How to prep and paint a door

Dear Angie: We are going to paint our stained woodwork and doors. We have talked to a couple of contractors and it seems that each has a different approach. One contractor wants to lightly sand to degloss the polyurethane and then prime and complete with two finish coats of latex paint. They would spray the door. Another contractor would not sand, but would prime and use two coats of an oil-based finish, then brush paint the doors. I am looking for a worry-free finish. I know there are those that would never paint stained wood, but that is no longer an option for me. We remodeled our open kitchen and everything is an off-white paint. It looks fresh and lighter and I like it. What do you recommend? – Elle K., Cincinnati.

Dear Elle: I think the first contractor has it right. With any painting project, proper preparation will lead to a lasting finish. Whether it’s an oil-based or latex-based finish, the polyurethane coat that currently exists must be thoroughly sanded in order to abrade the old coating and create a good adhesion surface.

The best worry-free finish would be a primer coat, followed by the finish coat. Latex paint is more flexible, will last longer and will not have as strong an odor as oil paint. It is also much easier to clean up and touch up.

As far as whether to spray or brush the door, it simply depends on if you want to see brush marks or a smooth finish. Spraying the door will yield a smoother finish. If the stain was brushed and rolled to begin with, then those marks are there already, so the only way to remove those for a smooth finish would be to sand them down first or strip them. On older or slightly worn doors, the brush and roll finish might work better because the paint texture can hide a lot of the door’s imperfections.

Also, if you live in a home built before 1978, be sure to hire a lead-safe certified painter who is trained to properly work around and clean up potentially harmful dust from lead paint.


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