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Edited Entry: Painting Door Hardware


As is the plight of many homes in Arizona, the street view of our house is dominated by a three-car garage. Blech.

Our lipstick-on-a-pig solution was to paint it a solid color and attempt to dress it up with modern mission-inspired light fixtures and windows. But since the garage still makes up nearly half the facade, the front entrance needs to be a standout to get noticed at all.

While cleaning up the aftermath of a recent haboob (which is way more fun to say than it is to experience), I realized our entry was standing out — just not in the way I’d hoped.

Our front door is looking tired and neglected, the welcome mat is not welcoming anyone, and the weathered bench is barely holding it together.

Time to spruce it up — starting with the door hardware.

Our existing solid brass handle set — the Schlage Century — originally had a satin-nickel finish. A couple years ago the nickel finish started wearing off so I MacGyvered a quick fix using some hammered bronze metallic spray paint.

It looked great — for about a year. Now it’s peeling and has worn off in places:

Since I still really like its clean, modern profile, I considered just replacing it with the same one in a different “aged bronze” finish but the $120 price tag — along with the hassle factor of installing a new set — left me open to other options.

Like painting it. Again.

How to Paint Metal Door Hardware

– Sandpaper (medium and fine grit)
– Lint-free cloth
– Painter’s tape
– Newspaper
– Primer (if needed)
– Spray paint (Rust-Oleum Bright Coat Metallic Finish in “Dark Bronze”)

Prep. I started with medium-grit (60) sandpaper and sanded down the jagged edges of the peeling-off paint job, then followed it with a fine-grit paper (180) to smooth the surface, being careful not to scratch the brass.

Next I wiped it down with a damp, lint-free cloth.

More prep. Using painter’s tape, I taped the door around both the lock and the handle making sure to get the tape as close to the base of the metal as possible (slightly under it, where I could) so there would be no overspray on the door.

To keep paint out of the keyhole, I cut a double circle of tape to cover it. (This results in the keyhole being a different color from the rest of the handle set, but I can live with that for a lock that works.) I also taped off the thumb lever, since I learned the hard way before that the horizontal surface collects all the extra paint.

After taping off the handle and lock, I added large pieces of newspaper to protect the door, door frame and entry step from overspray.

Choosing the Paint. Although the hammered finish I used the first time was effective at hiding the surface flaws of the metal, I never really loved it – it always looked spray painted. After reading how much the Young House Love-ers adore Rust-Oleum Universal Metallic spray paint and its fancy trigger spray nozzle, I decided to give it a try — in “oil rubbed bronze.”

I took off the red safety slide, shook the can per the instructions (plus some more), and tested the spray on a scrap piece of paper. At first it wouldn’t come out, then I got a bunch of splotchy splatters — not at all the look I was going for on the door. I shook the can some more, tested it again, and got only slightly better results.

I really didn’t want to go back to Home Depot, so against my better judgment I decided to give it a shot on the door. Bad call. The paint splattered everywhere. I wiped off the wet paint with the damp cloth and headed to the Depot.

After I explained my situation, the HD paint expert store helped me test another can. Again, same problem. I don’t know if I just tested a bad batch, but I’m not a fan of the trigger spray.

I chose a different Rust-Oleum option: Bright Coat Metallic Finish in “dark bronze.”

Paint. After testing the new paint on my scrap paper, I sprayed three thin coats 10 minutes apart and I really like the results. Although the finish is called “metallic,” it actually sprays on much more matte – more like real oil-rubbed bronze. Finally, I removed the painter’s tape from the thumb lever and holding a piece of scrap paper underneath to protect the rest of the handle, I gave it one quick spray to coat.

To prime, or not to prime. One of the benefits of the ‘universal’ spray paint (the first kind I bought) is that it contains both primer and paint. When I made the switch to the new stuff, I asked the HD paint pro if I needed a primer too. He said that as long as I scuffed the surface enough to allow the paint to stick, it would be fine. I trusted him. So far, so good.

After letting the paint dry for several hours, I removed the paper and tape. Voila — “new” hardware!

Well, “like” new-ish. And while I’m pleased with the overall result, next time (if there is a next time) I might try using a solvent to completely remove the old finish(es) before painting for a completely smooth look.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/31 4:20 PM

    Wow, you do know how to have a good time, eh?

    I saw the haboob on the telly. I always thought those were so exciting when I was a kid. That one was spectacular and looked fascinating… from my East Coast vantage point.

    But seriously, you did a great job! It looks perfect, Jennifer!

  2. Jennifer permalink*
    07/31 6:25 PM

    @Marti — Well, not as good a time as making super fancy tree skirts, but I have my moments. ;-) The only bad thing about upgrades is the snowball effect — now I *really* need to refinish that door…

  3. 08/01 2:44 PM

    So far all we know about those tree skirts is how incredibly messy I can be. Yikes! And live with it for weeks on end? Blech.

  4. 01/25 7:44 AM

    What a differencee!!1, im gonna have to try do this with my front door now. Thanks for the tips in your write up :)

  5. 06/02 11:38 PM

    Wanted to drop a remark and let you know your Rss feed isnt working today. I tried including it to my Bing reader account and got absolutely nothing.

  6. sunny permalink
    04/06 10:18 AM

    I found that the Rustoleum Universal paint in Oil Rubbed Bronze has a TON of gold glitter in it. Way too gold sparkly for my liking.

    • 04/06 11:57 AM

      I could never get the Universal container to spray correctly, but that’s another reason I liked the “dark bronze” I used — it’s a much more “matte” metallic finish. That might work better for you? Good luck!

  7. 04/04 1:18 PM

    The Universal container splatters unless you take a pin and clean out the spray nozzle. I spray some, stop and clean out the nozzle again and then spray more and it is fine. I have found if you do not do this step it will get where it does not spray correctly and is too thick and splotchy.

  8. 04/29 5:11 PM

    Had same problem with basic white in the “trigger” spray can. Threw 2 cans out after they spit paint everywhere. Never again.

  9. Michele permalink
    03/20 7:31 PM

    Schlage is known for doing several replacements of the entire system you bought. They have replaced mine three times with no questions asked. Our front door gets lots of afternoon sun and the finish always deteriorated. A quick call always gets me a complete new set.

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