Houseworks: painting the front door
Prepping and sanding essential for a lasting finish
Your front door is the first impression people will get of your house so it’s worth keeping it fresh and smart. Photograph: Getty Images
According to the principles of Feng shui, your front door sets up the intention for the rest of your home, so if your entrance looks a little neglected, now is the time to get painting before winter arrives in earnest.
A mistake most DIY’ers make when painting the hall door, according to veteran Dublin painter Kevin O’Toole, is not allowing for adequate prep time, which in itself can take a few days. “Overall, it may only take me six to eight hours of labour to finish a door, but typically I’ve to spread it over a few days while waiting for the layers to thoroughly dry,” he says.
Prep is paramount
Remove all door hardware, or adequately mask anything that can’t be screwed off. If there’s an obvious build-up of old paint, O’Toole suggests using a hot-air gun (which can be rented for about €10 day at most tool hire shops) and a scraper to remove the residue, but take care not to score the wood underneath. For patches resilient to the hot-air gun, a layer of Nitromors All Purpose Paint & Varnish Remover should help stubborn spots budge.
“With most wood doors, cracks will need filling, possibly more than once. Chose an exterior wood filler and overfill the cracks slightly to provide enough material for sanding. Once the filler cures, sand it flush to the panel face and if some cracks reappear, repeat the process,” says O’Toole.
Next, sand the entire door with 80-grade sandpaper, then brush off and wipe with a spirit rag and sand again with 120-grade paper. “This part is laborious, even for me, so I speed it up by using Black & Decker Sanding Mouse. They cost about €40 and additional sanding sheets are €10 a pack, but if you’re not a fan of sanding, it’s a gizmo well worth the investment,” says O’Toole.
Paint and prime
Purchase an undercoat from the same brand as the paint you have chosen (as different brands can be incompatible) and ask your paint shop to colour-match it to the top layer for best results. When considering your paint finish, although matte hall doors are on trend right now, “as a rule of thumb, glossier paint finishes have more durability in the Irish climate. So, semi-matte or satin finish is often a good comprise,” says O’Toole.
When the door is ready for painting, start as early in the day as possible to allow for maximum drying time. Apply two coats of undercoat, which are typically touch dry in two hours, finely sanding the door between each layer. When it’s time for the top coat, O’Toole believes you get a better result with a small one-inch brush. “Paint the mouldings and cut into any masked hardware first. Then paint the middle panel and work outwards to the edges. Use only a small amount of paint at a time and really work it into the grain of the wood, using long, sweeping motions. Once it’s bone dry, sand, dust, wipe clean and repeat. Most doors will need two to three topcoat layers for the best finish.”
O’Toole says he always gives any metal hardware or door furniture a light sand before re-fixing it to the door, as the metal shines up a treat from a little buffing.