Painting a steel entry door. Quick Fix-up:

Re-Painting A Steel Door

In This Article:

A steel entry door is removed from its hinges, the old kickplate is removed and rust spots are treated before being repainted.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: 1 (Very Basic) Time Taken: 3 Hours

By , Editor


The front door on this 9-year-old house was showing signs of age... and the homeowners had grown tired of the color (I can't understand why). The brass kick-plate was tarnished and gouged, and the paint on the wood jambs was flaking.


Removing door hinge pins to remove door from frame. Removing a door is easy... normally. A nail and a hammer are used to drive the hinge pin upwards.


Then a screwdriver is placed under the pin's head, and tapped with a hammer until it comes loose.


This screwdriver has a metal cap on the end... and the steel shaft goes all the way through. This means that the screwdriver can tolerate quite a beating without the handle breaking. (I've bought a couple of sets of cheap imported screwdrivers like this... priced at around 50 cents a screwdriver... and they hold up well.)


But... the bottom hinge pin was really tight. I could not get my hammer underneath it and hit it hard, because there wasn't enough room.

So I grabbed the pin with a pair of Vise-Grip pliers and loosened it a bit.


I set the door on a pair of sawhorses. It is a good idea to put some clean rags on the sawhorses to prevent marking the opposite side of the door.


I removed the door knob.


After the handle is removed, the latch mechanism (visible inside the hole) is removed.


I also removed the old brass kick plate.


Surface Preparation Is Everything:

Yikes !  There were several large rust patches under the kick plate. Since the house has no storm door, the kick plate must have been trapping some water against the door surface.


I scraped the paint wherever it was loose.


The weatherstrip on the bottom just pulls right out. This door is made by Pease, and most of their doors have this feature. The weatherstrip is replaceable.

There was a little rust on the bottom flanges.


I sanded the rust with a 1/6 sheet orbital palm sander, using 60 grit sandpaper.


I also lightly scuff-sanded the rest of the door, using 150 grit (fine) sandpaper.


I poked around with this razor paint-scraper, and I discovered that the paint beneath the kick plate came off in sheets. Elsewhere the paint was much more well-adhered.


So I ended up peeling most of the paint from the lower 8 inches of the door. Also, the lowest hinge had some rust, so I sanded it down to bare metal.


I brushed on a good-quality oil-based primer. If I had thought to bring it, a can of spray primer might have been better.


When the primer was dry (about one hour later) I lightly sanded it with 150 grit sandpaper.


Finally... Time To Paint:

The painting tools I figured would work best. The yellow roller is for contoured surfaces. The mini-roller comes with a little paint tray.

In hindsight, these tools were less effective than I expected. The contour roller left too many ridges in the paint. The mini-roller has a diagonal seam that left angular marks in the paint.

When the first coat was dry, I lightly sanded the paint to remove the high spots and to scuff the surface. Removing the gloss is important for the second coat to adhere well.

I used extra-fine steel wool to scuff up the contoured areas.


For the second coat I used a conventional 9" roller and a 1" sash brush. (I think a 7" roller would have been better... it would have fit neatly along the long flat areas, and made the inevitable overlap ridges less noticeable.)


Installing The New Kick Plate:

I applied a very thin bead of clear silicone to the top and sides of the back edge of the new kick plate. This should keep the rain out.

I carefully set the plate on the door and installed the brass screws.

Luckily the new plate's holes lined up with the old holes.

I left each screw sticking up a bit... until all the screws had been started in their holes. Then I tightened them all.


The door was installed and the hinge pins tapped into place.

I always install the top hinge pin first. The door can usually hang by the top hinge without any problem, while I fumble with the other pins.


The door jamb weatherstrip was replaced. This rubber strip just slides into a groove in the jamb.


The completed door... and a good choice of color: bold and rich, with a pleasant contrast next to the siding and the brass hardware.


If there is one thing I've learned from two decades of home repairs and maintenance... it's that the key to successful painting is surface preparation. My experience is that few people want to spend the time to do the proper preparation. Everybody just wants to splash on some paint and put the chore behind them.

I certainly do not love painting. It takes a lot of time. It can be boring. But the last thing I want is to have to repaint the job two or three or five years earlier than necessary... because I failed to properly prepare the surface. If you are not willing to do the tedious surface preparation work, then don't complain to us when your paint flakes off in a couple of years.

Proper surface preparation may include:

  • Washing with soap and water.
  • Scraping off loose paint.
  • Sanding down to bare wood or metal.
  • Applying a good quality primer.
  • Scuff-sanding (or de-glossing) the primer or the previous paint, if it is shiny.

You can do a little extra work now and avoid a lot of work later. Or not. It's your choice.



Tools Used:

  • Orbital Sander
  • Cordless Drill/Driver
  • Steel Wool
  • Paint Roller
  • 1" Sash Brush
  • Hammer, Screwdriver
  • Razor Paint Scraper


Materials Used:

  • Oil-Based Primer
  • Latex Exterior Paint
  • Masking Tape
  • Brass Kick Plate


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Copyright © 2000, 2005

Written June 26, 2000
Revised January 6, 2005