Restoring Your Doors

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Step-By-Step Instructions For Two Do-It-Yourself Options

By CJ Steen

One of the toughest questions when remodeling anything is what color white did I originally pick? Was it cream, eggshell, ivory, Navajo, vanilla, seashell, snow, baby powder, old lace, bone, or one of the numerous other shades of white? Luckily, those 20-year-old, faded white doors staring at you from your office’s window are the same white used on today’s doors. That makes life a lot easier when working on an expansion. You can rest assured knowing that your doors will match your original doors. Your only concern becomes: What can you do to make your original doors look fresh? Do you attempt to find a white paint to match the new doors, order new doors, or is there another option?

Storage doors have a baked-on finish, resulting in a beautiful sheen. Roll-up doors are an icon in our industry—they are even used as part of logos and marketing materials. With oxidation from salt-water corrosion or acid rain damage, that sheen dulls and fades. Fortunately, it is revivable and can easily be refreshed.

Option 1
Regrettably, paint is not what it was when facilities were built in the 1970s. Paint contained efficient—yet dangerous—materials, such as lead, to increase paint’s durability; it was even washable. Departments of health have agreed that lead exposure can cause serious, and sometimes fatal, health risks. Door and window frames are common contributors to lead exposure, since the act of closing a door or opening a window can cause dust to build up and fumes to circulate.

Painting metal doors requires extra special care, because the tool that is applying the wet paint can be easily manipulated. Slick steel does not absorb paint into the material and “lay down”.

To start, you need a good exterior steel paint. The glossier it is, the harder it is to paint without a sprayer. Therefore, keep in mind a flatter paint sheen is going to produce a flatter finish on a metal door. If you’re unsure whether you are painting over an oil-based paint, cover the door with a good exterior metal/wood primer first. Don’t take any chances if you do not know, because the paint could peel and bubble.

Tape off the door parts, like the hinges and door sweep, to keep paint away. Prep your steel doors by cleaning it and lightly sanding the finish, removing any blemishes. If your door is older, sanding the door is not recommended. A 220-grit sandpaper is suggested to scuff the old paint and knock down any paint bubbles or rust pockmarks. Before painting, wipe it all off with a clean damp cloth.

Now that you are ready to paint, you must keep it wet. If you don’t keep a wet edge on a metal door when it’s being painted, the drying paint will stick to the roller and peel off. Paint from the top to bottom of the door, going left to right and continuing the process without skipping down the door more than four to six inches at a time to keep a wet edge.

Try to paint in the morning and avoid the afternoon. Hot steel doors are nearly impossible to paint as the paint dries almost instantly, so you won’t have a wet edge.

Option 2
Another option is to use a high-quality coating to restore and refresh your doors. You do not need to be a professional painter and mistakes are easier to avoid or correct. Taping off is unnecessary, and you do not have to be concerned about overspray.

The first step is to clean the surface. The goal of cleaning the surface is to remove the dirt and grime as well as all the chalky oxidation, wax, or grease that may be on the surface so the coating can adhere properly. Coatings needs to be applied to a completely clean and dry surface. Removing the chalky oxidation is simple and easy to do. This is an extremely important step. All chalk and oxidization must be removed. A bucket of plain water, prep pads, and microfiber towels are all that are required for this step. Wet the prep pad with plain water. Start at the top and scrub across each rib; it is not necessary to press hard. Use long strokes, going back and forth across each rib until the chalk is scuffed off; then wipe the residue off with your wet microfiber cloth. Rinse out the pad in water often. When the entire cloth has chalk on it, rinse it in clean water and continue. This will ensure that all chalk and oxidation is removed. Prep pads are necessary to remove the oxidation evenly, plus they will not scratch the paint. They are also great for removing marks and stains. If water beads up on the paint, use the prep pads to clean off the contaminants and break surface tension. You may want to use several prep pads on top of each other to protect your fingers, especially when getting into the edges of the door. A final wash with EZ Prep™ Cleaner, water, and a brush will make sure that the doors will be completely clean. Be careful not to get water into the storage units. Most seals on storage doors will not keep water out if a stream is sprayed into the C channel. Aim the water away from the sides of the door, and avoid spraying water up onto the top of the door.

Then, you will want to do a final wash of the doors. Just fill a bucket with about two to four gallons of water and about one oz. per gallon of cleaning concentrate. Do not use too much cleaner or the solution will be difficult to rinse off. Next, rinse the surface down with water. Now you are ready to dip a brush into the soap solution and apply it to the surface, working from top to bottom. Use uniform strokes, going all the way across the door if possible. Then, rinse again. Do not allow the soap to dry on the surface. Wash it off in sections if necessary.

When applying the coating, the temperature of the metal should not be extremely cold or you may get some runs before the coating is dry. The metal should not be very hot either. Put your hand on the door; if the temperature is too hot to leave your hand on it comfortably for five seconds, the metal is too hot. Work on the sun side on cold days and the shade side on hot days.

A small, high volume, low pressure sprayer with a solvent resistant cup is an excellent investment for application. Fill the quart cup and spray it onto the cleaned surface. The spray is adjustable. On roll-up doors, the best way to spray is side to side, overlapping the sprayed area, hitting each rib, and covering the door completely from one side to the other. Hold the sprayer about three to four inches from the surface. The best setting of the sprayer is a vertical fan for spraying side to side and horizontal for spraying up and down. For long lasting results, two coats of coating are recommended. Pay special attention to the top of each rib where the sun does the most damage. Clean up the equipment with a solvent like xylene. Lacquer thinner or other solvents can also be used to clean the equipment. Check to make sure that your sprayer is solvent rated. That’s it. No rubbing and no buffing. Just let it dry and enjoy the beautiful, new looking, easy-to-maintain surface. Dirt and dust will not penetrate into the new finish and will be much easier to clean in the future.

If you need help deciding which option is best for you, contact a curb appeal specialist. They will be able to help you simply by looking at photos of your doors. Some specialists will even show you samples to set your expectations. Good luck with your doors!

CJ Steen is a Inside Sales Representative for Rancho Cordova-based Everbrite, Inc.

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