Painting Doors

The main problem with painting doors— or indeed any woodwork with a large surface — involves keeping what professional decorators call a ‘wet edge’. Obviously, the door has to be painted bit by bit, and, if the edge of one area begins to dry before this is joined up to the next area, the join will show when the paint dries completely.

The secret of success is to work in an ordered sequence, as shown in these illustrations of flush and panelled doors, and to complete the painting job in one continuous operation, working as fast as is reasonably possible. Windows are more difficult to paint than doors because they contain so many different surfaces, especially small-paned types criss-crossed with slim glazing bars (muntins). There is also the additional problem of paint: straying on to the glass. The ideal is a neat paint line that covers the bedding putty and extends on to the glass surface by about 3inches to seal the joint and prevent condensation from running down between putty and glass.

Remove the window hardware before you start painting. On casement windows, tap a nail into the bottom edge of the casement and into the lower frame rebate and then link them with stiff wire to stop the casement irons swinging about.

For the best results, remove sash windows from their frames before painting. Modem spring-mounted windows are easy to release from their frames. With older cord-operated types, remove the staff beads (window-stops) first to free the sashes. Although quite a major task, take the opportunity to renew the sash cords (pulley ropes).This makes it possible to cut the cords to free the window.


  1. Tackle a paneled door by painting the moldings (1) around the recessed panels first. Take care not to let paint build up in the corners or to stray on to the faces of the cross rails at this stage. Next, paint the recessed panels (2).
  2. Paint the horizontal cross-rails (3), brushing lightly inwards towards the pale red panel moldings to leave a sharp pattern edge. Feather out the paint thinly where it runs onto the vertical tiles at each end of the rails.
  3. Finish the door by painting the vertical center rail (4) and the tiles (5), again brushing inwards towards the panel moldings. Where the rail abuts the cross-rails, finish with light brushstrokes parallel to the cross-rails.

Varnishing Wood

  1. On bare wood, use a clean lint-free cloth to wipe the first coat on to the wood, working along the grain direction. When it is dry, sand it lightly and then wipe off the dust.
  2. Brush on the second and subsequent coats of varnish, applying them along the grain and linking up adjacent areas using light brushstrokes


Remove the door furniture and wedge open the door. Divide it up into 10 imaginary squares, and start at the top by filling in the first square. Finish the paint out towards the door edges so that it does not build up on external angles. Paint the next block at the top of the door. Blend the 2 areas with horizontal brushstrokes, then with light, vertical laying-off strokes.

Continue to work down the door surface block by block, blending the wet edges of adjacent blocks together as you paint them. Always aim to complete a flush door in 1 session to prevent the joints between blocks showing up as hard lines. Replace the door furniture when the paint is touch-dry.


  1. Stick masking tape to the glass with its edge 3 mm/in from the wood. Paint the surrounding wood, removing the tape when the paint is touch-dry.
  2. Alternatively, hold a small paint shield against the edge of the glazing bar (muntin) or the surrounding moulding while you paint. Wipe the shield regularly to prevent smears.