Skillful Brushwork for Doors and Windows

Follow these tips and techniques for a flawless finish.

The paint protecting your doors and windows has a tough and important job to do. It must endure hostile weather, punishing wear, and up-close scrutiny every day. Paint made for doors and windows used to be judged by how much lead it contained—the more lead, the better. These coatings worked great. The heavy metal helped the paint to stick and to move seasonally. As is well-known now, however, lead is toxic and is especially dangerous to kids. For this reason, lead has been banned from household paint since 1978.

Old doors and windows generally have high concentrations of lead paint, so it’s important to protect yourself and any children who live in the house by working lead safe. This means containing and collecting dust and chips and minimizing airborne particles. Wear a good particle mask when scraping and sanding, and use a HEPA vacuum. Thoroughly clean up the work area every day, and change your clothes before playing with the kids. See “Best Practices for Lead-Safe Remodeling” (FHB #214) for more on working lead safe.

Key preparations

As with all painting projects, proper preparation is key for painting doors and windows. Before starting, my painters and I wash the glass with glass cleaner and paper towels. We then mask the hardware and the perimeter of the glass panes.

Once the door is cleaned and masked, we fill any damaged areas with two-part auto-body filler and sand the dry filler with 180-grit paper. For the initial sanding on the rest of the door, we use 220-grit paper on the interior and 180-grit on the exterior. For the second sanding (between the first and second coats), we use 320-grit paper for interior work and 220-grit for exterior work. A rougher grit on the outside gives the surface a little more “tooth” for better paint adhesion.

The weatherstripping on modern doors is generally easy to remove for painting. The vinyl covered foam, sometimes identified as “Q-Lon” after one brand, is removed by starting at one end and gently pulling it out of the kerf that holds it. Removing the strip eliminates a lot of tedious masking. I replace it when the door is fully dry—24 hours for latex and about four days for oil. It easily pushes back into the slot it came out of.

I recommend leaving hardware in place. Disassembly and keeping track of the many small parts is an unnecessary and sometimes expensive hassle. Asking a client to forego doorknobs and locks for two or three days is an even bigger problem.

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