How to prime & paint exterior metal doors

If your front door is looking worse for the wear, it may be time to prime and repaint it. Painting metal doors is a little different than painting wood, but if you've mastered basic prepping and painting skills, you can complete this project over a weekend. First, check to see what type of paint and primer has been used previously on your door to avoid using a conflicting product. Check the manufacturer's recommendations or consult a knowledgeable friend or painter for advice.

Begin by removing the door hardware, including handles, locks and hinges as well as weatherstripping, if necessary. Strike plates (metal plates that protect the door from being kicked at the base) should be removed as well.

Clean the surface of the door thoroughly. Use a mild cleanser that is appropriate for metal and wipe dry.

Tape off the edges of the frame with masking tape if you plan to paint the frame, too. Also tape off windows, if the door contains them.

Fix any dents in the door surface with an auto body filler, and sand scratches to ensure a smooth finish once the paint is applied. Lightly sand the entire surface of the door to help the primer and paint adhere to its smooth surface.

Prepare the surface with primer. Apply one or two coats of primer approved for use on exterior metal doors. Consult the manufacturer of your door for suggestions of paint products.

Apply an even coat of paint. Once the primer has dried, you can choose from three different methods of applying paint: brushing, rolling or spraying. Spraying results in the smoothest finish and provides the quickest application, but tools for brushing and rolling are less expensive. If your door has raised panels, brushing is a good option because it allows you to reach all of the crevices. You should apply at least two coats of paint, and if you plan to paint the frame as well, complete the task in between coats on the door so they will be dry at approximately the same time.


Adequate preparation is extremely important to achieve a great paint job. Set aside the time to properly prepare the door--the painting is the easy part. Set up a couple of saw horses in your driveway or garage to support the door while you prep, prime and paint it. Sand the door lightly between paint coats for a longer-lasting finish.


Wear a face mask when sanding metal doors to avoid injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Toolkit
  • Mild cleaner and sponges
  • Painter's tape or masking tape
  • Auto body filler
  • Orbital sander and variety of sandpaper grits
  • Brushes, rollers or sprayer
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About the Author

Dorian Gray has been a full-time freelance writer since 2009. She has written extensively on the topics of architecture and design for national magazines such as "Architectural Record" and regional publications such as "At Home in Arkansas." Gray also writes about the topics of beauty, health, nutrition and travel. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Arkansas.