A Step-by-Step Guide For Painting Interior Doors

The basement project is chugging along, and I have lots of updates to reveal to you over the next few weeks. Today, I’m sharing my best tips to paint interior doors.

I had six doors to paint in our basement, and this was my first time painting an interior door! I’ve had some exterior door painting practice with our front door and the door leading to our garage, but never a door inside a home; so, this was a learning experience for me.

Decide On Your Method

My best tips to paint interior doors

I must start this post by saying that there is no right way to paint interior doors! You just need to figure out the best method for your situation.

You could remove all of the doors from the hinges and spray them with a paint sprayer. You could take the door knobs off so you don’t have to tape them. Or, you could leave all of the hardware on and just tape it off, as I did.

My best tips to paint interior doors, start with a brush

Since I knew I was going to be spraying the interior walls with a paint sprayer, I decided to forego the paint sprayer this time around and paint my doors by hand. This was a tad time-consuming, but I made the most of it with my computer nearby to watch shows and listen to podcasts while I worked away!

Painting Interior Doors – The Supplies

You don’t need anything fancy when it comes to painting – just a few trusty supplies to get the job done…

  • Paint (I used Benjamin Moore’s “Simply White” in a satin finish.)
  • Drop cloths
  • Wood shims
  • 2-inch brush
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paint pail
  • Paint pail liner
  • Small roller and roller cover
  • Utility knife
Pelican paint pail

My favorite supply from this project was this Pelican paint pail. I owned a Handy paint pail, which is great for excess paint and a brush when painting a room. This is a bit different because it has room for a small roller too!

My best tips to paint interior doors

I didn’t have to keep bending down to load up my brush or roller during this project. Instead, I just kept the paint and equipment in hand with this pail.

The brush is actually held in place with a magnet. If you’re painting a lot of doors, I highly recommend scooping this up, along with some plastic liners, so you don’t have to wash it out every time!

My Doors & Door Hardware

My best tips to paint interior doors

Before we get to the tips, let me share a bit of information about my new doors. My contractor picked these doors up at ABC Remodeling Supply, here in Chicago. The style is called “Winslow” and they are a similar 3-panel flat shaker style, like we have throughout the rest of our home.

I decided to go with hollow core doors (as opposed to solid) to save about $500. In total, these doors cost me about $1,200. Doors like these come pre-hung, which means they come attached to the frame with the hinges, and the frames are then installed. If you just wanted the door, that would be called a “slab”.

OUr door knobs

Pre-hung doors come with hinges, but you’ll need to buy the door knobs on your own. I matched the ones we have throughout the rest of our home. I bought a variety of passage, dummy, and privacy knobs, based on the function of each door in the basement.

(You can learn more about how to buy the right door knob in this blog post.) These are the exact ones we have in our home and we absolutely love them! They still look fantastic even after almost four years of daily use.

Tape It Off (& Use A Utility Knife!)

Use tape on your door knobs

While it sometimes feels like a pain, prep work is what yields the best results and I would say it’s the most important step! The first thing I did was run a tack cloth all over the entire door. This is always a good idea because it will remove any sneaky dust or particles that may be hiding (you don’t want to paint over those!).

Next, I taped off the door to protect the knobs and hinges. Again, you can remove the door knobs completely if you want. For me, I thought it easier to just tape away.

Here’s my little trick for you with the hinges. Place a piece of painter’s tape on the hinge and then grab your utility knife. You can then carefully trace around the hinge to remove the excess tape. This is much easier than using multiple pieces of tape to cover the entire hinge! I was amazed by how well this little trick worked for me!

On the floor, I placed drop cloths to protect the carpet, and I put some tape on the ground near the door frames that needed to be painted.

Use Wood Shims

Use wood shims to keep your door in place while you paint

Now, this is a game-changer tip! To keep my door from moving when painting it, I used wood shims.

Since I was painting both sides (and pushing from each side), I placed wood shims on each side of the door so it was wedged into place and didn’t move. This hack worked wonderfully to keep my door in place, and prevented me from accidentally touching the edges of the door and ruining my fresh paint!

The Order Of Painting

My doors came pre-primed, so I was able to go right to paint and skip the primer. I found that the best technique was to start with my brush and cover the inset area first. Then, before that area started to dry, I used my small roller to roll inside those long rectangles and I used my brush to paint around the door knob.

Next, I did the same thing on the top inset area (brush first, and then roller). Finally, I rolled over all of the rest of the door panel areas. It was a tedious first coat, but it was the best way for me to make sure that every surface of the door had an even coat of paint.

My best tips to paint interior doors

My best tip is to make sure you paint multiple light coats. This prevents the dreaded paint drips, and gives you a nice, smooth finish. No matter what project you’re working on, thin coats of paint are always the way to go.

My best tips to paint doors

Save Your Brush & Roller For Later

How to save your paint brush for later

Each door took me about an hour to completely finish. I had to prep it, paint each side, paint the door frame, and give it three light coats. I snuck this project in over the course of a few days’ worth of nap times, and even after bedtime.

To keep my brush and foam roller from drying out, I used Saran Wrap on them and popped them into the fridge! This was my first time using this trick and it worked like a charm! It’s never fun to have to stop and start a painting project; but when you’re a mom trying to squeeze in projects, you gotta make it work!

Three Coats Later…

my best tips to paint interior doors

After giving each door and frame three coats, I was finally finished! As always, I recommend removing your tape while the paint is still wet to prevent any peeling paint.

How to paint interior doors

I thought this project would take me a few hours to get done, but it was about eight hours of work, in total. Isn’t that always the case with DIY projects? You think it will be a quick one and then, boom…you’re painting at 10 pm on a school night! Ha!

How to paint interior doors
My best tips to paint interior doors

Overall, painting doors was not a difficult project to complete, and it is definitely one that anyone can do in their own home! It always amazes me what a fresh coat of paint does for a room, or project!

Painting The Window Sills & Handrail

Painting the hand rail

While I had all of the paint out, I also got to work painting a few other areas of the basement. My plan is to use the same paint color, Clare’s “Greige”, for the baseboards, and bulkhead area. But, I want the window sills and frames to pop with the same white color as the doors. I also added a coat of primer, and painted the handrail leading down to the basement.

My best tips to paint interior doors

I hope you learned a few tips to paint interior doors. It’s a pretty easy DIY project that anyone can do! You just have to have the right supplies, use light coats, and give yourself plenty of time to get it done.

What’s Next?

My best paint sprayer tips

Next up, we’re FINALLY painting these walls! I used a paint sprayer for this process and whoa, it was quite the experience! I’m sharing all of the info on the blog this Friday. Wait until you see this color…

Catch Up On The Basement


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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