I recently purchased a new pre-hung exterior door for my house. We opted for a solid-core Douglas Fir instead of the fiberglass models as the wooden door was substantially cheaper. We want to paint it and I'm not sure what kind of primer and paint to use. What would you recommend?

If it helps, the weather in my area is relatively mild -- temperatures average around the 70's with winter lows reaching the mid 40's and summer highs reaching the 90's. We get rain and fog during the winter months.

Here's a picture if it helps.

A picture of the front-door

4 Answers 4


My favorite primer for wood doors is Bins Bullseye, pigmented shellac. This primer bonds well, hides wood grain well and gives a very smooth surface for top coats. If you prefer to stay with a latex product, then Kilz premium is good too.

Remember prep is of the utmost importance for a good finish. Sand everything and clean it well before applying primer. On a new piece, I like to lightly sand the first coat of primer. You will feel the difference, trust me. I like to use two coats of primer, then sand it again very lightly to make it super smooth: 220 grit used lightly is fine. Clean it well with a tact cloth or very slightly water dampened rag.

Now for the top coat. Use a premium quality 100% acrylic exterior trim paint. Usually a gloss or semi gloss looks great, but that's a personal preference. Don't skimp on the brush: get a good Purdy Glide, poly/nylon 2½" angled, soft chisel tip. Apply nice smooth, thin coats, and expect to do three coats for a good solid fill. Start in the panels and work your way out to the rails and stiles. If you can take the time to remove the door after it is installed, (never remove door from frame before installation!!!!) lay it flat to paint. Laying it flat will really help avoid drips and runs. Pay special attention to the panel corners and details for drips and puddles a few minutes after you apply the paint. Use long smooth strokes to finish each panel, rail and stile.

BTW, a really good latex 100% acrylic is every bit as durable as an oil based product. Oil based paints are going away and have been compromised greatly in recent years due to VOC laws. I stopped using oil paint several years ago. The only oil based product I use now is urethane.

  • Hi Shirlock. I'm curious -- why is it a bad idea to remove the door from frame before installation?
    – Mike B
    Feb 22, 2011 at 0:26
  • 2
    Pre-hung units are shimmed with spacers and relatively square as shipped. Removing the door blank from the unit would require removing the hinge pins and the striker alignment block. Doing this before the frame is secured in place would make it very unstable and hard to install plumb and square. Feb 22, 2011 at 4:54

I'd usually go for oil based paints. One coat of primer, one or two of undercoat and then probably two gloss.

You don't want to apply the paint too thickly as that can led to runs and rippling if it dries unevenly. By going with thinner coats of paint you often have to apply more coats than the tin suggests will do the job. More, thinner coats of paint are also less likely to chip when knocked which is a real consideration for doors that get a lot of traffic.

Having said that the last lot of gloss paint we used on our windows didn't last as long as we would have liked so we're now using, what in the UK is called "Trade paint". We'll have to wait and see if it's more durable, but you can get this in gloss or satin finishes and either oil based or water based if you need the quick drying.

  • One note on oil based: According to my paint store here in the US, due to VOC composition changes the benjamin moore oils are no longer suited for exterior use and acrylic should be used instead. Current formulation oils will chalk out under heavy UV exposure. Disclaimer: I trust my paint store like I trust the Sommelier at my favorite wine shop. Sep 3, 2011 at 23:08

I say oil based primer & paint. And the reason is, most of the manufactured doors these days are veneered & not solid. Water based Acrylic primer & paint are okay on a solid wood door , but is is bad for veneered doors. I sell both types of doors. And my customers are all told to use oil based products when finishing their doors. If they don't the water based products make the veneers delaminate & they have to glue them back on & clamp them.


For a natural wood door, (Cedar or Teak) wood I would recommend because the satin is a smooth finish and the wood grain is rich: SIKKENS PROLUXE CETO 1 RE WOOD FINISH (NATURAL) STAIN and SIKKENS PROLUXE CETOL 23 RE WOOD FINISH (NATURAL) STAIN enter image description here

I highly recommend the new line by Benjamin Moore; "Aura Grand Entrance Satin (147)". The paint is smooth, rich and creamy, color is vivid and the paint is exceptionally durable. It has a drying time of 4 hrs. I found this paint easy to apply with incredible results. enter image description here!Ben Moore Aura Grand Entrance.jpg

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