stop and come back to it later, don’t throw away your roller. Just wrap the roller in a plastic bag and stick it in the fridge. This will keep the paint wet and the roller good for use when you’re ready to get back at it.

The Joy of a Refinished Front Door

Every time I drive up to my house now, I get excited about my front door. It just catches my eye. Even behind the storm door, I can easily see the beauty of the unique hand-carving in the wood. It delights me to see the finished product, and I’m proud of how it turned out. Not only does it look nice for visitors, it makes me as a homeowner happy knowing it not only looks good but is also protected.

A door really adds curb appeal to a home, and paint color can make or break it. If your looking to add some character to your exterior, take the time to implement these five easy steps and refinish your front door.