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Updating an Exterior Door

When I first fell in love with the lakehouse, I immediately envisioned colourful doors.  Interior, exterior – all bright hues.  I’ve never really been bothered by the condo dictating front door colour choices in the townhouse because it helps keep the neighbourhood looking pretty by preventing some garish choices, but I think it has planted seeds of rebellion.

For now, though, I wanted a quick fix to make the door/window combo leading to the deck a little more modern.  The left side is a proper door, but the right is a door-sized window that cranks open:

After scrubbing like mad with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser I realized the door is actually a crisp white, not a beige or off-white hue (bonus!).  In the process of cleaning I also realized the wood “panes” are actually just cheapy faux french door add-ons that clip in with thumb tacks.  Lovely.  Once I jettisoned those, I also removed the screen from the window, which is easily popped back in to place if I so desire.  Already it looked better, because the asymmetry of the door + screen was driving me bonkers.

Simple door makeover

Lastly, I gave the oak door casing and trim, plus the trim around the window, a coat of Zinsser primer and then four coats of paint.  After de-oaking so much trim in the house, I’ve picked up some tricks.

The primer is great because the manufacturer’s instructions suggest skipping sanding (yes!) and it dries quickly.  For the primer and paint, I use an angled brush to wiggle the paint into grooves.  Very thin coats – even if they look awful at first – work best.

Prime wood trim tips

The only tricky part is removing the tape.  Scoring is a must because it takes the primer and paint about a week to fully cure and without scoring, the paint peeled in a couple of places and needed touch up.

Painting door tips

After a week, though, it seems pretty durable (I’ll be sure to update you once I’ve seen all the trim go through some wear and tear).  For now, it looks fresh and bright – like a brand new door.

Paint door trim white

This took seconds but it’s already such a change!



  1. EJ @ Not A House, But A Home
    October 2, 2013 / 12:13 pm

    Wow, the white looks amazing! A huge improvement 🙂

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 3, 2013 / 1:15 am

      I have painted so many things white, but even I was a little stunned by how fresh and new the door looked!

  2. White Cabana
    October 2, 2013 / 12:17 pm

    So much work but the results are looking ab fab! Paint works wonders…paint before & afters always amaze me!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 3, 2013 / 1:15 am

      Thanks!! I can't wait to show off some more 🙂

  3. Amy
    October 2, 2013 / 12:50 pm

    Amazing!! It's coming together!Did that old school heater in the last pic come with the lakehouse??

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 3, 2013 / 1:14 am

      Lol, no. That's from my parents' place. I was using it to keep warm while I painted the open door – it's already chilly here!

  4. Brigitte
    October 2, 2013 / 1:26 pm

    The changes you're making are lovely – it's all so crisp and clean! Zinsser primer is absolutely the best and only product I use now to cover all sorts of surfaces. I've used it on knotty pine varish that turned orange (yuck!), my metal front door (two coats followed by colour) and most recently red walls. My next job is a raspberry wall in my daughter's former bedroom. Continued good luck with your painting!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 3, 2013 / 1:20 am

      Good luck with the raspberry wall – sounds delicious :)I'm excited to try this primer on all the surfaces you mentioned – this is my first experience with it.

  5. Jenn
    October 2, 2013 / 1:41 pm

    Wow – I can't believe how much of a difference that makes. The "new" doors look great!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 3, 2013 / 1:15 am


  6. Lets just build a house!
    October 2, 2013 / 4:38 pm

    it does look like a brand new door! woohoo!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 3, 2013 / 1:19 am

      Yay, I'm glad outsider eyes see the "newness" too!

  7. Dora
    October 2, 2013 / 6:38 pm

    That is such a huge difference! The deck even looks cuter now with the white doors

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 3, 2013 / 1:18 am

      Thanks!! Oh man, I wish I could be ON the deck, not looking at it from inside, painting!

  8. casitavida
    October 3, 2013 / 2:53 am

    Wow! That is a huge difference I bet it makes the whole space seem brighter and bigger. Great job!

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 10, 2013 / 1:01 am

      I am always happy with a super easy project that makes such a huge change!!

  9. The Single Nester
    October 9, 2013 / 5:34 pm

    Looks great! What do you mean by scoring? I am looking to paint my front door and after a $350 estimate from a painter, I would like to do it myself. It is metal and peeling.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      October 10, 2013 / 1:01 am

      I ran a small blade (like an exacto) along the tape where it met the edge of the frame before removing the tape. Otherwise, in some areas the tape peeled off some of the paint. It wasn't a big deal, but just running a small blade along made for a cleaner paint line. For an exterior door, I would head to your favorite paint department for a recommendation on a good brand of exterior primer/paint. If it's peeling, make sure you remove peeling bits before painting. I was able to use an interior paint on the trim because I only painted the trim that is inside. I'm planning to paint our exterior doors too, but I might have to wait until next spring. Good luck with your project!! $350 is a bit steep – I hope it turns out beautifully for you.

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