Painting Exterior Doors, Shutters and Trim
What you'll need:
Here's everything you'll need to get it right the first time.
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP) or substitute
  • Appropriate chemical resistant gloves
  • A painter"s hat, goggles, dust masks
  • Cloth or plastic drop cloths
  • Painter's tape (narrow and wide)
  • Plastic bags (large and small)
  • Newspapers
  • Paintbrushes, at least one of each of the following: 1", —3", 4 —5"
  • Rollers and roller covers in widths and fabrics for the surface and finish you choose
  • Paint trays and liners
  • Extension poles and/or a stepladder
  • Stir sticks
You may also want:
  • Paintable caulk
  • Putty knife
  • Wide-blade scraper
  • Edge pads
  • Sponge mop
  • Sandpaper, medium and fine grit
  • Sand-sponge for trim and molding

 
The exterior of your home is visible to the outside world —your neighbors and passers-by —and can be viewed as a statement of who you are. Updating your doorway, shutters or trim with paint can instantly enhance the curb appeal, whether your home is aluminum or vinyl siding, brick, stucco or stone.

Are you repainting an existing color scheme? Looking for new color ideas? We offer a variety of tips and online tools to help you make the right decisions.

Note: If you are painting aluminum windows, plastic shutters or metal doors, you'll need to be aware of additional considerations for these unusual substrates. Shutters may be made of plastic and, therefore, may require an exterior plastic spray paint.
 
 
Step 1 —Select Your Color Palette

When choosing color options for doors, trim or shutters, first consider the color of the rest of the house. Are you looking to create contrast, or definition? Do you want the door or entrance way to "pop?" When you have identified a few color choices for each, take the color chips and move them —or better yet, create a large sample board with paint samples of each option and move it around the house and yard to see which colors work best. If the sample board is large enough, walk to the curb for another perspective.

You'll want to think about how many different colors you want on the house. A cohesive color palette is important; too many colors can fragment the overall look of your home.

View the options with these considerations in mind:

  • Landscaping, such as stone borders and surrounding greenery, contribute color to the look from the street or backyard.
  • House colors throughout your neighborhood can offer ideas you may not have imagined. Using similar color intensities unifies the community.
  • Building materials used on your home are a big part of your overall color story. Your roof is a prominent color. If you have brick walls, choose colors that will look good in the same view.
  • The size of your home and property can influence the intensity of the color you might choose. For instance, a bold color on the siding of a large home, that is situated on a small property, says "Look at me!"
  • Try our Virtual Painter
    Your home is unique, and sometimes it is difficult to imagine what paint colors and changes will work best. We help make it easy for you. Simply upload a digital photograph of your home onto our Web site and, utilizing our siding and trim painting tool, try out a combination of colors until it feels just right. It's free!


 
Step 2 —Planning

Determine what your paint and primer needs will be and what they will cost. You can estimate how much paint you'll need with our Paint Calculator. If you purchase more than one container of a paint color, mix them together before you start painting, to keep the color consistent throughout your project. You can also plan the painting to end each container at a wall facing a different direction.

Realistically estimate the time it will take to get the job done; however long you think it will take to prepare and paint the surface, unless you are an experienced painter, you should double it. Plan for and secure any equipment you will need. How tall is the tallest point of the siding? Do you have a ladder that high and the experience to use it safely? Do you need a scaffold or a lift? Choose the right painting clothes. Expect to get paint on your clothes and shoes. Ripped jeans, an old t-shirt and shoes are always a good bet.
Consider ordering a pizza that can be delivered, so you can take a break without changing your shoes.

 
Step 3 —Repair
It's important to fix and prep problem areas before you begin to paint:
  • Look around the house for any soft or rotting wood, especially around windows and doors. You will need to replace it with new wood prior to painting.
  • There are several common problems that tend to arise when painting exteriors, which will need to be corrected before you apply more paint.
  • Fill cracks and holes. Paintable caulk can be your best friend on exterior painting projects, but you don't want to overuse it. For instance, caulk is not suitable for repairing large holes; rather, it is best used for sealing the spaces between window frames and siding. Follow all manufacturer directions.

 
Step 4 —Protect

Cover the ground completely with drop cloths along the perimeter of your home or painting area. Drips or spills on porous concrete are difficult to remove. You don't need to tape the drop cloths, but you should weigh them down with rocks or bricks. A big gust of wind, and your drop cloth could end up sticking to your wet paint, getting tangled in your feet or dumping over your paint tray. When it comes to drop cloths, cloth is king. Paint drips or spills on plastic don't get absorbed and can create a slippery mess. If you are painting shutters, we recommend you remove them from the house and place them in a separate painting area. Use a drop cloth. Tape around the edges of door and window frames using quality painter's tape with at least a 2" width (look for products that contain specific properties to handle your unique job or surface).

