Painting a New Exterior Door

A new exterior door can provide convenient access to your home as well as a simple aesthetic makeover. Since painting a heavy door can be tricky, follow these steps for a successful project.

Pick The Paint

When you choose to paint a new exterior door, color is only part of what you need to look for in paint. You must use a paint that is designed for exterior purposes as they generally hold up better against the elements. You may want to go an extra step and purchase a waterproof sealer for the door as well. Many new paints are automatically waterproof, so you won't need to hunt for a specialty product. If you purchase a separate waterproof sealer, follow the manufacturer's instructions for application.

Upright or Removed

First, decide if you want to paint the door before or after you hang it. Exterior doors are heavy, and painting them before they are hung can cause problems. It’s awkward to maneuver around a door once it is lying down, and you might have to wait many hours or even days for the paint to dry before you can paint the other side. Painting a door while it is hung can lead to drips and streaks in the paint. However, most experts will tell you that as long as you are cautious and take your time, painting a door while hung tends to be the easier method.


Use a small brush to paint your door. This will help prevent drips and runs. Start painting on the inside upper panels. Paint with the grain of the door to ensure an even look.


When painting a door you won’t always paint in the same direction. If you’re painting with the grain (which you should be) then the grain may be laid in a different direction for the recessed areas and the panels. Because of this, it’s important to do a good job on blending the areas to prevent any streaking or noticeable brushstrokes.


You want to allow plenty of time for the door to dry. If you notice drips you need to correct these before the door completely dries. It’s much easier to fix this if the paint is still wet. If you wait for the paint to become tacky—or worse, dry—then you will need to sand these areas down and repaint, which will make blending difficult.