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Painting an Exterior Steel Door
Travis Larson, an editor at The Family Handyman Magazine, demonstrates how to restore an exterior steel door by painting.
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Travis Larson: Hi! I'm Travis Larson. I'm an Editor at The Family Handyman magazine, the oldest and biggest and most respected how to magazine on the planet.
Today I'm going to talk about how to reclaim a steel door? A steel door that has dents in it, that has hand stains from hand oils, and it has got sticky stuff on it. Believe it or not, you can rejuvenate this door and save about 200-300 bucks over buying a new one. We're going to start by removing any adhesive residues. Door is like this; often times you have scotch tape, decal, stickers, whatever, and if you don't get rid of the residue, the paint will never stick and it'll be falling off right after you put it on. You can't see it but you can feel it. So we're going to use Goof Off and hit those areas and remove that stuff before we start anything else on this project. The stuff is kind of nasty on your skin, so wear a glove. And it cuts right through it and there's nothing left where that tape was. Next, we're going to clean the whole door with TSP. That's a great grain cutter and it's especially good for getting rid of oils, oils like hands around doorknobs and locksets. It's pretty simple to mix, you're supposed to use warm water, just follow the directions and you will get the mix about right because this stuff cuts dirt like nobody's business.
I'm going to wipe this whole thing down with a paper towel and get all this dirty water off, and then do it one more time and then rinse it with clean water. So we're going to sand these down to bare metal so the body filler fits. It's easiest to do that with an orbital sander; I'm going to go over the big areas with an orbital sander too. This is a 180 Grit, we just want to rough up the surface so that the paint will stick to it real nicely. It's noisy so wear ear plugs and wear dust mask. Okay, now I'm going to grab some hand sandpaper and just rough up some of these details. Pay attention to this, if you've got dents to fill, you got to get down to bare metal or this automotive body filler we're going to use will not stick for long. So this stuff sets up really fast and it's a chemical reaction. So if you've got a lot of dents to fill, just mix up a little bit at a time because it will go bad before you have a chance to use it and I can say you got about 10-15 minutes or so. And this is the catalyst, just put a stripe across the top and then mix it really, really well. I'm just going to smear a little bit into these things and enough to fill them. And then I'm going to knock them flat with a big putty knife. I leave just a little bit sticking out, this is stuff is hard to sand, so you don't want to get crazy with it, but you want to leave it a little bit higher than the patch.
Well, I think the bond is dry, we're going to sand it down flat. And I like to use block sander rather than a palm sander or rather than a orbital because this gets it flat and totally leveled with the rest of the surrounding surface, so it's going to make these invisible. If after you sand it, you see that it's not flat, don't hesitate to put another layer bondo in there and of through the whole process again. We've covered up our weatherstripping with some tapes so we don't get paint all over it and we're ready to prime this. So we're going to use interior/exterior water-based primer and roll to finish on the door. We're going to roll it on with this mini-roller and pretty much do the whole door with this; no brush needed. Okay, we're ready to paint, the primer is dry, and we're going to roll on in high-quality interior/exterior rated enamel paint. It's all water based, and it's a 100% alkyd. So a roller would do most of an exterior door because the reliefs or the profiles in the panels aren't very sharp, so I'll show you how that works. That's the beauty of these rollers is they have a cushioned end, it's round on the end. So you can get into all these little crevices. You're almost using it as a paint brush to get into those areas and you can see how nice it fills them up. If it's a wooden door, you can't really do that so well because the little areas between the profiles are a lot sharper and you need a brush to get into them. Keep moving. If you let the stuff dry, you're going to see where you stopped. So you'll always want to work against the wet edge. And now we'd need to finish up the outside edges here, so I'm going to roll these real quick. And after this is done, I'm going to let the paint dry, and I'm going to paint this one more coat and then I'm going to flip over the door and repeat all those steps on the other side. And that's how you paint an exterior steel door.