Should You Stain or Paint a Front Door?

Your front door can have a significant impact on the overall curb appeal of your home. When looking to refinish or revamp this portal to your domain, you may be wondering whether to paint or stain it. In addition to the design aspect, there will be other considerations you will want to explore. We have researched this topic to help you make the decision that is best for you. 
You can either paint or stain your front door, depending on your personal preferences. If cost, simplicity, and maintenance are important considerations, then you should paint your front door instead of staining it. If you are set on a finished wood appearance, then you can stain your front door. You should consider the following when making your decision:
  • Cost 
  • Project Complexity and Time Needed
  • Long Term Maintenance
  • Current Finish and Condition of your Door

If you were hoping to find out that staining was the best option, don't worry, We go into further detail below, outlining all of the important considerations and options to weigh. Whether you decide to go with a painted or stained finish, you will have the information necessary to make a smart decision that you will appreciate every time you enter your home for years to come.

Wooden front door being refinished. - Should You Stain or Paint a Front Door

Cost Considerations

It is always wise to consider the cost of a project before getting started. Whether you decide to paint or stain your front door will make a big difference in the overall cost. Assuming you will be doing the project yourself, you will not have to consider the cost of labor, so your only financial consideration will be tools and materials.

Staining will be quite a bit more expensive than painting. Continue reading the below section to find out why.

How Much Should it Cost to Refinish a Front Door?

Wooden front door being refinished


Paint Option

The materials you will need to paint your front door will be sandpaper, 1-quart paint, a paintbrush, and a drop cloth. You can expect to spend between $25 - $40 depending on the quality or brands you choose as well as your geographic location. If you choose an oil-based paint instead of latex, you can expect to spend an additional $5 - $10 on mineral spirits for cleanup. Depending on your current finish, you may also need one quart of primer, which will run you an additional $10.

Check out this cool paint explicitly made for front door applications on Amazon.

Stain Option

If you choose to stain instead of paint, you will need sandpaper, 1/2 pint stain, 1-quart varnish, a good paintbrush, a rag, mineral spirits, and a drop cloth. You should expect to spend between $75 - $90. 

Check out this professional quality stain brush on Amazon.

Project Complexity and Time Needed

Hand painted brush painter brown wooden door Bright sunlight tree exterior background Work day House construction Workers Painters Painting surface coating Front door

Painting your front door can be a relatively quick and straightforward project. The process involves cleaning the door, taping off or removing the hardware, painting your first coat, allowing it to dry, and then painting a second coat. From start to finish, this could take as little as two hours.

Staining is a bit more complicated and time-consuming. This involves sanding the current finish off, applying up to two coats of stain, sanding again, and then applying 2 - 3 coats of varnish, sanding in between each coat. From start to finish you are looking at a minimum of 5-6 hours.

Can You Stain a Door While It's Hanging?

House front entrance with concrete steps iron rod railing and navy blue double doors

While you can stain a door while it's still hanging, we do not recommend it. Sanding the existing finish off will be much easier done while the door is lying horizontally on sawhorses, with the hardware removed. You'll be glad you took the time to remove the door from the hinges when you're meticulously sanding the corners and crevices of the door. Painting a door while it's still hanging should not be a problem unless the current finish is in such shape that it requires sanding as well. 

What Type of Stain Do You Use on a Front Door?

You need to use an exterior oil-based stain on your front door. Even though you will be applying an exterior varnish on top of the stain to protect it, interior stains will be susceptible to discoloration and fading caused by exposure to sunlight. 

Long Term Maintenance

A painted door may show wear and tear a bit more than a stained one, but the maintenance required is undoubtedly less. Knicks and dings can be easily touched up in minutes, and if you smartly chose a satin or semi-gloss paint, your door will be very easy to clean when dirty. Most varnish brands recommend sanding and re-applying the varnish at least once a year, which can be time-consuming.

Current Finish and Condition of your Door

Female hand holding Brush painting house front door with blue paint at home do it yourself project, Should You Stain or Paint a Front Door?

Another important consideration is the current finish and condition of your door. Is this a new door that is just a raw wood finish? Or has it already been painted or stained? If it's a new door, then this simplifies things a bit since you won't have to worry about removing or prepping the old finish. If not, you'll want to make sure you take the necessary steps to make sure your new finish will look good and stay that way.

Can You Paint a Stained Door?

You can paint a stained door, but there some additional steps you will need to take to ensure that the paint adheres to the surface of the wood. This includes removing the protective varnish coat since the paint will not stick to it. This can be done using chemical stripping agents, sandpaper, or a combination of both. The process can be labor-intensive as you want to be sure to remove all of the varnish altogether. 

In Summary


Blue front door with christmas wreath

The choice is yours. If you are flexible when it comes to design and are working on a budget, then painting your front door is a clear choice. If you are set on having a stained finish, then just be prepared to spend more time and money. Whichever choice you go with, be sure to take the necessary steps to prep the surface, making sure you don't find yourself doing it all over again in a few months.
For more information on doors for your home, check out some of our other posts listed below:

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