Jul 30, 2013

Trap Door

We've been in an uncannily long stretch of glorious sunny weather in Western Washington.  It's enough to make me want to paint something.  Well, two somethings.  Our exterior doors- the front one and the one leading into our backyard.

Normally I'm not one to put off low-effort, high-impact painting projects.  But there were a couple of reasons I have waited so long to paint our exterior doors.  First, neither of our doors are in great shape.  They've got at least half a dozen dings and scrapes each.  And while I would luuuurrrrvvve to get a new, more dramatic front door (like this or this), it's just not something that's worth spending that many pennies on right now since both doors are still perfectly serviceable.  That still left me at a loss about how to deal with the dents and scrapes before putting a glossy coat of yellow on top.  Also, I've read approximately eighty-six thousand tutorials about painting steel doors, and they all promise that if you follow their instructions, you'll end up without any discernible brush marks.  Lemme tell ya, even with products like Floetrol, I still have yet to do a standout painting project where there are no visible brush marks.  Walls and trim work?  I'm good.  Vanities, cabinetry, furniture?  Not so much.  I was skeptical, and certainly didn't want to waste a ton of time (and paint!) trying to get my front door looking like it was painted by a professional if it could not be done by myself and a paintbrush.

Things changed when I discovered that auto body filler can be used to patch dings in steel doors.  And when I ran into Lowe's for some sanding blocks and discovered that Lowe's carries auto body filler in the same aisle as their wood filler and spackle and texture, I decided to just go for it.

Wrinkle cream for cars and steel doors.

Although I did opt to try it on the door that leads to our side yard rather than our front door first.  I figured if I messed up the back door, Steve and I would be the only ones who would ever have to look at it anyway.  I followed the directions on the can to prep the door and mix the filler, applied it with a putty knife, waited several hours, and the sanded the heck out of the door.

Told ya there were lots of dings.

It seemed like it worked pretty well!  In fact, so much so, that I got a little overanxious to finish the project.  Waaaay back when we moved in we had considered painting our kitchen yellow, and I had a test pot of Sherwin Williams' beautiful White Raisin leftover.  I taped off the door, put a couple coats of primer on it, and slapped on two coats of White Raisin using a 2" brush following the order and direction of paint application I had seen on every door-painting-tutorial that exists.  Then I pulled all the tape off and admired my handiwork.

Yellow door.

Except it didn't actually happen that way.  I pulled all the tape off and realized that this yellow was much more of a sweet country yellow than I was going for.  I wanted major "pop" and next to our siding the door looked more like pee pee in the potty than sunshine on my shoulder (and just when you thought I had grown out of potty humor).  Although I still love the color White Raisin, I just didn't love it on the door.  And I realized after the fact that I didn't bother to use a type of paint that was intended for exterior surfaces, so even though I primed, the color would almost certainly fade and would probably peel at some point too.  Plus, there were VERY obvious brush marks, which I figured were from using the wrong type of paint.  Whomp, whomp.

Good thing I bought sanding blocks because I was able to put them to use sanding the door back down.

Once I admitted color defeat, I returned to my safety zone: copy someone else's color choices.  For this one, I turned to my friends imaginary friends John and Sherry.  They had painted some siding with the same color ours was- Martha Stewart's Flagstone.  And they painted their door a happy yellow- Full Sun by Eddie Bauer.  One more trip to Lowe's and I had my very own copycat color, in the correct type of paint for an exterior steel door!  I was giddy at being only a few hours away from having at least one exterior door on our house be super cute!

The right stuff.

Get a load of that yellow!

That's more like it!

And here it is after two coats.  I love how cheery it is!

Turn that frown upside down.

Although there were some things about it that I didn't love.

First, there were still visible brush strokes.  Not like crazy "in yo face" visible ones, but visible to the naked eye.  I even mixed some Floetrol in with the paint, which is a product that's designed to reduce brush strokes.  Who knows, maybe I just put too much paint on my brush at once.  I guess I was just hoping for a much more glossy and refined effect, like you'd get from a sprayer.

You can see the brush stroke texture in the reflections.

Then there was this unanticipated side effect....


Once the door was dry enough to close so we could see it with the siding, we realized that it was really bright.  Like day-glo bright.  Case in point- the beach towel is navy and neon green.  What's brighter than neon green?  THAT DOOR!  And although I love how it "grayed" our siding a little more, it looks terrible with our red-brown roofing (not to mention with all of that junk laying around in our backyard, but that's my fault, not the paint's fault).

So what did we learn here?

Always make sure you are using the correct type of paint for your project before you go cray-cray.

Try a baby step.  When you're taking a decorating risk, try it in a way that is less conspicuous or easy to change if you end up hating it.  Can you imagine if I had done the front door first?!  We'd have to give every guest and FedEx guy who came to our house complimentary sunglasses.

Take a friggin' risk!  Although it didn't pan out for me this time, I would have been sad forever about my lack of yellow doors if I hadn't given it a shot.

Trust your gut.  I was suspicious about painting with a brush and ending up with no brush marks, and it's because I just cannot make that happen.  If you want your paint to look really smooth and glossy- use a sprayer, not a brush.  No cuts, buts, or coconuts.  (Did you forget I work in public school?)

So we're living with the back door as is until we can borrow my Dad's sprayer and find a different color that is still cheery but not cheerleader-on-uppers and blends well with both our siding and our odd-toned roofing.  Make me feel better.  Have you ever made a color choice that went horribly wrong?


  1. Painted the house on Stillaguamish a nice taupe.. Unfortunately when the setting sun hit the front of the house, it turned a gorgeous shade of lavender. Next day before sun up I was out there painting... Got done about 10 pm... Ask your in laws... We have a good laugh about it every once in awhile

    1. Ahaha! Steve says he remembers it, too. Can't believe you got it repainted in a day. That's a lot of ambition! Or a really unfortunate shade of lavender- er, taupe. :)