how to paint a door without taking it off the hinges

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If you’ve ever had to paint an interior door (or wondered how), I’ve figured out a little way to paint a door without taking it off the hinges. This one little trick saves me SO much time and the hassle of trying to re-hang old, settled doors!

how to paint a door without taking it off the hinges

My doors are old, boring, flat hollow core doors. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been cleaning off the dirt, scuffing the surface with a sanding sponge, wiping the dust with a tack cloth, and painting them with a

How to to paint a door without taking it off of the hinges

Why Not Remove?

Before you suggest “why don’t you just take the door off the hinges?”, the answer is simple: it’s more time-consuming, and you can’t guarantee that the door will still hang the same when you try to put it back up again. This is an older house where projects never seem to go exactly how I expect, and as much as I like to learn about DIY, this is a headache I like to avoid if possible! :)

Time needed: 5 minutes

This is the simple trick to paint interior and exterior doors cleanly and without the hassle of removing them from their hinges.

  1. Cover hinges with painter’s tape

    First, take a strip of painter’s tape and cover the hinge you are trying to protect.
    painters tape on door hinge

  2. Find your line

    Next, smooth your finger along the edge of the hinge. In most cases, the hinge will not be exactly flush with the door itself, so you will likely have a recessed edge. Use this as an outline for cutting.firm tape along hinge

  3. Cut around the edge

    Take an exacto knife and run it along the edge you created in the tape. If you don’t have one handy, use the sharp point of a putty knife.exacto knife on hinge with painters tape

  4. Remove remaining tape

    Remove the remaining outer portion of the tape that is now separated from the piece that is still covering the metal hinge. You can either cover the hinge pins, or not. Up to you.
    trim excess tape from door hinge

  5. Paint!

    Now, it’s much easier to paint over without needing extra cleanup! Paint over the area, and you won’t have to worry as much about getting paint on the hinges. Simply remove the taped part when you’re done (ideally when the paint is still wet so that the line comes off clean… if you wait until it’s dry, it might take off some paint from the door).

More interior door painting tips:

  • You can do the same tape treatment with other door hardware, such as the inset for the door lock or door knobs.
  • Don’t forget: sand down your doors with a high grit sandpaper where possible to help the paint adhere to the surface faster.
  • Prep work makes a HUGE difference. That includes wiping down dust and grime, removing imperfections, setting down a drop cloth, filling holes with wood filler, etc.
  • Right now, I’m using a base coat of BEHR Ultra Premium prime + paint (only on the first coat — the color tends to yellow so I like the non-primer type of paint for the top coat) to make the job go even faster, but the process is still several coats away from the finished product.
  • Door panels should be painted in this order, and always in the direction of the wood grain to hide brush marks. Use satin sheen paint.

Here’s hoping my final coat tonight is the final coat, and I can reveal the rest of the bedroom! If you enjoyed this you can also check out my front porch before and afters!

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  1. Hmm… good idea for the hinges. I'll have to try out that tip – we have around 7 doors that need to be painted sooner or later, and I'll admit that I've totally been slacking and procrastinating, partially because I don't want to take the doors down. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Been painting doors. Put 2 coats of primer and 1 of paint. Now thw door does not close right. The paint makes it thicker and does not want to close properly.

  2. Glad I could help! The first door wasn't nearly as simple. I actually re-created the door hinge shape and cut the tape to fit… over and over again for each side of the hinge. I eventually learned my lesson though – too many doors in the house to continue with that method!

  3. I was just trying to figure this out! I'm in the midst of painting my bathroom and there is a tight space needing painted where it's either remove the whole door or (I thought) paint over the hinge. This is so much better! Thanks

  4. Great idea! Thanks! I love it that you share all these trial and errors. Being a single woman and having to do all this stuff around the house can be overbearing at times and this post really helps.

    1. Scrape with a razor blade. You can buy one that has a little sleeve that you can also use for scraping paint off glass (like around your windows).

    2. I have also seen where you can soak them in a slow-cooker and it will remove the paint (but you'd have to take the hinges off the door, obviously, so not as easy as scrapping).

      Thanks, Amanda P

  5. probably dumb question, but what type of paint did you use for your doors and trim? do you have to sand at all? mine are all ugly 70's flat doors, that are really needing a makeover!

    1. Not dumb. I used Behr Ultra White in semi-gloss. I sanded the doors but did't sand the trim (though I did use Zinsser primer in high traffic/scuff areas first). These doors are all flat too; I'm considering beefing them up with color (like light gray).

