3 quick tips to update an interior door

If cleaning doesn't restore the good looks of an interior door, consider painting or staining and updating hardware.(Photo courtesy of Angie's List member April R. of Carmichael, Calif.)

If cleaning doesn't restore the good looks of an interior door, consider painting or staining and updating hardware.(Photo courtesy of Angie's List member April R. of Carmichael, Calif.)

Over time, an interior door collects scuffs and scrapes, and these small imperfections have a big impact on the overall look of your home. Fortunately, there are easy ways to update the look of your door without spending too much:


Standard six-panel, white-colored interior doors quickly start to show dirt and dust, especially around the handles. If cleaning the door isn't enough, it's time for a new coat of paint.

Start by figuring out what kind of paint you need. Both latex and oil paints work for an interior door but have different benefits. Latex-painted surfaces can be cleaned with water and have low amounts of odor-producing volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Oil-based paints are more resistant to damage and typically longer lasting.

Also, determine what level of gloss is best for your door. Gloss is a measure of how "shiny" the paint will be once applied. High-gloss paints are resistant to damage, but magnify imperfections in a door's surface. Low-gloss or matte finishes limit obvious problems but repeated scrubbing can cause damage.

While you can paint a door that's hanging on its hinges, you're better served by removing it and laying it across a set of sawhorses. This limits drips and spills and allows you to paint one side, leave it to dry fully, and then paint again. Multiple coats are also easier this way. One quart of paint is enough for this job.


If you have an all-wood door, consider using stain to achieve a warm, inviting look. Stains range from blonde to cherry to espresso in color, and most hardware stores can customize stain.

Start by taking your door off its hinges and laying it across a set of sawhorses. Sand all surfaces with sandpaper. Do the same for the door jamb. Stain the cleaned surface by dipping a staining pad or brush into the stain, let the excess run off and then stain using strokes that follow the wood grain. Wipe off any excess with rags. Repeat for the second side of the door, stain the jamb, wait until completely dry and reinstall.

New hardware

New hardware can also help improve the look of an interior door. Old latches and hinges make even the most stylish door look out of place and, in some cases, prevent it from closing properly. New hinge leaves and strike plates are easily found at local hardware stores but make sure to bring along any old hardware for color comparison and measurement. If considering a new handle, make sure the one you want isn't too large or small for the existing hole. Too large means you can drill a wider gap, but too small and you'll likely need a new door. You also need to consider the "handedness" of your door — if you put the handle on backward, you'll notice right away. Always test before you install.

If all else fails...

If your existing interior door is too badly damaged — one of the panels is splintered, or it no longer fits in the frame — consider replacing it altogether. It's often worth calling a professional door installer or handyman to help with this kind of job, especially if you're doing multiple doors. A pro can help make sure every door is hung the same way and the look you want is consistent, even if your door sizes and swing directions aren't.


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