Doors are front and foremost in my mind right now because this week I finally tackled a project I’ve been meaning to work on for months. Our 103-year-old house came with beautiful, old five-panel wood doors, some of which are in need of some cosmetic work. Many had original doorknobs and doorplates, but at some point they’d all been painted over with multiple layers of paint. Last year I started removing the knobs and plates and stripping them. This means a long bath in boiling water with washing soda plus dishwashing soap (in a pot reserved just for this purpose), followed by lots and lots of scrubbing with Brasso. The bath makes the paint fall right off, but then elbow grease is required to remove decades of tarnish. (And a pre-Brasso soak in vinegar helps, too.)

You might think that the polishing would be the hard part, and you’d be half right. The real struggle is often getting the hardware off the door. Since the screws holding the plates in place are painted over, first I have to carefully chip off old paint, then try to get the screws to turn. It’s often a lot harder and more frustrating than it sounds just to get the four screws on each plate moving. And it’s easy to forget, but doors have two sides, so there’s another plate and knob on the back. You can see a bit of my handiwork below. After I’m done with the doorknobs, those fancy hinges, which are on all the doors, might be next in line for paint removal.
door hardware

Last year I cleaned up three or four doors’ worth of hardware, and then took a very long break. So when I picked it up again this week, I had forgotten how annoying of a process it is. But it’s also kind of weirdly addictive. It’s so satisfying to see the change in the door, and it’s got me thinking about other ways that you can spruce up doors. Bright paint immediately came to mind. Given their already-problematic layers of paint (some doors don’t close right because of it), I don’t think I’ll be painting any of my old doors. But it certainly is a great way to add a pop of fun color to a space, so the few modern doors in my house had better watch out for the paintbrush. Here are some of the doors I’m feeling inspired by.
bright painted doorsMarigold door, blue and lime door, neon and red door, pink door, salmon door, turquoise door.
If you think you’d like to give this a try, here are some helpful door painting tips from Benjamin Moore, A Beautiful Mess, Pretty Handy Girl, Martha Stewart, and Young House Love. Just make sure to remove or tape off your hardware–don’t paint over it!

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2 Responses to DIY Inspiration: Painted Doors

  1. Meredith Strang says:

    I has a similar problem with my kitchen cabinets and drawers – so much paint that nothing closed right! The solution is really simple – get a power (hand) sander. (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Ryobi-2-Amp-1-4-Sheet-Sander-S652DGK/205179523) It will cut right through the buildup and(depending on which grade of sandpaper you finish the job with) will give you a nice smooth surface to repaint. You will probably need to reprime because 10-to-1 the older layer you’ll end up with will be oil-based paint, and you can’t put latex on top of that without an oil-to-latex primer. You might also consider getting a Dremel – it has a million useds, and with a few polishing attachments it will be your best friend when it comes time to make those figured hinge plates shine. (http://www.homedepot.com/p/Dremel-Cleaning-Polishing-Set-20-Piece-5000684-01/202713172)

    • Rachel says:

      Meredith, thanks for the suggestions! That must’ve been really frustrating in your kitchen. The pantry door in our kitchen has that problem, too. We actually have a power sander AND a Dremel (though I might have to pick up that polishing set), but actually getting around to the job is another story. We’ve tackled one closet that just wouldn’t close at all (and our cat was obsessed with going inside and messing with stuff), but the rest are lower priority. Most close fine, but probably wouldn’t with yet another coat of paint on top.
      Old houses are charming, but they certainly come with their share of quirks, don’t they?

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