Remodeling Help: Steel Door Painting Advice

Do it yourself tips, advice and instructions for finishing a steel exterior entry door using acrylic latex paint or wood stain.

The easiest paint for an exterior steel door is an acrylic latex paint. Exterior latex paints have the capacity to expand and contract with the metal door without cracking. If the door was previously painted with an oil-based paint, you can cover it easily with a latex paint but the reverse is not true. An oil-based paint cannot cover latex paint as it will eventually crack and become unsightly.

Before you begin, it will make the project easier if you remove the door from its hinges. This is normally a simple job that can be achieved with the use of a hammer and screwdriver to drive the hinge pins upward and release the door. Place the screwdriver under the hinge pin head and tap it with the hammer until it comes loose. Lay the door across two sawhorses. You may want to cover the sawhorses with some old pieces of cloth or newspapers to keep the sawhorses from damaging the under side of the door. Mask off any glass on the door and remove the door knob and all hardware.

Wash the door thoroughly with soap and water and dry it off completely. Scrape off any loose paint from the surface of the door and lightly scuff-sand it with a fine sandpaper (150 grit). Prime the steel door with a direct-to-metal primer with a brush, roller or spray rig. The direct-to-metal primer will look semi-transparent when applied. Let the primer dry completely and follow with two coats of exterior acrylic latex paint allowing for adequate drying time in between the coats. For a finer finish, apply the paint with a sprayer. A foam or short-nap roller is the next best choice to obtain a fine finish.



A plain steel door can be given the look of rich wood with the use of an inexpensive wood-graining tool and a heavy-bodied wood stain. After cleaning and using the sandpaper to roughen the surface of the door, apply the wood stain with a lint-free cloth one section at a time. Begin with the interior panels of the door and work your way to the edges. Create a vertical grain on lengthwise sections and a horizontal grain on crosswise sections. Draw the wood-graining tool down the stained section of the door pulling in a constant motion. Vary the pattern of the wood grain look by rocking the door up and down as you pull the wood-grain tool. Mistakes can be corrected by wiping the stain off and starting over. Clean the graining tool as you work to keep it from getting clogged. Tight corners require the use of a dry brush or cloth. Allow the door to dry 24-48 hours and then brush on a coat of exterior polyurethane.

Tips: It is essential that you properly wash and prep the door prior to painting or staining. Use only a good high quality acrylic latex exterior paint. Although somewhat higher in cost, it will be worth it in the long run as it will keep you from having to re-paint for several years. To avoid tackiness caused by some latex paints, allow adequate drying time between coats. Lap marks will result if the door is painted in direct sunlight or when the surface of the door is warm to the touch. Do not paint or stain the weather stripping attached to the edges of the door. Use caution when applying solvents that may be hazardous to your health. Make sure you work in a well ventilated area and follow all manufacturers' instructions.

© High Speed Ventures 2011