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How to Paint a Front Door // 5 Mistakes to Avoid

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It’s finally done!  Painting a front door shouldn’t cause this much anguish.

This journey began in May.  Perhaps you were part of my Facebook survey where I asked my readers to help me decide on a paint color.  My readers gave me amazing response and helped narrow down my options.

For whatever reason, I have been more indecisive about this front door than possibly any other DIY I’ve completed to date.  Considering all of the DIYs I do, that’s saying a lot.

So, here is my guide with some helpful tips should you decide to paint your front door as well as provide you with all of the mistakes I made in hopes that you will learn from my errors!

Urbane Bronze double front doors.

Get other painting project ideas here!

5 Mistakes to avoid when painting your front doors:

Mistake #1:  Not taking the time to thoughtfully decide on a color.

Remember above when I referred to asking my Facebook readers what color I should try?  At that point, I had already painted the doors TWO times!  I mention in a lot of my posts how impulsive I can be with projects.  Most of the time this serves me well because I’m not afraid to dive in and get started.  But, there is that occasion that taking just a little longer to weigh your options can be a real time saver.

In the end, I painted my doors FOUR times before I found a color that I loved.  Yes, that is ridiculous and such a waste of time.  Please use your time wisely and be certain you love the color before you jump in.  I learned this the hard way, and I would love you to avoid this.

Suggestions to help with the color selection process:

1).  Search colors you are considering on Pinterest.

I did a lot of this.  But, what I didn’t do was search with my trim color, stone color, and landscaping in mind.  All of these things do impact the final result.  Plus, since I have double front doors,  a little pop of color that would look great on a single door…not so great on double doors as a little pop can become overwhelming.

2). Use the Sherwin Williams Color Snap Visualizer app.  

This app allows you to take a picture of your front door (or anything else you are considering painting) and explore various color options.  It has several great features.  I especially like that you are able to save your selections to refer to later.

3). Ask for opinions.

It was so helpful for me to get some opinions of friends, family, and my blog readers.  But ultimately, I had to decide what I could live with every day.  The opinions were great to help me narrow down options, as I was all over the board initially.

Repainting a front door in turquoise.

Here is the first color I used:

While the aqua color is fun, you can see it does not coordinate with my stone in any way.  As a matter of fact, when my daughter and a friend came home from school that day, they were quick to tell me (in a very polite way) this definitely wasn’t working!

Here is the second color:

Repainting front door, Naval Sherwin Williams.

This color is Naval by Sherwin Williams.  I really did love this color.  But, there were several things about it I didn’t love.  As I mentioned before, what might look great on a single door is a bit harder to pull off on double doors.

As I’m looking at this picture, the color is great.  The closeup shot is actually nice (overlooking the needed touch-ups).  But, look at the distance shot of the house and you’ll see that it just doesn’t quite flow.  At least, in my opinion.

Two story home with navy front doors.

I left it Naval blue for three months.  I was hoping it would grow on me, but it never did.

By the way, if you want some tips on making the wood signs you see in this picture check out my posts:  

Make Your Porch Pretty / Two Wood Signs in One! and DIY 4th of July Home Decor.

Mistake #2:  Not selecting the right finish (level of sheen).

Believe it or not, I actually did research this project before beginning.  One thing I came across several times was to use a gloss or high gloss finish on exterior front doors.  I typically do not like a shiny finish, so I opted for Satin finish the first three times I painted them despite the recommendations from several trusted painting sources.

Umm, I guess the experts were correct.  The satin finish just doesn’t give that extra special, rich touch that a higher gloss provides.  Plus, the surface is easier to clean with the higher gloss.  This is super important for front doors as they  come into contact with all sorts of elements, even with a covered porch.

Mistake #3:  Not marking hardware and screws properly.

One thing I did right (the last two times I painted the doors at least) was to take off all of the hardware. When I removed the hardware, I placed all of the screws with the parts they went with.  Despite me doing this, it was still difficult to get the hardware back on properly.  If I were to provide any advice in this area, I would suggest being VERY clear what belongs together as soon as the hardware is removed.  Take pictures to refer to as needed so when it’s time to put the hardware back on, you are 100% certain what you are doing.

