How to Paint a Front Door (Without Removing It)

There’s something special about homes that have brightly painted doors. It is definitely a statement. It’s bold. It’s aggressive, and it can definitely work when it has been done properly. However, even though all of these things may just be fantastic, it’s not possible to pull that off where I live. There is a homeowners’ association that makes sure that any ideas that may be a little too creative, are turned down before they come true. If they do happen to come true, you can be very sure that the association will come sooner rather than later and have you deal with it.

So, as you can se, my door is not full of funky colors.

For as much as I wanted to just go ahead and say “screw it”, I wasn’t planning on doing double the work either. One day it will happen, and I will have my colorful door, that’s for sure! Even if it takes moving, I will have my colorful door.

This is the project that taught me how to paint a door without removing it.

Take a look at the door underneath. Then go ahead and scroll back to the top of this page so that you can see the end result. There is no denying that some TLC was definitely something that my house needed, and my front door in particular. Even if you can’t tell and you think that the door is looking fine, I will show you what I mean.

So, perhaps we  can agree that the door doesn’t look absolutely horrible if you’re standing somewhat far away from it. I would personally argue that it’s not a color that really matches everything else that is going on around it currently. It simply doesn’t seem to stack up to the beautiful brickwork surrounding it.

Are you ready to see what it looks like up close? I can tell you this much – it will surprise you!

I told you – as you got up closer to it, it really did become apparent that it needed work and now you see why. The door was beautiful back in its day, although it did suffer for a long time as there was nothing to protect it against the elements. Yes, it was only when it got a glass storm door a couple of years before that it really somewhat started being protected. With the see through storm door that you may be able to see in the first picture, we were able to get some of the advantages of letting in a bunch of sunlight into the house, while still keeping a lot of the summer heat out. The storm door also had the advantage that it would help keep out a lot of the bugs, which tend to get pretty bad in the summer.

They’re really quite common in the area where we live, and our neighbors on both sides also have them. It did take me a little while to get used to it because you always seem like you’re fighting with it as you’re coming back from the grocery store and you always have an arm too little to deal with the entire situation. If you have kids, get ready for an additional challenge.

The merits of a storm door were seriously discussed before we decided to go for it. It wasn’t like I didn’t think there were downsides to having one installed, but it also did bring a range of opportunities. On top of that, something definitely needed to happen so that we wouldn’t have to look at such a rotted front door anymore, why I started researching how to paint a front door without removing it. I figured that I might as well try and get as much as possible out of the old door, and ideally minimizing the the trouble that the project would be.

Now, I am no stranger to various projects, including having done a 14 day fast, done so for a mixture of autophagy and weight loss, as well as decorative projects like repurposing an old window frame.

I knew that this door remodeling project had the potential to vastly improve the curb appeal of our house, after all, it couldn’t really be much worse than this, right?

After living with the storm door for a period of time, I came to like it more and more, and especially as it started substantially slowing down the decay of my much beloved wooden door.

It even took a lot for me to become assured that sharing photos of the old door was what I wanted to do here on the blog, but I figured that you guys would probably appreciate seeing what the state was before as well as after painting the door.

Are you ready to see what the inside of the door looked like before it got its makeover?



I guess if you’re a fan of orange, it really isn’t so bad, however I can’t say that orange is really the color I imagine my dream door would have, and not the one that I would have chosen if we were the people that had originally built the house. I guess some people definitely make, let’s call it, interesting design and color options. At one point I even tried spending some time figuring out what the door might potentially be able to match with. It wasn’t a whole lot.

It would be pretty honest to say that I absolutely hated the color of the door.

The updated look is a lot better, and it’s no longer embarrassing to greet guests as they come to our house. I can truthfully say that I have stopped using the back exit just because I was embarrassed about the front exit.

There are obviously different ways to paint a door and give it some much deserved new life, and myself wanting to make life as easy for me as possible, I didn’t want to remove it from the hinges. That would ensure I would be able to get the best result possible the least amount of work – score!

