Painting your doors is key if you want them to stay in good shape. For just a little bit of your time, and the cost of paint, you can preserve both interior doors and exterior doors of your home for years, or even decades, longer than what they’d last if you just neglected them.
However, painting can be a pain a lot of the time. It usually requires you to spend a ton of time and energy sanding the surfaces before you even apply the first coat.
Luckily, you can skip the sanding step in some cases, and we’re going to help you do so.
Check out this guide to when, how, and why to paint wood doors without sanding.
Why Do People Sand Their Doors Before Painting?
Sanding can be done for several reasons. Primarily, it’s to remove old paint and open up a porous surface for the new paint to adhere to properly. It’s not always necessary to do this though, and sometimes it’s a blatant waste of time.
Other times, sanding is done to remove blemishes in the wood. Let’s say you were moving a lot of furniture out after buying a new bedroom outfit, and your new bed frame put a long scratch across the door. You wouldn’t want to just paint over that, or you’d very clearly see the blemish through the paint. The paint might even make it more noticeable depending on what color you use. So, people will give the door a quick sanding to remove all or most of that blemish before painting. If it’s too deep, no amount of sanding is going to help unless you thin your door out to ridiculous degrees, and at that point, you might as well buy a new one. This can be valid for lighter forms of damage, though.
Sanding can also be used to remove rust on metal doors, but we’ll be focusing on painting wood doors without sanding.
Is Sanding Necessary?
Yes and no. This depends on the situation. Factors such as the previous coat of paint, the seriousness of blemishes on the door’s surface, and the type of paint you’re going to apply will all factor into whether or not you need to sand.
What we can say is that a lot of people waste their time sanding perfectly good doors that don’t need it.
When Do You HAVE to Sand Your Door Before Painting?
There are a few situations where you just have to sand the door before you paint it.
First and foremost, if you have deeper blemishes in your door that the paint won’t seamlessly fill, you’re going to need to sand those down a bit. You don’t have to fully remove them, but you want them to be very shallow so the paint hides them as if they were never there. When you paint, you are trying to make your door look new again, after all.
Also, you will need to sand if the edges have had issues. Let’s say something got stuck between the door and the frame, you tried to close it without knowing, and there’s now a split piece of wood at the edge of the door. That’s not good to leave hanging around, but if you just pop it off and accept it as damaged, you’ll have a very sharp and rough edge that won’t accept paint well. You’ll need to do your best to wood glue that piece back in and sand the seam until smooth, or pop it off and sand that area smooth to keep it from deteriorating further.
Then, if there is a ton of peeling paint that just will not come off with stripper, and there are several layers of it from other homeowners not sanding the door first, you’re going to have to sand off at least a few layers of that old paint until you can get rid of the peeling bits. You can’t just paint over them.
Finally, gloss will prevent you from painting without a bit of sanding. It’ll keep the paint from sticking, and your whole paint job will look horrible. Luckily, you don’t have to sand much in this case. Some light hand sanding to knock off the glaze and rough up the surface slightly is enough to make your door paint-ready.
Why Paint Your Door without Sanding First?
This is easy; it’s a lot more efficient. Sanding something properly takes time, and you have to figure that most proper painting guides don’t just tell you to sand the door down to wood before painting. They then have you manually sand each layer of paint before you put the final coat on. That is a ton of time and effort, and it’s not even necessary most of the time.
If your real wood door is capable of being sanded properly without sanding, you can save hours of your time and energy by going ahead and skipping it, and no one will know you cut corners.
Painting Your Door without Sanding: Step-by-Step Guide
You can paint your door without wasting a bunch of time with a sander. Sometimes, you might not even need to rough the surface up. Let’s take a look at the step-by-step guide on how to do that.
Step 1: Determining Whether the Door Needs to Be Sanded
Before you get started, you need to find out if you even need to sand the door. Take a look at it, and run your hand across all of its surfaces. Is it super-smooth to the touch? Unless it has a glossy surface, which isn’t too common, you can go ahead and skip sanding. If there is a glossy finish on it, you’ll want to grab some fine sandpaper and gently sand it a little. This still isn’t as time-consuming as having to sand the whole thing down to bare wood. Just be careful not to start sanding the paint layers beneath the gloss, or you can easily mess up and require more in-depth sanding.