Taking off the hardware is key to getting a clean look when painting your doors.  It was much easier than I thought it would be.  I highly recommend you take the extra steps for this; you’ll be so glad you did!

Plus, if your hardware needs a little TLC, this is the perfect opportunity to take care of that as well.  My front door knob was in pretty bad shape with regards to the finish.  It had been chipped, painted on, and you name it.  Once it was off, I gave it a light sanding and used a spray paint I already had that matched my doorbell.

Painting a front door, Spray painting door hardware.

Door knob before:

I honestly did not even realize how bad our door knob looked until I looked at the pictures!  The above picture is also a perfect example of why taking off hardware is so important.  Check out all of the remnants of the aqua paint.  The little details are so important!

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Spray Paint Front Door Knob:

Update your front door hardware with spray paint.
Rust-o-leum Metallic spray paint used to spray paint front door hardware .

This was a spray paint I already had, but it was perfect.  I just used a few light coats and the door knob was as good as new!

AFTER of painted door knob:

Spray paint front door hardware, Rustoleum Metallic Oil Rubbed Bronze.

Mistake #4:  Not priming.

After painting the doors so many times, I was a bit uncertain how best to proceed.  On the first painting attempt, I did paint with a primer.  But, after that, I just sanded the doors down slightly, ensuring they were clean and free of debris prior to painting again.  I am hopeful they will endure over time, but I can’t be certain.

If this is a project you are attempting, I would certainly suggest priming first. Hopefully, you will select one color and stick with it!

RELATED: Painted Furniture Before and After Makeovers

Mistake #5:  Not properly taping off areas.

I did a decent job with this most of the time.  But after so many attempts, I got a little lazy.  As you can see, I have big windows in my doors.  I thought scraping off the paint would be an easy alternative to taping.  It did work well, but I think taping would have been a cleaner, more precise outcome.

Removing paint from windows after painting door.
How to remove paint from windows using razor edge.

Tool I used for scraping glass from window:

I’m attaching a link to a similar scraping tool in case you are interested.

Tool to remove paint from windows, tips to paint front doors.

The After Painting a Front Door!

After shot of front door painting DIY.

The final color I selected was Urbane Bronze by Sherwin Williams.  I was planning on going with Black Fox (that was actually what I used the third time I painted the doors), but made this change because it was a higher gloss sheen.

Guess what?  I actually love it!

Fall wreaths, fall decor, urbane bronze on front doors.

Painting a front door project complete!

Fall porch decor, front door wreaths, urbane bronze, begonias.

I’m beyond excited that I’m finished with this project!  I am a finisher and having something incomplete makes me a bit crazy.

Did you notice I pulled out some of my fall decor?  It’s that time of year, you guys!  I made the Happy Autumn sign a couple of years ago.  Check out these pretty fall wreaths.  I made these as well and will be posting about them next.

What do you think?  Please don’t suggest that I should go with any other color at this point!  I don’t think I have it in me to paint them again.

Have you tried painting a front door?  If you have any other helpful tips or mistakes to avoid, please leave a comment below.  Let’s spare someone else a little heart ache if possible!

Other Outdoor and Home Projects you might enjoy:

Sign of from April at Love Our Real Life
How to paint a front door without removing it

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  1. I too am struggling with color. I have chosen red . But every red I have tried has an orangie tint to it I want a true rich red! I have tried sample after sample on my kickate area. As I have already painted door with three reds in which they all come out th same. I am loosing my mind. Now my fear is to paint more as how much paint can you put on a door!!! I have followed all the steps you stated, as well as priming thinking it would block the orange tones. It did not help..any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thank you

    1. I’m so sorry you are struggling with the color, Susan! Red is a tough color as there are so many variations in hue. My suggestion would be to talk with someone at your local paint store and tell them your dilemma. Perhaps they can guide you to a “true red”. If you already have painted it a couple of times, they might also suggest sanding and re-priming. Best of luck.

  2. The final choice looks so nice! Spray painting your existing hardware was a great idea. I’d like to try that out on my door handle.

  3. These are some great tips. I wish I read these before my teenaged son painted our front door last summer–YIKES!

  4. I love the final color you chose! It blends perfectly without being too matchy. Well done! And thanks for all the tips! I will keep these in mind for our next door painting project.

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