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Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors

July 18, 2016  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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Last week, we took some time to tackle a project that has been a thorn in our side for a long time now. A couple years ago, we hand-painted all the upstairs doors a bright white and changed out the hardware. But by the time we were done, my hand was a claw and I needed a breather before we did the same update to the 7 doors downstairs. Before a fresh coat of paint, all of our doors are a peachy-ivory color.

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

Our walls are painted Benjamin Moore’s Simply White. This is a clear example of how the color wheel and a simple knowledge of complementary colors can help you understand why your walls are looking green instead of creamy white. Red and Green are complementary colors, so in this case, the pink undertones in the doors are so intense they are actually bringing out the green undertones in the walls. If we eliminate the pink undertones in the doors by painting them a bright white (I like using off the shelf white in semi-gloss for trim), our walls will appear more true to color, like this!

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

I painted the baseboards, door trim and all 7 doors doors the same Semi-gloss Bright White from Valspar Signature. While I brushed on the paint for the trim, this time around, we decided to try spraying all the doors with a paint sprayer (we’re long time fans of the Wagner Flexio 590), instead of hand painting them. #fighttheclaw

Here’s how we did it:

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

We removed all the doors from their hinges and carried them up the stairs and outside on our front pad for a good scrub down first. A clean surface before you begin painting is crucial to help the paint to adhere its best. You could definitely just use a bucket of water and a rag for this step, but I don’t know if you caught on to the fact that Chris is obsessed with our little pressure washer. It was a quick way to get the doors clean and it was pretty impressive, or maybe gross is the word, watching the tinted water from all the dirt wash down the driveway.

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

After the doors were dried off, we moved a few at a time into the garage where we taped a large drop cloth to the wall and a part of the floor to protect the space while we painted. A few finish nails along the top helped keep the tarp in place. Then, it was time to paint!

The Wagner 590 doesn’t require thinning down the paint before spraying, so it’s a quick pour and go.

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

One coat on all 4 doors took about 10 minutes. We gave each side 2 coats about 30 minutes apart, and then flipped them after a couple hours to do the other side.

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

After these 4 were done, we moved them downstairs and brought the last 3 in for the same treatment.

After trying both techniques, the conclusion we made about hand-painting vs spraying is this: If you choose to use a paint sprayer, the whole process will probably take longer. It took about a day and a half from removing the doors to putting them back with new doorknobs–we’ll get there in a second. But, (and this is a big but!) the active work time is so short. It would have taken me probably 5-6 straight work hours to paint all 7 doors by hand. Spraying the doors only required pockets of 10-15 minutes at a time and freed up a lot of time to do other things. Plus, no claw. Highly recommend going this route if you have a bunch of doors to paint.

Once the doors were dry, it was time to add the new hinges and knobs and rehang the doors. The squared off black  doorknobs we ordered came with matching black latches and strike plates, but the latch was a different shape than our doors previously had. So, we traced the shape on the door:

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

Notched around the edge with a hammer and chisel, and then notched out the center part.

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

Then we were clear to add on the new knobs and attach the new hinges (we picked up at Lowe’s for a couple bucks). Knobs found here.

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

Hand-Painting vs. Spraying Our Interior Doors | Chris Loves Julia

When I looked back at the before pictures, I was shocked at what we were living with for 3 years. I always forget how much of a difference these projects make. Although a little unglamorous and not nearly exciting as room re-dos, these details matter and help make our whole home feel cleaner, brighter, and more up to date!

Have you tried a paint sprayer before? Which do you prefer?

What do you think?

  1. Kayla says:

    How have your painted doors held up over time? I’m considering doing my doors (taking them from white to a muddy gray blue) and I’m worried about the pain chipping, scratching or flaking.

  2. Andy W. says:

    Just a tip: instead of leaning your doors and only painting one side at a time, stand them up, spaced about 18″-24″ apart. Using a thin piece of excess trim, attach the trim to the top of each door using a finishing nail or small screw. If the doors are setup somewhat “zig-zagged” they won’t fall down allowing you to paint both sides at once. After you reinstall the doors, use a small brush to touch up the very top if desired.

  3. That looks so much better! It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do. Did you consider doing just the window panes by hand? I wonder if that would save more time in the end?

  4. Wow – what an education on the color wheel effect. You have me wanting to change all of the doorknobs in our house! What are your thoughts on hinges? If I change all of the doorknobs in our house, must I change them to match as well? Did you guys? Loving how your house is coming together!

