Thanks to the property programmes on telly, we know all about kerb appeal these days. No better place to start than your front door. If it’s been looking shabby for a while and you’ve been meaning to sort it, now’s the perfect time – before the dark and wet evenings set in. It’s not as daunting as you might think…
Tip 1: Timing is everything
The only reason our front door got done is because we blocked out two consecutive weekends to tackle it (it was in pretty horrible nick). If you don’t make the time to start it and get it finished, you’ll regret it – an unfinished door is much uglier than one that needs painting. Get it done before the weather gets too cold, as you’ll need your front door open for as long as possible while the paint dries.
Tip 2: Stock up on all the kit you need
Get all your gear ready before you start. Here’s what you’ll need:
80-120 grit sandpaper – I usually buy these in rolls, as I use it so regularly at work, but you can also buy it in sheets.
Rags – it’s a dusty job and you’ll need to rub off dust while you work. Have a vacuum cleaner handy too.
Plastic dust sheet for your porch or hall. If someone opens your back door while the front door is open, you’ll pull a dust cloud through the house.
If your door’s in particularly bad condition, use a two-part wood filler before undercoating. Do not use decorators caulk, as it’s not appropriate for front doors.
Paint primer and an undercoat to prepare your surface. However, you won’t need both of these separately if you get a primer undercoat (more on that in a minute).
Paint for the door.
You’ll mostly use a two-inch synthetic bristle brush, but you’d be better off getting a paint brush set – they don’t cost much and you’ll need the one-inch brush for cutting-in windows if you have them.
White spirit or brush cleaner for cleaning brushes.
Stanley knife blade – very useful for cleaning spots of paint off glass – just don’t cut your fingers.
Tip 3: Choose the best paint
If you’re painting your front door, you’ll need exterior gloss. This is far harder-wearing than interior gloss and well worth the money. And if you’re going to all this trouble, why not be bold with your colour? I painted my door bright red and it cheers me up every time I see it. Plus, when I’m in a cab, I can say, ‘The house with the red door please’, as it’s the only one in our street!
Whatever paint you choose, make sure you get the same brand primer undercoat to go with the top coat. Paints are designed to work together for the best results and, in some cases, can be completely incompatible between brands. I recommend Sikkens Paint. Apparently, this is the paint used on Number 10 Downing Street’s door. I got mine from my local suppliers Designer Colours (they colour-matched the primer undercoat for me, too) but it’s available at lots of other stores, as well.
Tip 4: Paint in the right order
It may seem obvious, but this guide is only for painting the front of your door. Save the inside for another time.
Prepare the outside of the door on day one, by removing all the door furniture then sanding it all over (being careful not to scratch your glasswork), wood-filling if necessary and dusting it down with your rags. Start painting early in the day to get maximum drying time.
Don’t overload your brush with paint – you’ll get drips all over the floor and it’ll run on the door. First, paint all the mouldings and cut into the windows (if you have any) using the one-inch brush. As you look at the door, you’ll see horizontal lengths of wood – ‘rails’ – that fit into vertical lengths called ‘stiles’. Often down the middle of a door, you’ll also have a length of wood called a ‘muntin’. If the door has them, paint the muntins first, using long, sweeping motions, then start ‘laying off’ the paint using one long, continuous stroke back into the paint you’ve put on the door.
Next, paint the rails. Once you’ve painted all the rails, you can paint the stiles, so that the edge where each rail finishes is painted over on the stile – this will give you a good finish. While you’re painting the stiles, paint the hinge edge of the door at the same time.
Tip 5: Leave your door to dry properly
For a front door, I use two layers of primer undercoat and one coat of gloss. The undercoat is touch-dry after two hours, but I always leave the door open for as long as possible, before closing it to go to bed. I let it dry properly for 18 hours, then give the door a fine-sand, rub-off with a rag, and repeat the process.
Use a wedge to prop the door open while it dries and if you need to be elsewhere in the house, put on the internal security chain. For the gloss layer, it takes 24 hours to dry properly, so you will need to sleep with the door very slightly wedged open and the internal chain on. If you don’t want to risk that, leave it for as long as possible, but you may need to do some touching-up the next day.
Once everything is dried and set, you can re-fix your door furniture and you’re done. Incidentally, while you’re painting your front door, you tend to meet just about every neighbour in your road – just don’t get roped into painting theirs for them!