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Painting A Door: What Type Of Paint?


We are re-painting our steel door in the front of our house and are wondering what type of paint we should use. It gets full sun and might fade fast. 




The short answer is: 100% acrylic paint.

In the old days they always built some sort of porch or awning over the entrances, and the doors had some protection from full sun and driving rain. We have better products today so many builders skip those costly little details. I mention this because it's something to keep in mind... if you ever do some minor remodeling around the front door area, you might be able to make a good-looking awning or porch roof that protects the door, provides a bit of shelter from the rain (the primary benefit) and adds some value to your house.

But the main issue is providing protection for your steel door. The type of paint you use depends on what type of paint is already on the door. Most people paint their doors with latex paint, but some of us do it the hard way and use oil-based paint, such as simple spray cans (tricky because of the overspray) or a quart can of oil-based paint like Rust-Oleum.

The problem is this: Latex paint can go over oil-based paints or older latex paint, but oil-based paint CANNOT go over latex paint, normally. Oil paints will eventually crack like an alligator's skin when applied over latex, because they expand and contract differently with temperature changes.

So the answer is: You can use latex paint with no worries. But which latex paint? All exterior latex paints are meant to be placed in full sun, and they will all fade over time with sun exposure. Some colors fade worse than others. (I think I read that yellow fades the worst, but my memory isn't so great anymore.) The key is buying a high-quality acrylic latex house and trim paint. Cheap paint isn't worth the savings! You'll only need a quart to do a door. Even better... get a 100% acrylic paint. It's my understanding that the acrylic polymer is one of the most sunlight-resistant polymers available, so the more the merrier.

The other issue is gloss level. Flat paint hides defects better than shinier paints, but flat paints tend to form a chalky surface (which can leave streaks). Shinier paints tend to be much easier to clean, and since doors get touched all the time, flat paint will let the fingerprints and grime be absorbed into the paint.

Personally, I use satin or semi-gloss paints for doors and door trim.

Make sure you do the right surface preparations, at least a good cleaning, rinsing, drying, and scuff sanding. I prefer to paint the door on saw horses... the paint is less likely to run or sag, and you can get a heavier coating.

Bruce W. Maki, Editor.




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Compiled May 8, 2002