  6. How funny, I just happened to stumble on this post – not looking for anything like this, but I getting ready to spray paint out door hardware with Oil Rubbed Bronze paint (ala Young House Love), and was in need of a way to spray the HINGES without getting it all over the door (and surrounding walls, floors, etc.) without removing them. Obviously, I will have to do a lot of masking, but I think if I reverse your idea, and just cut the tape away from the hinges, then use a small brush to get the opposite side of the hinge pin, this just might do the trick! Thanks!

    1. I am going to buy bronze craft paint to do my hinges. I had sprayed them before we moved in. Well they got white paint on them feom a sloppy painter and I teyed removing white paint with acetone and it took off spray paint?? so now I have part bronze, part brass hinges.

  7. Great tips here. You can always tell the lazy painter by the paint on the hinges,door knobs,glass on the windows etc. That painters tape really does do wonders.

  8. I love black hardware and white painted doors. i have a 1920’s house which had mostly dingy brass escutcheon plates, hinges, locks and fittings for the glass door knobs. The doors were solid wood and stained. Reproduction hardware is really expensive so i purchased some black, actually called licorice, paint from a craft store that will “paint anything”-including brass. I used artists paint brushes to careful paint just the metal. it took a few coats to create the illusion. I also painted the doors white. They turned out amazing!

  9. On HGTV I had seen someone paint their hinge hardware with rubber cement, paint, then peel off the rubber cement. Sounded easy enough and I mentioned it to my trusty hardware store guy and to my contractor. Both said “no, no, no…the rubber cement is a PITA to remove”. Both of them suggested thickly coating the hardware with a layer of car wax. Wipes right off and polishes your hardware at the same time.

  10. I wanted to paint my doors but I didn’t want to take them off the hinges so this article helped me a lot! Thanks a lot for the idea!

  11. I have to paint my front door, and I’m thinking to myself, there is no way I am taking that door off the hinges. We can just forget about that!

    Now I just need to figure out how to keep the bugs out of the house while I’m painting. I’m thinking of taping up plastic to seal the doorway.

    1. Done that. It works pretty well, but if you have a dog, they’ll run right through it. Ask me how I know ;)

      1. Oh dear, I have cats. They will have to be sequestered to the litter box room for the day!

        Thanks so much for your blog, it’s an inspiration!! I have a house that was built in 1992 that need fresh paint on every inch. Today is the beginning!

  12. Seeing this painter’s tape trick, I wonder if I could use it to do a reverse-maneuver and *remove* the paint from the hinge hardware without damaging the rest of the door or paint!

  13. Do you definitely have to sand? And use primer? My door was painted by the home builder 17 yrs ago with acrylic vinyl flat finish. I plan on painting it over with the same paint.

    1. This was based on my own doors that weren’t previously painted (they were stained & coated with poly), so that’s how I did mine. I would always recommend using primer for most projects, but to each their own! I also use the recommended sheen for durability (semigloss) for my doors.

  14. If my husband ever leaves me, I’m pretty sure he will list Pinterest as the reason. Because I get all inspired by projects and he would rather I just get off the internet and leave everything alone! In a series of snowballing events that started with the death of our geriatric, can’t-hold-her-bladder dog, I have now ripped out all the carpet, scraped off popcorn ceiling, refinished ceiling, painted walls and am now contemplating new trim as I prepare to lay down our new floors. What’s holding me back? The ugly 70’s flat panel dark brown doors. Seven all in one hallway! But Sarah, you’ve given me the inspiration I need to see this project all the way through. Because who wants ugly brown doors with nice new white trim? Thank you!

    1. BEST message I’ve read all month, Amy! I hope you LOVE your new renovated room (and doors, obviously)!

    1. For prepping and priming tips, check out my info on how I painted my kitchen cabinets (here and here)… I tend to use the same products because I hate sanding!

  15. Bloody genius! Isn’t it amazing? You see tips like this and you think “why the hell didn’t I think of that?” Lol I’ll certainly remember it! Thank you. Sue

  16. All the hinges in our house had been smothered in paint when the doors were previously painted. I went to the local Bunnings and purchased a set of 3 identical hinges and proceeded to change them (one at a time) and then stripped off the old paint (Acrylic) by boiling them in water for around 20 minutes, with the pivot pins removed. The soft paint scraped off easily with a piece of sharpened aluminium; then polished them with Brasso metal polish. Reassembled with Vaseline on the pin and so used on the next delinquent door. OK, I will have three hinges over when the project is completed, but I think it was worth it all. The screws were cleaned and re-used.

    1. That sounds like a lot of work. With my method, no one will have to deal with that same frustration but also won’t have to take down their doors. Thanks!

  17. Hi Sarah,
    The paint doors without removing worked great! I did the upstairs, but removed all the doors all nine! :-(
    Thank you,

    1. Glad to hear it worked well for you! Now you can avoid the headache of re-hanging them in the future.