Composite doors have become increasingly popular in recent years as a durable, low maintenance, and energy efficient exterior door option. Made from a combination of materials like fiberglass, vinyl, steel, wood, and foam insulation, composite doors are designed to last.
While composite doors do not require painting for protection like traditional wooden doors, many homeowners still wish to paint them for aesthetic reasons. Painting a composite door allows you to change its color, cover existing paint flaws, or simply freshen up its appearance.
This comprehensive guide will provide you with everything you need to know about painting composite doors.
Benefits of Painting a Composite Door
Here are some of the benefits that painting a composite door can provide:
- Change the color – Painting is an inexpensive way to change the color of your front door without having to purchase a brand new one. You can choose a bold, striking shade or something more subtle.
- Cover flaws – Composite doors may develop flaws in the original factory paint over time, such as cracking or peeling. Painting the door can provide a clean, flawless finish.
- Freshen the look – Over time, the original paint on a composite door may start to look faded or dated. A fresh coat of exterior paint can make the door look like new again.
- Match paint schemes – If you’re painting the exterior of your home, painting the front door to match can give your property a cohesive, pulled-together look.
- Protect against elements – While not strictly necessary, painting a composite door provides an extra layer of protection from moisture, UV rays, and other outdoor elements.
So while composite doors don’t require painting to maintain their integrity, like wood doors do, painting them still provides aesthetic benefits that many homeowners seek.
Preparing a Composite Door for Painting
Proper surface preparation is key to achieving great results when painting a composite door. Here are the steps:
Clean the Surface
Thoroughly wash down the door with an exterior house cleaner or mild detergent and water solution to remove any dirt, oil, or other surface contaminants. Rinse well.
Use a non-abrasive scrub pad to scrub away any stubborn dirt or residue. Pay close attention to the small grooves and textured areas.
Completely dry the surface with a clean lint-free cloth. Ensure the door is completely free of moisture before painting.
Lightly Sand the Surface
Using 220-400 grit sandpaper, lightly sand the entire surface of the composite door. This roughens up the surface a bit so the new paint can adhere properly.
Take care not to sand too aggressively or use too coarse sandpaper, as you don’t want to completely strip off the original paint down to bare composite material.
Clean the door again with a tack cloth after sanding to remove all dust.
Spot Prime as Needed
Check for any chips, cracks, or peeling areas in the existing paint, and spot prime these areas with an appropriate primer designed for composite doors.
Areas of bare composite material exposed from former paint flaws should be spot primed to protect the composite before applying the new topcoat.
Use a high-quality bonding primer made for composites, like Kilz Adhesion Primer or Zinsser B-I-N Primer. This helps the paint stick to the slick surface.
Mask Off Areas
To protect hardware, windows, and frames from drips or overspray, mask off adjacent areas using painter’s tape and drop cloths.
Make sure all surfaces surrounding the door are properly covered and protected before beginning to paint.
Choosing the Right Paint and Primers
When it comes to painting composite doors, using the appropriate paints and primers is key to achieving a durable, long-lasting finish. Here’s what you need to know:
A high-quality primer designed for composite doors helps ensure proper adhesion of the new paint. Good options include:
- Kilz Adhesion Primer – water-based bonding primer that sticks well to slick surfaces like composites and plastics
- Zinsser B-I-N Primer – shellac-based primer that provides superior adhesion and stain blocking
- Sikkens Cetol Door Primer – specifically designed for priming composite and fiberglass doors
For the topcoat, always use an exterior-grade acrylic latex paint:
- Acrylic latex paints – provide good flexibility and adhesion on composite doors. Brands like Dulux, Valspar, Behr, and Benjamin Moore make suitable exterior acrylic latex paints.
- Oil-based paints – do not properly flex and adhere on composite doors as they dry hard and brittle. Avoid using enamels or oil-based paints.
- Darker colors – tend to absorb more heat from sunlight, potentially causing warping or expansion issues on the door. Lighter paint colors are recommended.
Check that any paint you choose is specifically designed for exterior use, as interior paints lack the UV-resistance and durability needed for outdoor exposure.
Painting the Composite Door
Once you’ve properly prepared the surface and have your paints and primers ready, follow these steps to paint your composite door:
1. Apply Primer
Use a high-quality primer designed for composite doors, such as one of the options mentioned earlier, to prime the entire surface. This helps the paint adhere properly.
Apply using a brush, roller, or paint sprayer in thin, even coats according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure to get into grooves and edges.
Allow the primer coat to fully dry as directed on the label before applying paint.
2. Paint the Door
Use a high-quality exterior acrylic latex paint to paint your primed composite door. Apply using a brush, paint roller, or spray painter.
Work in sections and maintain a wet edge as you go by brushing from unpainted into freshly painted areas. Apply in thin, even coats.
Allow the paint to dry fully between coats according to the label directions. Two to three coats ensures proper coverage and protection.
Pay attention to edges, grooves, moldings, and hardware holes to ensure full, even coverage. Follow all label directions for dry time and recoating.
3. Remove Painting Tape
Once the final coat has fully dried, remove any painters tape and masking materials. Pull the tape away slowly and evenly to avoid ripping up any fresh paint.
