Painting a Metal Door

A smooth, blue paint job on a metal door.
What You'll Need
Clean rag
Denatured alcohol or mineral spirits
Painter’s tape
Dent filler
Paint roller with short nap cover
Eye protection
Respirator or face mask

Painting a metal door can be done successfully by any do-it-yourselfer armed with some knowledge and a roller. Because of the materials, some of the steps are different than painting a wooden door, but that won’t slow you down. As with most projects, the secret to a successful paint job on a metal door is preparation. If you prepare well, you can have a finish that lasts for years.

Step 1 - Remove Hardware

Remove all locks and knobs. Kickplates and door knockers should also be removed. If the door is off the frame, remove the hinges as well.

If weather stripping can be easily removed, remove it. Otherwise, it will need to be taped for protection.

Step 2 - Remove Window Glazing

There may be areas of window glazing that have pushed out onto the glass or frame on a door with a window or the sidelights that may accompany a door. If this is the case, use a straight, single edge razor blade to score and then remove this material.

Glazing is a caulk-like compound and can leave a residue even when it is removed. Eliminate any residue with a solvent like denatured alcohol or mineral spirits.

Step 3 - Clean and Tape

A metal door needs to be clean in order to hold a coat of paint. Washing with water and a clean rag works well for most doors. If the door is particularly dirty a chemical de-glossing product can be used. If there is a latex finish existing on the door, do not use a de-glosser containing alcohol. Ask the store clerk for the product that will best suit your situation.

When the door is dry, tape off any areas you don’t want to paint, particularly windows and weather stripping, if you were unable to remove it. Consider using newspaper or brown paper along with tape to cover larger window areas.

Step 4 - Fill Dents and Prime

Dents or scratches in a metal door can be fixed using auto body dent filler. After using the filler and allowing it to cure, sand the area with an orbital sander so it is flush. This method can also be used on the door’s wooden frame to fill in defects.

Use a good primer on the bare spots. If a door is new, the factory most likely applied primer. If not, there may be a need to prime bare spots. You need to apply a primer if you are using a different type of paint than was used before on a previously painted door. If the door has oil-based paint on it and you want a finish coat of latex, prime the door with an oil base primer/sealer. Determine what finish exists on the door by rubbing it with denatured alcohol soaked clean rag. If paint comes off, it is latex. If not, it is oil.

Step 5 – Paint the Door

With a short nap roller cover, and the right sized roller (use a 4-inch roller if there are many decorative indents or rails on your door) it is possible to get a very smooth finish by rolling. Roll the paint onto the door first, then quickly make straight brush strokes from top to bottom for professional-looking results. This hides the roller signature and leaves a smooth finish. “Sculptured” doors (or doors with panels in them) need to have each panel rolled and brushed first, then move on to the rest of the door.

Allow the paint to dry completely before reinstalling any hardware you removed.

Your newly painted door is sure to last if you followed these steps. You should not experience any peeling or chipping, just pride, and joy from the results of your hard work.