Painting a door frame: 4 steps for a fine, durable finish

Bule paintbrush painting door frame white
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re painting a door frame you need to know the right order to get the best finish. You need to know where to start and where to finish. Choose a different order and it will take you longer and involve more work to achieve the same finish. 

But it's not just about order, when painting wood – whether it’s bare or previously painted – it is essential that you get your prep right. Doors frames can see a lot of action so you need a tough, durable finish that can be easily maintained and wiped when needed. 

Here we give you the lowdown on how to prep, apply and choose the right paint. 

Painting a door frame: how to get it right 

1. Remove door or cover
There are two options here: One is to remove the door; the other is to leave the door in situ and use painters' tape to cover the edges next to the door frame. This is obviously more convenient, but removing the door provides better access. That said there's more work involved terms of removing and rehanging the door. Make a judgement call on what works best for you.

If you do decide to leave the door on, think about whether or not you're going to paint the hinges. If not make sure to cover with painters' tape. 

2. Prep area
Now lay down a dust sheet to protect the floor. Use a dust sheet that has a plastic backing to stop paint seeping through onto the floor. Alternatively, use disposable plastic dust sheets such as this AVRO Plastic Dust Sheet Roll. These are great for covering everything, can be cut to size, stop paint seepage and are easy to tape down if needed.

If the floor is bare or old and you are looking to lay wooden flooring, carpet or tiles after you have finished painting, you might want to skip ahead to the fill and sand stage. Once you have finished this stage, vacuum, clean and lay down dust sheets. 

3. Fill, sand and clean frame
If the frame has been previously painted, wash with sugar soap first to get rid of any grease and dirt. 

Get a decent wood filler such as Everbuild Multi-Purpose Wood Filler to fill any gouges, chips or cracks in the wood. Leave the filler to dry and sand with a 180 grit sandpaper. If needed, think of caulking the areas between the door frame and the wall. Make sure to use decorators' caulk so you can paint over it after.

Now vacuum up any dust on the floor, wipe the door frame with a damp cloth and vacuum again. Use painters' tape and mask off the bottom of the door frame. If needed, do a final vacuum. If any dust gets into the brush you will end up spreading around the door frame.  

4. Paint inside out
Start by painting the door jamb which is effectively the centre of the door frame. Start in the middle at the top and work your way into both corners. Try to get as little paint as possible on nearby areas. 

Then start just below on the vertical jambs and work your paint into the corner and then down the jamb. Then repeat on the other vertical door jamb. 

When you finish each door jamb, go over with a single continuous light stroke to get a smooth even finish.

Now repeat the process for each part of the door frame working outward to the architrave. To paint the edge of the door jamb – and intricate architrave if you have any – you can use a smaller brush if you have one to be more precise.

Remember to leave to dry as instructed between coats and do a very light sand with a fine sandpaper between coats to get a smooth finish. 

Is it better to paint a door frame with a brush or roller? 

In most cases the best option is to paint with a brush. Door frames generally don’t have enough flat areas to warrant the use of a roller. If they do, use a mini 4-inch foam roller to get the smoothest finish.

But you need to make sure you are using the right size brush to help get the best finish. A one and a half inch brush is a good choice as this fits neatly into different areas of the door. If you have more intricate architrave you can use a smaller one inch brush.  

Should I paint the top of the door frame even though I can't see it? 

This is very much a matter of personal preference. Typically, the top of the door frame is only painted where it can be seen, i.e when coming down the stairs. 

But, if you are going to spend your time and effort painting a panel door or similar and the rest of the door frame, why not go the extra mile and do a complete job. 

What type of paint should I use on a door frame? 

Door frames need a hard-wearing paint as they will typically see a lot of use. If you are painting a bare wood door frame you need to start off with a primer before adding a couple of coats of undercoat. 

We suggest using an oil-based undercoat to give a good base and good durability. But remember this will take longer to dry.

For a top coat it is typically a choice of satin vs gloss paint. Both will do a good job, both are wipeable and durable so it is a matter of personal preference what type of sheen you want. 

Should I paint the door frame the same colour as the door? 

There are no hard and fast rules on painting door frames and doors the same colour. White door frames and doors are a popular choice, but if you want something more creative use contrasting colours.

If you are painting your hallway check out our hallway decor ideas to give you some inspiration for colours and styles. 

Steve Jenkins

Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.