Fixing a Paneled Door

As much as the kids and I love the new place, the door has been absolutely dismal with peeling paint, tape marks, and dozens of inexplicable dents. When the property management company asked if I had any questions, the first one out of my mouth was, “May I fix the door?”

Well, I finally got around to it. It doesn’t look perfect, but it does look much better if I do say so myself.

dented door repaired
Before and after I fixed my front door. I’m liking it!

Now that’s a threshold I can carry myself over!

My poor curious neighbors couldn’t understand why I’d fix a rented door. I got many a look of confusion and a chorus of whys. I just like to feel at home when I come home, you know? My door had endured kicks, punches, and the taped-on notes from well-meaning neighbors throwing pampered chef parties. Mary tends to personify inanimate objects, maybe to validate her own feelings. Maybe I just did the same thing. All I can say is I felt better after making this poor beat-up door as good as new.

This is what I did and what I learned about fixing a nine-panel door.

Materials:

  • A handy dandy painter’s tool, available at most home improvement stores. Mine was a paint can opener, screw driver, scraper, and more.
  • Filler
  • Sand paper in gritty, medium, and fine textures
  • A sanding block of some sort to make all that sanding easier
  • Painter’s Tape
  • News paper
  • Paint, of course, and a paint brush that’s roughly the size of the bevels on your door panels

Preparation:

  • First remove loose / chipped paint. Obviously if your door is painted with lead paint, you’ll want to take some precautions, but that was not the case here.
  • Remove any bits of tape or stickiness.

Fixing Dents:

  • Sand all of the dents with gritty sand paper.
  • Wash off all of the dust.
  • For a metal door, put magnets over each dent so they’ll be easier find quickly. Mix up about a tablespoon worth of bondo at a time, and smear it over your dents quickly. I used an old business card to scrape off the excess.
  • For a wood door, use wood putty. I fixed the wood door two homes ago, and will include pictures of that.
  • Regardless of whether your door is metal or wood, really cram the material in there, and try to overfill the dent a bit. I’m regretting having skimped on the bondo in a few places.
  • Once the bondo or wood filler has dried and cured, sand it down with a medium paper so it blends in neatly with the rest of the door.

Removing hardware:

  • I honestly couldn’t figure out how to get the door knob and deadbolt off, so I taped those up with painters tape and paper.
  • Remove the peep hole (is that what it’s called? That sounds terrible) and stuff it with a bit of paper, taped to the inside of the door so it stays put and removes easily.
  • Remove the kick plate. Mine had a rust problem, so I scrubbed off the rust with baking soda and lemon juice, buffed with a very fine sand paper, washed and dried it, then (you’ll think I’m nutty, but I was in a pinch) rubbed in just a bit of body lotion that had dimethicone in it. I also cleaned and dried the screws before putting a bit of lotion on them to protect them.
  • You can, technically, un-hang the door. I figured that would be hard to do by myself, and with drying times, this project took me a few days anyway. So I just masked everything thoroughly.

Final preparations:

  • Don’t paint on a windy day!
  • If you’re careful, you won’t need to mask much, but do get the door frame and under the door, as well as any of the hardware you had to leave in place.
  • Give the door a good rinse and dry before trying to paint it.
  • A 2″ brush is much, much easier to use than a 3″ brush.
  • Keep some water and a rag on hand in case of nasty drips. Just don’t take a step back directly into that tub of water like I did.

Painting:

  • Only pour a little paint at a time if it’s at all hot outside. Truly wet paint is much easier to work with.
  • Try to pay attention to the directions of your strokes unless you want to give the door a fine sanding after all is said and done.
  • Paint the bevels on a panel – top, bottom, then sides, in long strokes.
  • Paint the center area of a panel.
  • Paint any details (I did this once on a carved wooden door; picture below).
  • Paint the short vertical sections between panels.
  • Paint the longer horizontal sections between panels.
  • Now paint the outer frame: top, bottom, left, and right.

You might need more than one coat of paint; if that’s the case, let it cure for a while, give it a light sanding with a fine paper, then paint again. If you want a smoother finish, buff the entire thing with extra fine sand paper.

Reinstall the hardware and give yourself a pat on the back!

Here’s the promised picture of my old carved wooden door, which I also repaired and painted myself. I painted the pineapple, too, after my attempts to clean it left too much exposed corrodible metal.

I didn’t sand between coats on this one, because it only needed one coat. I probably should have sanded before painting, though.

I still want to see if I can find some kind of metal dye to make my handle and kickplate match the bronzy color of my deadbolt, and I might go back next year and fix any of the dents I missed, but for now I think it’s a massive improvement. What do you think?