How to Paint a Steel Door: A Step-By-Step Guide

Steel doors provide excellent security and weather resistance, but they must be regularly painted to prevent rust from forming on their surfaces. Below, we’ll discuss the step-by-step guide on how to apply a fresh coat of paint to a worn, scratched, or tired-looking steel door.

Steel doors are excellent at preventing wind and weather from entering our homes, and they are so durable that they can last a lifetime. However, the paint that covers them will not endure that long.

Therefore, if your client’s home has a metal front door, they will eventually have to repaint it. As with any painting project, the preparation will directly impact the final results, but this is not a particularly difficult DIY.

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Step-By-Step Guide to Painting a Steel Door

Before starting, be aware that doors painted prior to 1978 likely contain lead-based paint. If the door has lead-based paint, remove it according to EPA guidelines. Before commencing the project, have the paint tested if you have any doubts.

Step 1: Remove the Door

Know beforehand that paint drying times and environmental factors can make this a multi-day project. If you cannot secure your client’s home without the door, you will have to paint it in place, which could take even longer.

If you can remove the door without jeopardizing the security of the home, place a screwdriver underneath the head of the hinge pin and tap it with a hammer until you can pull it out. Do this with the remaining hinges, and then remove the door.

Step 2: Remove Hardware and Cover Areas that Will Not Be Painted

Prepare the door for painting first. After removing the door from its hinges, place it on two sawhorses or a large, flat surface. Strip away any removable weatherstripping and cover any hinges or hardware with painter’s tape. Cover windows and kickplates that cannot be removed with newspaper to protect them.

Step 3: Use a Degreaser to Clean the Door Well

In accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, wash the entire door with a degreasing cleaner and then dry it with a towel.

Step 4: Sand the Door Lightly

With a dust mask and protective eyewear, lightly sand the door with fine-grit sandpaper (or a sanding block) to roughen the surface and remove any loose paint.

Step 5: Remove All Sanding Dust and Debris Left Behind

Wipe down the entire door to eliminate all sanding dust, and let the door air-dry fully.

Step 6: Apply Primer

If the door has a smooth surface, apply the primer with a short-nap roller and allow it to dry. If the door has recessed panels, begin by priming the inside panels with a small brush, then roll primer onto the mullion which is the vertical part between the panels, and rails which are the horizontal parts between the panels, and the outside edges.

Allow the primer to dry per the manufacturer’s instructions, and if required, apply a second coat in the same manner as the first.

Step 7: Apply Two Layers of Paint, Allowing Each to Fully Dry in Between

Apply at least two coats of exterior satin or semi-gloss paint to the door, following the same procedure as the primer and allowing the necessary drying time between applications.

If you must paint the door while it’s still on its hinges, plan to do so during a stretch of days with no rain in the forecast. Prepare the door one day, then apply the first coat of primer the following morning. If you begin early enough, the paint should have a chance to dry before you lock the door for the evening.

In order for the second coat to be dry by nightfall, begin applying it the following morning. Continue in this manner until all the necessary coats have been applied.

Step 8: Rehang Door After Removing Tape and Replacing Hardware

After the paint has completely dried, gently remove the painter’s tape and reattach any removed hardware or weatherstripping. In conclusion, rehang the door.

It’s incredible how a fresh coat of paint on a door can revitalize an entire look. If you provide adequate time for thorough preparation and drying, the revitalized front door will continue to look fantastic for years to come.

The Best Paint For Steel Door Projects

Water-based acrylic paints (also known as latex paints) and oil-based paints (also called solvent-based paints), as well as the majority of high-quality paints, should perform well on metal with the proper application technique. Consider using paint that is resistant to rust and fading and is suited for an exterior door.

Professionals frequently employ oil-based paints on metal surfaces since they are the most durable. However, these paints are more hazardous than their water-based equivalents, require a longer drying period, and are more difficult to clean up.

It’s up to you as a DIYer to determine what you’re up for and what’s within your skill set, but here are the pros and cons of both steel door paint types to help you decide.

Water-Based Paints for Metal


  • Quick drying
  • Simple to use 
  • Simple to use 
  • Easy to clean
  • Not prone to fading


  • Not totally rustproof
  • Less durable with time

Oil-Based Paints for Metal


  • Highly resistant to rust
  • Very sturdy


  • Quicker to fade
  • Long drying time
  • Increased toxicity

These are considerations to keep in mind while you complete the project. If you use oil-based paints, make sure to paint a metal door in a well-ventilated place (outdoor is ideal) while wearing a mask and gloves.

Is It Best to Hire a Professional to Do the Job?

This decision ultimately depends on your skill level and self-assurance. Painting a steel door is not necessarily a difficult task, but it is time-consuming and may expose you and your clients to toxins, depending on the type of paint they want.

If you have any doubts, contact a service provider for an estimate and determine whether it would be worthwhile to delegate the task.

If your client wants a full-door renovation, you can check out which is better a steel door vs. a fiberglass door, contact our team at 877-590-2741 at Euroline Steel Windows and Doors today!

Author: Elyas Balta

Experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history in innovation and scalability in the luxury building materials industry. Passionate about inspiring and empowering others to grow in character and success. Determined in bringing art and engineering together to create and manufacture an exotic product line of steel windows and doors.