They say never judge a book by its cover, so why judge a house by its front door? We discover how to paint a front door to get the front of your house looking brand new.

When it comes to our homes, first impressions count: Your front door is the first thing visitors see when they arrive at your home and the last thing they’ll see when they leave, and there’s a lot to be said for kerb appeal when it comes to buying and selling.

How to upgrade your front door

Want to give your front door an upgrade? Here are a few things to consider…

1. Material matters

Doors have traditionally been fashioned from wood, but modern models have expanded into composite materials and cheaper, more durable substitutes, like uPVC. So how do you choose?

how to paint a front door
A classic of the genre, this bad boy gets everything right (iStock/PA)A classic of the genre, this bad boy gets everything right (iStock/PA)

“It’s a question of horses for courses,” says Jill McLintock, from windows and doors company, Everest. “uPVC doors are very thermally efficient, very secure and can be double and triple-glazed, but you’re limited on appearance. Composite doors have the look of timber but demand less maintenance, and currently are the fastest growing market for entrance doors. Those seeking a traditional look tend to be very happy with timber doors, but it is a natural material and they require a bit more TLC.”

Prices vary considerably too. “A hardwood timber door can cost well over £2,000 to replace, potentially up to £3,000,” adds McLintock. “Composites hover around the £1500 mark, while for a uPVC it’s somewhere around £1,000. These are of course for supplied and fitted doors, so there are installation and guarantees in there as well.”

how to paint a front door
A sleek aluminium design with translucent panes (Hörmann UK/PA)

For those looking to cultivate a cutting-edge aesthetic, modern metal doors come with a whole host of benefits. Though far from cheap, Hörmann UK build high strength aluminium ‘ThermoCarbon’ models. They have heavy-duty sound insulation, sky-high energy efficiency, impressive impact resistance and anti-break-in security features.

2. Repair or replace?

Looking to change your door? If you’re fortunate enough to own a house with a standard-size door, you can pick up a replacement off the rack, but more unusual varieties may require more individual treatment.

how to paint a front door
A statement door (iStock/PA)

“You need your door to be secure,” says McLinktock, “and if your door is more than 10-15-years old, it won’t have more developed technology, like multi-point locks.” Timber doors can warp slightly and no longer open and close properly over time, while obvious no-nos like broken glass panes require speedy attention.

Budget-depending, you may want to go bespoke, opening the door to a brave new world of possibilities. Oval-topped frames can lend a more modern look, studded models channel a quasi-medieval vibe, while mixing panels of varying depths helps create interest and contrast. How adventurous you can be depends on the flexibility of your doorway too, of course.

how to paint a front door
Straight from the threshold of a medieval prison cell – in a good way (iStock/PA)

If possible, repairing your existing door is generally the cheaper option. Most likely this will involve scraping away old paint, filling cracks and some glueing. You could do it yourself, but these tasks require a fair amount of finesse and are usually best left to a professional. After all, you don’t want your home to end up door-less and vulnerable for any length of time.

3. Colour and kerb-appeal

Once you’ve settled on your door (be it old or new), you can set about making it the envy of your neighbourhood. A fresh coat of paint might be all it takes to rejuvenate your home’s exterior.

Timber must be periodically repainted, composites don’t need to be but can be, while even uPVC doors – which don’t fare well with normal paint – can gain some gloss with the right preparation.

how to paint a front door
Go bright and bold (iStock/PA)

“The main thing is to consider your surroundings,” says Sonia Pash, co-founder of interior design firm, Temza Design & Build. “Don’t choose colours in isolation. What colour is the balustrade, the fence, the house, the neighbour’s house, the neighbour’s door? Think what will look good together.” (You just have to hope your neighbour doesn’t repaint their porch turquoise a few hours later…)

On the other hand, your front-of-house should express the personality of its occupant too, so don’t afraid to rip up the rule book. Pash says ‘statement’ colours are increasingly popular, particularly among city-dwellers looking to stand out on identikit streets.

how to paint a front door
This might be our favourite – look at the unapologetic richness of that purple (iStock/PA)

“They’re still a little less common than safe options like black or grey,” she says, “but bold doors look just charming, and I always encourage people to go colourful. Don’t feel like it needs to relate to anything inside the house – it can absolutely be a one-off.”

How to paint your front door

Builder Richard Burr reveals his top tips for repainting a front door.

Tip 1: Timing is everything

The only reason our front door got done is that we blocked out two consecutive weekends to tackle it (it was in pretty horrible nick). If you don’t make the time to start it and get it finished, you’ll regret it – an unfinished door is much uglier than one that needs painting. Get it done before the weather gets too cold, as you’ll need your front door open for as long as possible while the paint dries.

Tip 2: Stock up on all the kit you need

Get all your gear ready before you start. Here’s what you’ll need:

80-120 grit sandpaper – I usually buy these in rolls, as I use it so regularly at work, but you can also buy it in sheets.

3M SandBlaster 025120UK Medium P120 115mm x 2.5m Sandpaper Roll, Amazon.

Rags – it’s a dusty job and you’ll need to rub off dust while you work. Have a vacuum cleaner handy too.

