Here are some tips to  avoid problems when painting an exterior steel door. In order to get a good paint job, you must put some work into the preparation.  Insulated steel entry doors are a great life-long investment  and if painted correctly can be virtually maintenance free for many years.

Remove the weather stripping and hardware

  • Remove all the door knob and any deadbolt  from the door and frame, including strike plates. Brushing  or rolling around these items is difficult and time consuming. Other items to be removed can be kick plates and doorknockers. Remove the hinges if you are painting a steel door detached from the frame.


  • Now remove the weather stripping. Many door manufactures have removable weather stripping. It simply pulls out of a grove in the frame. Remember how it came out for reinstallation and store in a safe place.  Pay particular attention to the vertical pieces, as they may be different from the latch side and hinge side.


  • If the weather stripping cannot be removed, if stapled or secured in place, you can use a drywall knife or paint shield while brushing the frame and trim. You can also use a painters masking tape to cover it while painting.


Remove any excess caulking

  • Doors with windows or sidelights need to have the excess glazing removed prior to painting. This caulking material will have emerged from under the window frame; can be a sticky compound or silicone caulk.


  • Use a new single edge razor blade and score the glazing next to the frame. Be careful not to cut the frame. Now remove the excess glazing by holding the blade perpendicular and close to the frame. Carefully scrape the glazing loose.


  • After the glazing is removed wipe the area clean with a solvent to remove any remaining film. Use denatured alcohol for silicone and mineral spirits if the glazing is sticky.


Clean and Tape off Glass

  • A clean surface is important while painting a steel door. A mild cleaner can be used, rinse well after cleaning. Another cleaning method is to wipe the steel door and sidelights with a clean rag saturated with denatured alcohol or paint thinner. This will remove most types of surface dirt.


  • After the door is cleaned and dry, mask the glass and any other items not to be painted. Use a painters tape instead of regular masking tape.


You Must Sand the Door

  • Sanding the door aids in the finish coat properly adhering to the doors surface. Skipping this step, even on a newly primed door, will lead to chipping, flaking and a poorly looking door.  Use a 120 – 150 grit sand paper. Be sure no to leave any deep scratches in the door as they will telegraph through to the finish coat.


Pick your paint

  • I would recommend a 100% acrylic paint even over oil base. It will be easier to work with and will clean up with soap and water. It will also dry faster than an oil base.


Pick your method

Spray- this of course would give you the smoothest finish. However, you would need to use an airless or HVLP sprayer to do this. If you don’t have, one try one of the other methods.

Brush- Probably the most popular way to paint a steel door requiring the least investment of tools. Achieving a truly smooth finish is difficult with this method, easier if you use a good professional paint brush.  Using a paint conditioner will aid in reducing brush marks.  Follow the directions for the amount to add to your paint.

Roller- An easy method to master requiring a minimal investment of tools. Excellent control is possible with the correct size roller and using a short nap roller cover. The finish will have a fine even texture from the roller cover, better than brushing in most cases. Use a paint conditioner will also help with applying the paint and will leave you with a smoother surface.  


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