How to Prime a Metal Door for Painting

It's frustrating to see the results of a bad paint job wielded by your hand.

If you're unhappy with the way a metal door looks before or after painting, it may just have to do with the priming. When you prime a metal door, painting almost always looks better, and you also ward off rust for a longer time.

Prepare a metal door by removing as much flaking paint as you can, and then sand it with fine sandpaper.

Clean the door with a cleansing product like TSP. Some people get good results cleaning with mineral spirits or a glass cleaner, followed by plain water.

Take the door off its hinges if you can, for ease in working. Lay it across sawhorses.

Realize that many metal doors come with a factory-applied primer, leaving you to just spot prime any bare metal. If not, plan to prime the entire door with a metal primer product like Rustoleum. Many rust-inhibiting products are oil-based.

Get a tinted primer, if you want. Basic primer comes in white, but you can have tint added to match your shade of paint.

Use a roller or paintbrush to apply primer so that paint adheres to the door better. Work quickly because the paint will start to get tacky and then you will have problems.

Wait until primer is completely dry before painting.

Things You Will Need

  • Fine sandpaper
  • Cleaner such as TSP
  • Metal primer product
  • Paint brush or roller


  • If you don't want to tape up a doorknob, remove it from the door until after painting.
  • Dampen rollers and brushes before using to reduce tool marks on the metal door.