Plastic dust sheet for your porch or hall. If someone opens your back door while the front door is open, you’ll pull a dust cloud through the house.

Arvo 3401 Polythene Dust Sheet Roll 2m x 50m, Amazon.

If your door’s in particularly bad condition, use a two-part wood filler before undercoating. Do not use decorators caulk, as it’s not appropriate for front doors.

Paint primer and an undercoat to prepare your surface. However, you won’t need both of these separately if you get a primer undercoat (more on that in a minute).

Dulux Primer & Undercoat Paint For Wood, Amazon.

Paint for the door.

You’ll mostly use a two-inch synthetic bristle brush, but you’d be better off getting a paintbrush set – they don’t cost much and you’ll need the one-inch brush for cutting-in windows if you have them.

Stanley HOBBY10 10 Piece Hobby Paint Brush Set, Amazon.

White spirit or brush cleaner for cleaning brushes.

Stanley knife blade – very useful for cleaning spots of paint off glass – just don’t cut your fingers.

Tip 3: Choose the best paint

how to paint a front door
Columnist Richard Burr painting his front door (Richard Burr/PA)

If you’re painting your front door, you’ll need exterior gloss, Amazon. This is far harder-wearing than interior gloss and well worth the money. And if you’re going to all this trouble, why not be bold with your colour? I painted my door bright red and it cheers me up every time I see it. Plus, when I’m in a cab, I can say, ‘The house with the red door please’, as it’s the only one in our street!

Whatever paint you choose, make sure you get the same brand primer undercoat to go with the topcoat. Paints are designed to work together for the best results and, in some cases, can be completely incompatible between brands.

I recommend Sikkens Paint. Apparently, this is the paint used on Number 10 Downing Street’s door. I got mine from my local suppliers Designer Colours (they colour-matched the primer undercoat for me, too) but it’s available at lots of other stores, as well.

Tip 4: Paint in the right order

It may seem obvious, but this guide is only for painting the front of your door. Save the inside for another time.

Prepare the outside of the door on day one, by removing all the door furniture then sanding it all over (being careful not to scratch your glasswork), wood-filling if necessary and dusting it down with your rags. Start painting early in the day to get maximum drying time.

how to paint a front door

Don’t overload your brush with paint – you’ll get drips all over the floor and it’ll run on the door. First, paint all the mouldings and cut into the windows (if you have any) using the one-inch brush. As you look at the door, you’ll see horizontal lengths of wood – ‘rails’ – that fit into vertical lengths called ‘stiles’. Often down the middle of a door, you’ll also have a length of wood called a ‘muntin’. If the door has them, paint the muntins first, using long, sweeping motions, then start ‘laying off’ the paint using one long, continuous stroke back into the paint you’ve put on the door.

Next, paint the rails. Once you’ve painted all the rails, you can paint the stiles, so that the edge where each rail finishes is painted over on the stile – this will give you a good finish. While you’re painting the stiles, paint the hinge edge of the door at the same time.

Tip 5: Leave your door to dry properly

For a front door, I use 2 layers of primer undercoat and one coat of gloss. The undercoat is touch-dry after 2 hours, but I always leave the door open for as long as possible, before closing it to go to bed. I let it dry properly for 18 hours, then give the door a fine-sand, rub-off with a rag, and repeat the process.

Use a wedge to prop the door open while it dries and if you need to be elsewhere in the house, put on the internal security chain. For the gloss layer, it takes 24 hours to dry properly, so you will need to sleep with the door very slightly wedged open and the internal chain on. If you don’t want to risk that, leave it for as long as possible, but you may need to do some touching-up the next day.

Once everything is dried and set, you can re-fix your door furniture and you’re done. Incidentally, while you’re painting your front door, you tend to meet just about every neighbour in your road – just don’t get roped into painting theirs for them!

4. The finishing touches

There are various accoutrements that can help you get a handle on your look, and from doorknobs to number plates, they’re mostly made of metal. “When it comes to ironmongery, choose quality over quantity,” says Pash. “A badly carved lion head knocker that will start chipping in a year is just sad, so what you buy needs to be well-made.”

how to paint a front door
A well-made metal lion should long outlive a real one (iStock/PA)

The metallic letterbox is a time-honoured domestic staple, but canny homeowners should be on their toes. Unguarded letterboxes can be used by criminals to hook keys off nearby racks or tables, a process widely known as ‘fishing’. Position you letterbox strategically, or put a ‘fishing guard’ on the back of the plate.

You want to ensure your metalwork is properly finished too so that everything coordinates. “You can’t buy new flat front door numbers in brass and keep your old chrome handle,” says Pash. “It just looks bad – do everything or nothing.”

Greenery by your door is good – hanging baskets help cut through an urban jungle, and if you have a path or driveway, why not line it with flowerbeds and shrubs?

Greenery on your door might be better yet. You’ve heard of the Christmas wreath, but the increasingly a la mode Spring wreath –  a circular bouquet of blossoming blooms – is delightfully seasonal and Insta-friendly.

A witty welcome mat is a must too, while attractive lanterns can add a final touch of brightness. “Don’t forget the fanlight,” finishes Pash. “It’s a great place to put a sticker with your house number, much easier to spot than the small numbers on the front door.”

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