Door painting questions
Updated: 2022-01-13
By Paul Bianchina
door painting questions

Q: Can a door be painted with a roller?

A: Yes and no. Any roller will put a small amount of texture into the paint, which is something you typically don't want with a smooth surface such as a door. If you want, however, you can use a roller to speed up the application of the paint onto the door, and then smooth out the texture using an appropriate paintbrush.

Q: What do the measurements such as 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch mean on a paint roller cover?

A: Those numbers refer to the length of the roller nap. Shorter naps hold less paint and leave behind less of a texture, while longer naps do just the opposite. You should match the length of the nap to the relative roughness or smoothness of the surface you're painting – short naps for smooth surfaces, longer naps for rougher surfaces. For a door, use the shortest nap possible, or use a roller made of foam.

Q: Is it really necessary to paint the top and bottom edge of a door?

A: Yes. This is commonly overlooked, even by the pros, but painting the top and bottom edges helps protect the door from uneven absorption of moisture. Also, if a new door warps and the edges have not been painting, it will typically void the manufacturer's warranty.

Q: Is there any special technique to painting a paneled door?

A: The two real tricks to getting a good paint job on a paneled door is to paint in a set sequence, and to always paint with the grain instead of across it. The typical sequence is to paint each of the panels first, starting from the top left and working down to the bottom right. Next, paint each of the horizontal rails of the door, again from top to bottom. Finally, work from left to right and paint the vertical stiles, and then the edges. You should always paint the entire door at one session, to avoid ending up with hard-to-remove paint edges.

Q: What's the best method for painting several doors at once?

A: Pick an open area, such as a garage, then cover the floor with paper or a tarp. Take two of the doors, and stand them up at roughly 45 degrees to each other, with about 8 inches between them. Take a small piece of scrap wood such a piece of lath, lay it on top of the two doors, and tack it to each door with one nail through the top. This will hold the two doors upright and at an angle to each other, giving you access to all four faces, all four edges, and both tops. You can set up additional doors in the same manner, reversing the angle with each one, so the doors are set up accordion-style. Once all the doors have been painted, take the wood off the tops one at a time, touch up the top where it was covered by the piece of wood, then lay the door carefully on a pair of sawhorses and paint the bottom before rehanging the door.

Q: Can the doorknob be masked around, or does it need to be removed?

A: You will get a better paint job if the knob is removed, because you can paint vertically with the grain right over the doorknob hole, instead of painting around the knob which often leaves brush marks. Also, by the time you have masked the knob on both sides and spent the additional time to carefully brush around it, you'll find that you don't really save any time over having just removed the knob in the first place.

Q: If a door is being painted in place, what about the hinges?

A: Most doors are equipped with three pair of hinges, and you can safely unscrew and remove the middle one temporarily while you paint. For the other two, place a piece of 2-inch-wide masking tape over the hinge, then run the tip of a razor knife in the gap between the hinge edge and the door mortise. Remove the excess tape from the door, and the hinge will be perfectly covered. If you do a lot of painting, there are also hinge covers available from most paint stores. The covers are made to match the size of most common hinges, and snap in place to cover the hinge temporarily.

Q: When painting a door one color on one side and another color on the other side, what color should the edges be?

A: The common rule of thumb is to paint the edge of the door the same color as the room it faces. For example, suppose you have a white hallway and a blue bedroom, and you want to paint one side to match the hall and the other to match the bedroom. Assuming the door opens into the bedroom, you would paint the edge with the hinges white, since it faces the hall when the door is open, and you would paint the edge with the latch, which faces the bedroom when open, blue.
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