Also, paint stripping is still recommended if you have several layers of uneven paint. However, if you apply a paint stripper, do everything correctly, and you notice that some bits of very old paint just will not come off or start peeling further, sanding will be necessary. If a bit of paint stripper removes enough paint to get it smooth again and not layered to a ridiculous degree, sanding won’t be necessary.
Step 2: Gear
You need a few things to paint a door. Assuming you’ve determined you can paint the door without sanding it, you now need to purchase those necessary items.
Here’s a quick list:
- Primer: You don’t just put the color of paint you want on the door and call it a day. You will need a primer to put a good base layer down first.
- Paint: This is an obvious one. Make sure to get enough to do multiple coats.
- Paint Stripper: If your door has several layers of paint on it, which is common with doors in old homes, you’ll want to remove some of that.
- Ground Covers: From the point you start applying strippers, to the time you put the last coat on, you need something to protect the ground on whichever side of the door you’re painting. These are cheap at any hardware store, and big box stores usually have them in their painting sections.
- Old Clothes/Clothing Protection: Unless you want to destroy your street clothes, you’ll want to wear some old clothing you don’t care about, or at least buy a painter’s smock and some shoe covers.
- Brushes: You can paint a door with a traditional paintbrush. You don’t need airbrushing gear or fancy rollers. However, those things can help if you already have them on hand.
- Painter’s Tool: A painter’s tool is critical for peeling back paint after a stripper has been applied, and it has several tools on it meant to open paint cans and clean brushes. Go ahead and pick one up.
Step 3: Stripping – Usually Optional
If you installed the door yourself, and its surface is smooth to the touch without gloss, you won’t need to do this. However, if you live in an old home where several layers of paint have been applied poorly, stripping will be necessary. You also don’t want paint building up over the years. It makes it easier for the door’s paint to get damaged or for your paint job to look horrible at the end of the project.
To do this, simply apply your paint stripper with a brush, and then wait for the amount of time listed on the product’s packaging. After that amount of time has passed, you should see the pain bubbling and pulling away.
The vast majority of the paint will simply slide off if you gently slide your painter’s tool down it, and a little scrubbing will help the tough spots without risking damaging the door.
However, always remember to wear gloves while using paint thinner. It burns when it hits your skin. Goggles are also highly recommended.
Step 4: Check for Blemishes and Obstacles
If you had to strip the door, there’s a chance some blemishes or other problems that will get in your way will be exposed. Before you start painting, you need to take a moment to inspect the door to make sure it’s smooth and free of problems.
If all things are clear, proceed to the next step. If not, determine if you need to sand, repair, etc.
Step 5: Prepare for Painting
Now, make sure your painting day is ideal. It should be warm, but not blistering hot, and it should be dry. If it’s likely to rain within the next 48 hours, just hold off. You don’t want your paint to get washed off.
Once you have the day picked out, you need to do a bit of prep work. Lay your ground covers down in the areas you’ll be working in, get your protective clothing on, and ensure you have all the things you’ll need in your work area; you don’t want to drag paint around your house because you didn’t think ahead.
Finally, pop your primer can and get ready to start.
Step 6: Primer
The first coat you’ll want to do on any door is the primer. This is usually gray, and it’s just a base coat that will allow whatever color you’re going to use to pop more. This means that you’ll have to do fewer coats of the paint you actually want on your door.
Primer goes on just like paint. Brush it on in even, uniform strokes, and try to get it as smooth as possible. A roller makes this easier, but again, you don’t have to have it.
Step 7: Paint
Once the primer coat dries, you can start painting. This will usually take a few hours to a day; it depends on the brand, the weather, and of course, how much you put on.
If it’s dry, pop your paint can and get to work. This step is just like what you did with the primer, but it’s with pigmented paint.
However, you’ll likely need to apply multiple coats. You don’t need to sand between each coat like many guides will suggest, but you do need to ensure the previous coat dried fully. After a coat has dried entirely, take a step back to ensure it looks right. If there are thinner areas, you need another coat. Just remember to apply as little paint as possible per coat while still getting full coverage, and within two or three coats, your wood doors should be perfect.
Start with a Quality Wood Door
Of course, all of this is a lot easier if you start with a high-quality door in the first place. For that, you’ll need to check out Real Wood Crafters. We craft stunning wood doors from scratch for customers just like you. Our doors are made from the finest hardwoods, and they’re guaranteed to last for decades when treated properly.