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?

4 thoughts on “Fixing a Paneled Door

    1. Thanks, Paige! I’m feeling spiffy. Now to make magnets so people don’t feel so compelled to put clear tape on my door when they’re leaving invitations, etc. 🙂

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    1. Well, I certainly learned from the process to use plenty of filler. I’ve still regretfully got a few dings that are visible. But at least it’s not dozens of dings anymore. And putting magnets on to make the dings easy to find while working quickly was helpful. I’ll do that again if I get ambitious and try to go after the remaining few dings. Thanks Maile 🙂

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