Should You Stain or Paint a Front Door?

The front door of your property forms a large component of the first impression many visitors will have of your home. It is the first part of your house that any visitors will see up close as they knock on the door or ring your bell to get your attention. The front door can be pivotal when it comes to improving curb appeal, whether you’re interested in selling your property or you just want to have a home exterior you can be proud of.

If you want to update or upgrade the look of your front door, your options are to either paint or stain it. Here we break down the pros and cons and look further into the considerations you should make before deciding on whether you should stain or paint your front door.

Painting a Front Door

Painting a Front Door


  • Most Cost-Effective Option
  • Less Maintenance
  • Easier Project
  • Unlimited Color Options
  • High Level of Surface Protection


  • Hides Natural Beauty of Wooden Door

Staining a Front Door

Staining a Front Door


  • Adds Warmth and Charm


  • Complex Project
  • Requires Annual Maintenance
  • Most Expensive Option

Considerations for Painting or Staining a Front Door


The final cost of a project will be a big deciding factor for a lot of people when it comes to choosing between painting or staining the front door. If you want to make the most budget-friendly front door choice, then without question, painting the door would cost you the least amount of money. This is because you will require fewer materials compared to when staining the door.

To paint a front door, assuming you are covering previous paint, you will need to sand the door with sandpaper to prepare it for the new layers of paint. You won’t need to completely remove the previous paint, but instead, sand away the sheen of the old paint in order for the new layers of paint to adequately adhere to the door.

Once the door has been prepped, you can go ahead and prime it or choose an exterior paint with a primer in the formula. You will need to buy a good paintbrush, and obviously, the paint and primer, to complete this step. You may also need to purchase a drop cloth or dust sheets to protect your flooring from spillages or drips, or you could use an old unwanted bedsheet to save money.

Depending on the paint you use, and assuming you will be completing the project yourself, you can expect to spend in the region of $50 to complete the project or painting your front door. By comparison, to stain a door that was previously painted, you would need to completely strip away the old paint using a power sander or a stripping chemical, either of which will set you back a good chunk of money. You may then choose to use a wood conditioner before you stain the door or jump straight into staining it.

To stain a door, there are various options for applying the stain, including cloth, a foam pad, or a brush. You will also need sandpaper because staining requires you to sand each layer of stain before applying the next coat. A with painting a door, you will also need a drop cloth. You should also buy an exterior strength varnish for the final coats on the door to protect against the stain.

To clean your brushes or foam pads, you will need to buy a mineral spirit. If you stain the door yourself, you can expect to spend in excess of $100, though many people choose to hire a professional because the process can be quite involved and lengthy. For a professional to stain your front door, you will need to at least double this figure.

As detailed above, completing the project of painting a door will cost less than staining it; however, the costs do not end here. Once your front door has been painted, there is very little maintenance involved besides cleaning it, whereas a stained door will need annual maintenance, which can cost in the region of $40 to $50 each year, therefore staining your front door will be a continual investment and long term obligation.

Project Complexity

As you may have gathered from above, painting a door is a much easier and quicker project to complete compared with staining a door. The complexity of staining a door is increased if you are having to prep a door that has previously been painted; however, even if you have an unfinished, raw wooden door, staining it will still be a much more complex process than painting it.

Before painting or staining the door, you should remove any hardware or mask it up with decorator’s tape. To paint the door, you will then simply need to apply one coat of paint, wait the advised time, and then add another coat of paint.

Depending on the recoating time, you could have the door finished in as little as two hours. By comparison, staining the door is much more time-consuming. You will need to apply a layer of stain, wait the required time, then sand the initial layer before applying another layer. You will need to repeat this process of staining and sanding multiple times, sometimes waiting as long as 12 hours between coats.

Once you are happy with the depth of color of the stain, you can then add a layer of varnish, which will again need to be allowed to dry and sanded again before applying another coat of varnish. At a minimum, you are looking at eight hours to complete the project, or even several days if the stain needs a long time to dry between coats.

You should also bear in mind that while you can stain a door while it is fixed in place on its hinges, it will be a much easier process if you remove the door and lay it flat in a workshop or garage. This is because of the requirements to repeatedly sand down the door. Comparatively, there is no need to remove a front door to paint it, which again makes painting the door a simpler option.


If you’re someone who has a busy schedule or who just prefers low-maintenance items, then you should consider the long-term maintenance of a painted or stained door before choosing which option to go for. A painted door has very little maintenance involved.

If you have opted for a gloss or semi-gloss finish on your door, then cleaning it will be a quick and easy process, as dirt will just wipe right off with a wet cloth. If your door suffers any damage in the way of chips or dings, touching it up with a little dash of paint will be simple. However, a stained door will need to be sanded and re-varnished on an annual basis to keep the door looking in its best condition and also to ensure it remains weatherproof. This can be both a costly and time-consuming process.

Door Condition

The current condition of your door will likely play a role in deciding whether you want to paint or sand your door. This is because a door that has already been painted several times will need to be stripped right back to the original wood, which could be a complex project in itself before you have even gotten to the staining part. For a door that has numerous layers of paint on it, sanding it will not be the best option as it will take a lot of time and labor.

Instead, you could get the door professionally dipped in a chemical stripper, which will dissolve all of the paint and take your wooden door back to its original condition. This will be the quickest but also the most expensive option. If your front door is new and unfinished, then staining it will still be the more complex option compared to painting, but at least there will be minimal preparation involved.


If you are going for a specific style for the exterior of your home, then the end result might be more important to you than the cost or the complexity of the project. A stained wooden door looks warm and homely and works well with traditional or historic properties, while a painted door is well suited to both modern and older homes.


In summary, if the cost of refinishing your front door is not a consideration for you, then paying a professional to stain it for you will give you the results you want without you having to go through the arduous process yourself.

Undoubtedly, stained wooden front doors give a home a warmth and charm that you cannot replicate with paint. However, if cost and ease are important factors to you, then painting your front door will be the least expensive and least time-consuming choice. The end result will still be an attractive front door, which is incredibly weatherproof, easy to clean, and free from complex maintenance.