Touch up any minor drips or uneven paint lines using a small paintbrush. Allow touch ups to dry before closing or using the newly painted door.
4. Allow Proper Cure Time
Leave the freshly painted door to cure completely before closing it or exposing the finish to outdoor elements. This allows the paint to fully harden.
Most quality exterior acrylic latex paints take 2-3 days to fully cure. Avoid washing or scrubbing the finish during this time.
Painting Composite Door Frames
In addition to painting the door itself, you may also wish to paint the composite door frame and exterior moldings to match. Follow similar preparation, priming, and painting techniques as on the door.
Use painter’s tape to mask off glass panes or other areas you don’t want painted. Remove hardware if needed to fully paint hinges, knobs, and hardware plates.
Painting the frame and moldings provides a cohesive finished look and further protects the materials from outdoor exposure.
Paint Maintenance and Touch-Ups
Like any exterior paint finish, painted composite doors will require occasional touch-ups and maintenance over time to keep them looking their best. Here are some tips:
- Inspect the finish each year and touch up any damaged, chipped or cracked paint. Catching it early prevents further damage.
- To touch up, lightly sand the area, spot prime with bonding primer, and repaint just the affected area with exterior acrylic latex paint.
- Avoid using oil-based enamels for touch-ups as they won’t adhere and flex properly on composite doors.
- Plan to repaint the entire door every 3-5 years or when the paint starts looking faded, dull, or worn.
- Use a mild cleaner and soft brush or sponge to gently wash the painted door if needed. Avoid abrasive scrubbing.
- Reapply a fresh coat of high quality exterior paint to renew overall protection and aesthetics as needed.
Proper preparation and using compatible paints allows a painted finish on composite doors to last for years before needing repainting or replacement. Maintain the finish well for best longevity.
Painting vs. Replacing a Composite Door
Painting a worn composite door can breathe new life into it far less expensively than purchasing a brand new door. However, there are a few factors to help determine if replacement makes sense instead:
Consider replacing when:
- The door has extensive damage, rot, cracks, warping or other issues impacting integrity and function.
- Multiple attempts at repainting have failed due to poor adhesion or surface flaws.
- The paint finish is severely damaged or compromised and unable to be repaired.
- You wish to replace with a different style of door rather than just change the color.
- There are energy efficiency or insulation issues due to an outdated or poorly insulated door.
- The frame, threshold or other hardware components are damaged, worn out, or need replacement.
- You want to upgrade security or functionality with a new style of composite door and hardware.
Consider repainting when:
- The existing door is structurally sound with minor cosmetic flaws only.
- You wish to change color or refresh the paint finish inexpensively.
- The existing composite door still functions properly and seals well to block elements.
- The door can be prepped and painted properly for good adhesion and an even finish.
- You want a short-term refresh vs. investing in a whole new door replacement.
For minor flaws or to change color, repainting is likely the most affordable and efficient option. But for more extensive wear or desired upgrades, replacement may be the better investment.
Hiring a Professional vs. DIY Painting
While an experienced DIYer can paint their own composite door with proper preparation and materials, hiring a professional painter is advisable for several reasons:
Benefits of professional painting include:
- Knowledge of the best primers, paints, and techniques for composites
- Proper preparation and painting skills for maximum adhesion
- Ability to spray paint for a more seamless, consistent finish
- Experience with masking techniques to protect windows, frames, hardware, etc.
- Access to professional-grade paint sprayers and tools
- Efficiency in completing the job cleanly and on schedule
- Familiarity with common paint flaws and how to avoid them
If you choose to paint the door yourself, be sure to follow all preparation, painting, and product instructions carefully to ensure success. Or consider hiring a pro painter for ideal results.
Painting Composite Doors FAQs
Can you paint a composite door?
Yes, composite doors can be painted, but proper preparation and paint selection are important to ensure good adhesion and durability of the finish. Always use quality bonding primer and exterior grade acrylic latex paint.
Do you have to use special paint on composite doors?
Regular exterior latex house paint works well for painting composite doors. Avoid using oil-based enamel paints. Select quality paints specifically formulated for exterior use on doors.
How long does paint last on composite doors?
With proper prep and application, paint on a composite door can typically last 3-5 years before needing repainting. Maintain the finish annually to get maximum longevity from exterior paints.
Should composite doors be painted?
While composite doors do not require paint for protection like wood, many homeowners still paint them for aesthetic reasons like changing color, fixing flaws, and refreshing the look inexpensively.
What kind of paint adheres best to composite doors?
Quality acrylic latex exterior paints adhere best to composite when applied over a primer specifically made for painting composite or fiberglass materials. Avoid enamels.
Can you use the same paint on a composite door as on wood?
The same quality exterior latex paints can be used on composite as on wood. The key difference is using a composite bonding primer first for best adhesion on composite doors.
Painting a composite door properly allows you to change up its look without the cost or hassle of full replacement. With the right prep, primer, paint, and application techniques, you can achieve a durable and great-looking painted finish. Follow this comprehensive guide for painting composite door success!