How To: Paint a Metal Door

Metal doors offer great benefits in security and weather resistance, but to keep their surfaces welcoming and rust-free, you have to keep up with the painting. Here's how to brighten up a worn, scratched, or just tired-looking metal door with a fresh coat of paint.

How to Paint a Metal Door - Steel Entry Door Colored Yellow

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

Steel doors are wonderful at keeping the wind and weather out of our homes, and they’re remarkably durable—they can last a lifetime. The paint that covers them, however, will not last that long. So, if your house has a metal door, at some point you’ll be faced with repainting it. It’s not a difficult job, but as with any painting project, the final results will be directly impacted by your preparation. Read on to learn what steps you should take to give your metal door a makeover that will last.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS Available on Amazon
Degreasing cleaner
Finegrit sandpaper (or sanding block)
Dust mask
Safety goggles
Painter’s tape
Exterior primer
Satin (or semigloss) exterior paint
Trimsize paint roller
Shortnap roller cover
Paint tray
Small paintbrush (or sponge applicator)

How to Paint a Metal Door - White Steel Entry Door



Before you get started, know that paint drying times and environmental factors can turn this into a multiday project. If you are able to securely lock your door with an exterior storm door, you can remove the door to paint it. (Note: You will not be able to rehang it until it is completely dry.) If you can’t secure your home without the door, you’ll need to paint it in place, which may wind up taking longer.If you can remove the door without compromising your home security, place a screwdriver under the head of the hinge pin and lightly tap it with a hammer until you’re able to pull it out. Repeat with the other hinges, and remove the door.


Begin by prepping the door for painting. Before you dig in, however, note that doors painted prior to 1978 are likely to have lead-based paint on them. If your door does have lead-based paint, follow EPA guidelines for removal. If you have any question, have the paint tested prior to beginning this project.Once you’ve taken the door off its hinges, lay it across two sawhorses or on a large, flat surface. Wash the entire door thoroughly with a degreasing cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then dry it with a towel.


Next, put on your dust mask and safety glasses, and go over the door lightly with fine-grit sandpaper or a sanding block to rough up the surface and remove any loose paint. Take off any removable weatherstripping, and apply painter’s tape over any hinges or hardware. Protect kickplates or windows that can’t be removed by taping newspaper over them. Once again, wipe down the entire door to remove all the dust from sanding, and allow the door to completely air-dry.


If your door has a smooth surface, just roll on your first coat of primer with a short-nap roller, and let it dry. If your door has recessed panels, start by using a small brush to paint the inside panels first. Then, roll the mullion (the vertical section between the panels). Follow up by rolling paint onto the rails (the horizontal pieces between the panels). Finish by painting all the outside edges. Allow the primer to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and apply a second coat, if necessary, the same way you did the first.


Paint the door with at least two coats of exterior satin or semi-gloss paint, following the same process you did for the primer and being sure to leave the recommended amount of drying time between coats. If you have to paint the door while it’s on its hinges, plan to work over a stretch of days when there is no rain in the forecast. Prep the door one day, and then start your first coat of primer bright and early the next morning. If you start early enough, you should have time for the paint to dry before you close the door for the night. Get going on the second coat the first thing the next morning, with the goal of its being dry by nighttime. Continue in this fashion until you’ve applied as many coats as are necessary.


After the paint has dried completely, carefully remove the painter’s tape and replace any hardware or weatherstripping you removed. Then, rehang the door.

It’s amazing how a fresh coat of paint on a door can really lift the spirits of an entire facade. If you allow time for careful preparation and sufficient drying, your rejuvenated metal front door will look great and welcome visitors for many years to come.