  5. Justin says:

    I know you said the sprayer was easier but what about the finish? I would assume the sprayer would give more of a smooth “factory” appearance, is this the case? Did you have any issues with paint runs?

  6. Michelle Townshend says:

    Where did you buy your door knobs. I really like the style?

  7. Randy says:

    You guys seem to have good luck with your sprayer. Did you have to do much experimenting or ask for advice on what kind of paint to use? I have the Flexio 890 which has exactly the same spray guns but I have yet to get anything but splattery, rough textures with unthinned latex in the large gun and the “orange peel” texture with thinned paint and Floetrol in the detail finish gun. I’ve tried 3 different paints and various thinning ratios and thus far and haven’t gotten good results. I just packed it up and started finishing my trim project with a brush because I need to get it done and will get better results that way even if it takes longer. Did you just get lucky with your materials?

    • Jeff says:

      Randy
      I have the same flexio 890 and it sucks for spraying latex paint..i tried the same techniques you did..Ater doing research i have came to the conclusion HvLp spray guns are no good for spraying latex. The finish looks like crap everytime..you are best getting a cheap airless sprayer

  8. Jeff says:

    So in the half hour in between coats, did you empty and clean the sprayer? Or were you able to leave the paint in the attached container and just peel off the dried latex off the tip and keep going? I have the same sprayer and I’m hoping I can save some time by not having to clean in between coats.

    • Chris says:

      We never clean it in between coats. That’s one of our favorite things about this sprayer – it keeps the paint protected, air tight, as though it were in a paint can. We’ve even had it sit overnight, then we just give the whole thing a shake, peel the dried bit off the tip and spray.

  9. Alison G says:

    The small details always matter a lot. It is the jewelry to the outfit so to speak. So glad you didn’t get the claw hand again.

  10. catlett says:

    We just hand painted our interior doors with a satin finish. Any suggestions on how to prevent paint chipping when you close them?

  11. We’re in the process of building a house and when it came to the doors, I thought spraying them was a no brainer… I set them all up outside, laying flat across two boards (one on each end of the door). Mistake number one. I sprayed the top side of all of them and everything was going great. The black we chose to paint them looked fantastic. We left them out to dry and that’s where things took a turn for the worst.

    Hind site is 20-20 and logic should have warned us that a warm summer day and black doors are a combination you don’t want. They heated up in the sun and the centers sagged down (they were solid core, paint grade doors so the glue inside must have heated up and got soft). We came out to see out ten doors drooping like hammocks in the centers.

    Everything ended up okay in the end after they were stacked in a pile on a level concrete floor with every heavy item we could find on top of them for a few weeks. Needless to say, I’m now hand painting the sides that didn’t get sprayed. Lessons were certainly learned: NEVER put your doors flat when painting outside, always lean them up. And black paint + a hot sunny day = melty, saggy doors.

  12. Jaymi says:

    Do you have any recommendations for painting interior windows? They are stained wood but I am dying to paint them white. I don’t want to paint them shut so I need all the helpful tips I can get! I just love your site!
    Thank you!!

    • Julia says:

      Get a good primer and prime the wood first and them paint them white. You’ll have to be careful about not painting the cracks as to paint them shut, but even a good razor will remedy that.

  13. Sarah phillips says:

    I just got the Wagner 590 and wondered if the overspray is manageable. I noticed you didn’t text around the doors to spray them. So, if I spray my Shiplap around my fireplace, is the paint going to get everywhere in my house?

    • Julia says:

      The overspray is really manageable. So much more than other sprayers. If you put some butcher paper or a drop cloth around it, you’ll be golden.

  14. Michael says:

    I recently sprayed our closet doors and I’m torn. The time savings was huge, but I’m not a fan of the orange peel texture that I got from the sprayer. Granted, I’m the only one who will ever look at our closet doors that closely… I can’t help my OCD!

  15. Anna says:

    Timely for me as well! I am debating hand painting vs. spraying 12 interior doors. What is your process for hand painting? Do you use a brush for the indentations, then roll the rest of the door? Do you just paint it in place on hinges or remove? Were you happy with the look of the handpainted doors? Also, I am scared of pressure washing my doors. Do you have to be careful so the pressure washer doesn’t poke a hole in them or dent them?

  16. Brook says:

    Looks great! I do have a tiny suggestion. You have what’s known as a square/round hinge and when you replaced them you choose a round round. You can get cheap oil ribbed bronze square round ones online and then you won’t have the awkward previous cut out. It’s always good aesthetically to consider replacing your previous hinge with the exact shape. I’ve had a similar issue in my own home.