As you can see from the image above, the solution was that I taped up the hardware and everything on the door that wasn’t going to get painted. I didn’t want to be spilling all over, as I was still a fan of the hardware. I also really wanted to avoid the floors to get paint on them and was very meticulous in making sure that nothing was going to end up on the floor.

The next part was crucial as well, especially if you’re working on a door that you don’t know when was made. There is unfortunately still a lot of bad construction materials out there. We used Check4Lead to get one of those fancy little testing devices that will ensure that your old door’s paint doesn’t contain the heavy metal, lead, which used to be added to one too many things back in the day.

In theory, it really shouldn’t be necessary to do it if you’re working on a home where you know that the previous owners used a service like Passion Plans to build the home of their dreams, as it really only should be a thing that would come into play when you’re working on homes that were built before 1978.

There are a lot of people that will recycle building materials from older homes because they think they look beautiful, why you may have a home that was built in 1990 but in fact does have an old, problematic door in it.

Never the less, the test that we got wasn’t all that expensive, and it gave us piece of mind when I started working on the project. With kids running around, and even ourselves as well, dealing with lead exposure and its nasty side effects wasn’t high on the list of things that I had a true desire to do.

Once you’ve been exposed to lead, it stays in your system and can bring some very nasty side effects along, and what started out as a fun DIY project now turned into a major health catastrophe. Although I can no longer seem to find the small pack of tests that I ordered for my project, at least through the website that I mentioned, I know they are out there if you are simply wanting to get a couple of tests done.

When the test showed that there was no signs of lead in the door, I did think it was quite the relief as it would have been a project of a different magnitude having to figure out the safe way to both sand the door and dispose of the individual parts afterwards. Also, I would have had to find disposable clothing that I could wear as well as a respirator fit for the purpose. Honestly, I would have probably given up on the project if that had been the case.

Luckily with the situation of the door I was simply able to use a coarser grit sandpaper which would easily allow me to remove all the old paint from the door so that I made sure to have a nice base to build on top of. While you can use a specific primer to start off with, I found the paint color that you see that included both the paint (exterior) and primer in the same. Its name was Ebony from the company Behr. It definitely made it more enjoyable that I managed to save some time by not having it be a two-step process.

If you look closer at the final result, you will see that there was such a substantial amount of damage to the door originally that there is still wood grain that shows through, even after the extensive work of sanding it down.

It did require more work than I had previously thought, or perhaps I just got lazy towards the end. I do, however, like the vinyl numbering that we added to the front door making it very easy to see the number from the street. This color matches everything so much better than the previous door did, and it even looks like we’ve rejoined everyone in this millennial.

Here’s the view that guests will be met with when they come up to our house and open the storm door. I had to open the storm door in order to take a proper picture of it after having taken several photos and seeing nothing but myself in them. I guess I should have known that the glass door would act like a mirror, not revealing the work that I put in!

Here is the original door again in its rough condition. While I was embarrassed about it before I did anything about it, it is quite embarrassing to think about the fact that that is how the guests would previously be greeted. Can’t say I miss that hideous thing!

I added a little bit of decoration as well so as to make it feel more homely. I still think it was the right decision to keep the old hardware as I think it fits very nicely with the newly painted door. The house is ever so slightly getting to the condition that I want it in where I feel it’s a place I can be proud to call my home! I also feel like it may be about time to update the doormat and add something that is both a little bit more homely and nice as well.

I am still jealous of the various people out there that live in places that don’t have homeowners’ associations that would allow me to paint my front door citrus hue so that it would match my flowers (ok, maybe that is not really the color I would want, but you get the idea).

We’re in the process of figuring out updating the outdoor lighting. We’re probably looking at some path lights so as to make it a bit more cozy to get home to coupled with a sensor so that it lights up automatically as anyone is approaching. It will also be nice just to be warned if someone comes up to the door at night, and will surely increase the feeling of safety, too!

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