How to paint a front door

If you are a design junkie like me, then you see people paint a front door all the time and poof, the space is transformed. They make it all look so easy.

It’s not, especially when you have two young kids and two dogs, but I did it and want to share what I learned.

I love doing DIY projects around the house. I love to improve my home. I love to transform spaces. I’m not afraid to make mistakes and get a little dirty. But let me tell you what I don’t love….not being able to devote the time and attention it takes to get a job done well and quickly.

So I’ve learned to maximize the kid free time I do have and embrace the chaos when they are around. I remember “helping” paint the columns on our front porch when I was little and I want my kids to have those same memories. So when it was time to tackle that front door paint job, I mustered up all the patience I could and made it a family affair.

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Must Haves to Paint a Front Door

  1. Baby Gate
  2. Good paint scraper like this one
  3. Stripping Gel
  4. Sander
  5. Old towel
  6. Some good podcasts – I binged Armchair Expert and Slow Burn during this DIY
  7. Patience

Here is where we started. Lovely color but a little dated, starting to chip and the handle was somewhat broken.

front door before wide shot

Strip Before You Paint

I knew that there were LAYERS of paint on this door so it had to be stripped. I used the CitriStrip gel based on the recommendation from the guy at the paint counter. The smell wasn’t bad but did give me a headache after awhile.

front door paint stripping gel

I got a little excited and slathered the gel all over the front door. What I should have done, is do a small area at a time so that the gel wouldn’t full dry. You want it to soak in but still be a little gooey so it peels off. It says it stays wet for 24 hours, maybe in some other climates that’s true, but not in coastal San Diego.

front door paint stripping

My kids wanted to get involved and I tried to let them scrape off paint when the gel was removed or completely dry.

Sand That Door Down

Once you have the door stripped as much as possible and fill in any cracks and dings with wood putty, make sure it’s exterior and stainable/paintable, it’s time to get the sander out. I used both the power sander and the hand held sanding block to get all the nooks and crannies of the door and frame. Surprisingly, my girls slept through this.

front door sander

Prime it

I used two coats of Killz Primer on the door and I let it sit for a few days in between so that the primer could cure on the front door. Logistically, it made sense for me to change the door hardware at this step.

front door primed

Paint It

With two dogs and two small kids, I can’t just paint a front door without some sort of barricade and this baby gate worked perfectly. I also couldn’t stand the big thin plastic tarp on my floor so I opt’d for an old towel. This was the perfect size and weight to protect my floors without annoying the crap out of me or creating a giant tripping hazard.

front door paint set up

It took three coats to get the door the color I wanted and, once again, I waited a day between coats two and three. I also switched out the porch light to something a little more modern and scored some new pots in the Target clearance section so I added some new plants to make space a little more fresh. Boxwood Wreath is on Amazon for way cheaper than I bought it on Wayfair (sigh) and the welcome mat is from Target last spring.

Finished Product

front door after little nugget

It was a LOT of work and took WAY longer than I had anticipated but I couldn’t be happier with the results. Would I paint a front door again? Absolutely. See more images of the front door makeover and our complete exterior paint job.

Paint a Front Door 2

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