  17. Sara says:

    Such a timely post after our weekend project! We just bought a paint sprayer (Graco TrueCoat), and painted our new entry doors satin black.

    Fun fact, we got the same doors that you just installed for your front door! The prep was definitely the. worst. Sanding, cleaning, taping the windows, primer, sanding again, and finally (!!!), that beautiful black! That sprayer, though; it saved us SO MUCH TIME!!! It’s possibly my new favorite toy/tool.

  18. Shelby says:

    We finished painting all of our doors upstairs this winter, and we chose to spray them as well. We had some closet bifolds as well but I think it was 15 doors total. We had a room upstairs we hadn’t painted yet so that was our ‘spray room’. We had to do them in two rounds, but I cannot tell you how much easier it was to spray them all. Highly recommend spraying vs. hand painting if you have a few to do! :)

  19. Danyl says:

    This post is so timely! We’re about to start painting all the trim and doors in our new home, which are honey oak. We’ll need to prime first, so curious if you’ve ever used primer with the sprayer?

  20. Sayward says:

    Huge improvement!! It’s amazing how the change affected the look of your wall paint. We’ve been replacing our hallway doors and trim (goodbye, splintered brown hollow core) and the change is staggering. Two weekends ago I was painting the exact same style doors by hand – three coats on each side. I started timing myself and it took me between 14 and 15 minutes to do one coat, and then I’d give it 45 min or so to dry before I came back. I liked how much control I had and the finish came out really nicely, but the labor was definitely time consuming. We’re installing the same doorknobs you guys have and I love the look, but some of them turn harder than others and one of them gets stuck. Have you guys had that problem? If so, did they loosen up with use? We’ve installed three regular knobs so far and one dummy knob on a coat closet (the one that sticks) and we have a few more to go.

    • Julia says:

      One of the dummy ones in our bedroom is a little sticky now that you mention it. The others seem okay. I can’t say it has ever gotten better, but we’re just used to it.

  21. Hannah says:

    I know you’ve linked to the pressure washer a few times, but I finally checked it out. I think looking at people’s before and after pics in the reviews is legitimately a new hobby for me, haha!

  22. Elizabeth says:

    The doors look great! I’ve never tried a paint sprayer before but have been wanting to get the Wagner Flexio 590. Have you sprayed interior walls before? We’re undertaking a major attic renovation and I’m wondering if that would be a faster route for us. (Though the thought of being trapped up there with all those fumes is a little unappealing.)

  23. Heidi says:

    Question – when using a sprayer on a door – do you just spray left to right or do you try to do the same pattern you would if hand painting (i.e. the inside panels first)?

  24. Ellen says:

    You two are inspiring! I would love to hear how you get projects done with young kids. My husband and I have long home improvement list, but with one or both of us with our girls (3 and 10 mo), our lofty goals are relegated to a nap time that’s too short to get any meaningful projects completed. And sometimes its just a struggle to get the house clean, let alone tackle The List, you know? How do you do it!?

    • Julia says:

      We hear you! Our girls are VERY used to projects now and we try to involve them in little ways when we can. Even if it’s something as little as “You’re in charge of holding the tape measure.” It makes them feel really important. Of course a baby is a different story and we’ve also had time periods, and projects where even now, one of us is on kid duty while the other paints doors, for instance. We might step away to snap a pic really quick of the other working, but then we usually are back inside tackling a kid-friendly project while making sure our girls are still happy swinging on the swing, etc. Another thing to note is our girls have always gone to bed pretty early. It used to be 6, now it’s around 7. Which gives us a lot of daylight hours to check things off our list. And some nights, we’re happy doing nothing at all after bedtime. ;)

  25. Trish says:

    Wow – what an education on the color wheel effect. You have me wanting to change all of the doorknobs in our house! What are your thoughts on hinges? If I change all of the doorknobs in our house, must I change them to match as well? Did you guys? Loving how your house is coming together!

    • Julia says:

      We did just because it’s such a simple, affordable change. The ones we got were $7 for all three (so, $7 per door) and we felt like if we already spent the time and money on painting the doors and updating the doorknobs, might as well switch out the hinges really quick.

  26. Jamie says:

    This is such a timely post… I just painted ALL of our interior doors + closet doors. And definitely feel you on the claw! Makes we wish we had a paint sprayer haha. Definitely going that route if I ever re-paint down the line!

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