Tip: We recommend painter's tape because masking tape dries out too quickly and becomes difficult to remove. Once you have applied the painter's tape to the baseboard, pass over it with a putty knife, or a credit card, to smooth out any bubbles and ensure adhesion. This will keep any paint from getting underneath the tape. Remove the tape while the paint is still wet.

Keep in mind that tightly taping a newly painted wall could cause you to remove layers of paint; therefore, avoid sealing tape tightly against new paint. Good surface prep and a two-week cure will reduce the odds of pulling your new paint off with the tape.


 
Step 5 —Remove Old Paint and Prep the Surfaces

Use a scraper to remove any flaking paint and make sure to wear goggles to avoid falling paint chips from getting into your eyes. Using a sponge mop, wash all surfaces with a solution of TSP (or a substitute) and water (according to the manufacturer's instructions). Rinse with water and let dry thoroughly.

Tip: TSP is typically found in the paint department near the solvents. We recommend TSP because it is a non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner that can be used on practically any type of surface. It is also a concentrate, which makes it a bit stronger than most ordinary cleansers. So protect your eyes and skin from splashes and keep it away from your prized flowers, bushes and even grass in concentrations. (Please note: Due to regulations, TSP may not be available in all areas.)

Bare woodwork: Use a latex or oil-based specialty primer that is formulated to block stains. Glossy painted surfaces: Prime your glossy surfaces to promote adhesion of the top coat. There are three ways to prime a glossy surface:

  1. Use a latex or oil-based primer formulated for glossy surface adhesion.
  2. Scuff the surface with 180-grit sand paper. The scuffing will help the new paint adhere better.
  3. Before painting, wash the surface with TSP (or a substitute) according to the manufacturer's instructions; rinse with water and let dry.


 
Step 6 —Clear Away Debris

Get rid of dirt and dust. Wash all the surfaces. Hand washing is best for cleaning corners and eaves.

Keep your pets locked up during the painting process and make sure someone can supervise the children while you work.


 
Step 7 —Clean and Dry Surfaces

Using a sponge mop, wash all surfaces with a solution of TSP and water (according to the manufacturer's instructions). Rinse with water and let dry thoroughly.

Tip: TSP is typically found in the paint department near the solvents. We recommend TSP because it is a non-abrasive, all-purpose cleaner that can be used on practically any type of surface. It is also a concentrate, which makes it a bit stronger than most ordinary cleansers. (Please note: Due to regulations, TSP may not be available in all areas.)
Be sure to wear work clothes and protect your eyes and skin from splashes; also, keep it away from your flowerbeds, bushes and other greenery.

Trim and shutters: Clean trim, windowsills and shutters with sponges or rags before you paint.
 
Step 8 —Paint the Shutters, Trim and Doorway
After removing the shutters from the house (recommended) and cleaning away any dirt or debris, prime and/or paint them and set aside to dry.
Spray painting is also an option, but the shutters will need to be removed from the house. If the shutters are plastic, you can prime with plastic primer and top coat with a quality spray paint. Paint your house trim. Use a 2" angled tip/sash brush and paint around the exterior in one direction so that you do not miss any areas. Next, paint the window and door trim, and the door. Remove tape before the paint dries. Hang the shutters after the entire project is completed.
Need a refresher on loading a brush?
 
Step 9 —Finishing Touches
Look around your newly painted exterior and see if there are any small items you could paint, such as lighting fixtures, address numbers, clay pots, lawn furniture or mailboxes, to bring your color scheme to the next level.


 
Step 10 —Clean and Be Green
More painting to do tomorrow with the same color? You don't have to clean brushes and rollers when you take a break. Wrap them in sealed plastic to stay moist until you are ready to paint again.

Tip: If paint has hardened on the handle or along the edge of the bristles, soften it with warm water so that you can remove it before you begin to paint. Make sure you dry the brush before you dip it.
Project finished? Don't throw away the rollers and brushes. With proper cleaning and storage, good painting tools can be reused many times. Reusing them saves you time and money and also helps the environment, because you're generating less waste.
 
Step 11 —Celebrate
Congratulations! You have successfully transformed your home. Order in, take out, put your feet up and bask in the glory of a job well done.
 
 
 
 
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