Neatly Paint Louvered Closet Doors

white painted louvered (slatted) closet doors
  • 4 hours
  • Advanced
  • 50
What You'll Need
Paint remover
Paint thinner
Sawhorses
Two boards
Drill
Screwdriver bits
Screws
Scraping tool
Rags
Facemask with filters
Spray gun
Small brush
What You'll Need
Paint remover
Paint thinner
Sawhorses
Two boards
Drill
Screwdriver bits
Screws
Scraping tool
Rags
Facemask with filters
Spray gun
Small brush

When painting louvered closet doors, you can use a small brush or spray gun for a smooth, professional-looking finish. Both approaches are fairly labor-intensive, and both require careful preparation. If you don't already own a spray gun rig (check them out on Amazon here) you might be able to save some money on the brush approach, but if time is of the essence, the spray technique will probably get the job done faster.

Preparing the Doors

If you're planning to spray paint the doors, remove them from the closet. You will have to wear a special face mask for protection against the harmful fumes, and it should also always be done outside or in a well-ventilated area. You can prop them up against a wall or tree, but laying them on a couple of sawhorses will prevent excess paint from making runs. Make sure that any surrounding area is covered with newspapers or tarps.

If the doors are already painted, you will have to sand it by hand first with fine-grit sandpaper, or you may choose to remove the old paint instead if there is an extensive buildup of many previous coats of paint.

Making sure that you wear an appropriate breathing mask and gloves, you can remove the old paint with a top-grade paint stripper and scrape off the old finish. A paint thinner can then be used to wash off the remnant paint and stripper to make the doors smooth and ready to accept new paint.

Spray Painting the Doors

Painting the doors with a spray gun will require a few extra preparation steps.

spray painting door

Step 1 - Make a Mounting Frame

Prepare two pieces of boards about the same length as the width of your doors by driving two screws of the same size up to the head through each one, making sure that their points extend 3/4-inch or more on the opposite side. The distance between the two screws should be two inches less than the door width.

Secure each board to one to each sawhorse by screwing them in with the screw points sticking up. This will keep the door away from the sawhorse surface and the paint from blending on both surfaces and smearing the underside of the door surfaces.

Step 2 - Add Handles

Screw in two long screws at each end of the door towards the edge of it. This will provide four handles—two at each end—that can be used to move or carry the painted door once coated and still wet.

Step 3 - Place the Door

Lay down the first door so it rests on the 4 nail ends on the sawhorses, with the door's preferred side facing down. Your door is now resting firmly on four different resting points.

Step 4 - Gear Up

Put on your breathing mask and protective gloves. Holding your spray gun so that the spray will shoot at a 45° angle, aim the spray at the top corner at one end of the door. You will be spraying while constantly moving the spray across the width first, covering both the door edge and its top surface.

Step 5 - Perfect Your Technique

The technique. This should be rehearsed until you get the movement perfectly synchronized on scrap pieces or panels. The spray gun nozzle should be held between eight and 10 inches from the surface if you're using a conventional spray gun, and 8-10 inches if you have an HVLP spray gun. The movement during spray painting MUST always be constant and uniform without any pausing from the second you pull the lever until after you release it.

To prevent an accumulation of paint at the start of the pass, place yourself so that you can start spraying outside the surface area so that when you reach the surface, the spray is already steady and continuous without any risk of buildup. The same applies where you finish at the opposite end of the pass and only release the lever after passing over the edge of the panel.

While spraying, the nozzle must be kept at a constant 45° over the edge, and the movement aimed perpendicular to the direction of the movement. You can never shoot to your left or to your right while moving the spray forward.

Step 6 - Paint the Perimeter

Up until now, you've learned how to hold the spray gun, how to aim the spray, and how to move it along. When spray painting a large surface, there is also a specific order in which passes are done first and how they're done. With step 6 completed, you have one of many passes done, and two surfaces touched, and you now have to keep moving around the object to be painted, and using still the same technique, paint the adjacent side until you covered the edges all around.

You can never spray while trying to turn the corner, as this would create a paint buildup in that corner. Each of the four sides must be started and ended outside the surface area exactly as described in step 6. You now have the perimeter covered on the top and on the edge.

Step 7 - Paint the Edges

Aiming the spray gun directly perpendicular to the edge of the door, start a pass on each of the four edges of the door, starting away from the surface and ending the pass the same way. You now have the full perimeter covered.

Step 8 - Paint the Main Surface

You can now paint the surface area by holding the spray gun perpendicular to the surface. Since a spray pattern has an oval shape, the central area of the spray will apply more paint than the extremities of the pattern. For that reason, if you spray paint a panel with parallel passes, you will get dark and light areas of coverage throughout the panel in the direction of movement of the spray.

To prevent this, each pass made must be overlapped by the next pass and after having the surface all covered, repainting it right away—without redoing the perimeter— but this time at 90° from the previous spraying passes. When painting doors or large panels, it is better to finish your passes in the length of the panel.

bright white louvered doors

Step 9 - Detail Relief Panels

The louvered panels offer an embossed profile with reliefs that, if not carefully executed, will accumulate a lot of paint. The louvers should be painted a light coat before the rest, aiming at an angle to reach inside the reliefs, with the passes made in the same direction as the louvers, but in quick successive passes, but only once. With that done, you proceed as in step 8 as if it was a plain panel. The corners of the doors where the louvers meet the frame could be susceptible to pooling paint and can be corrected with a small brush until it's even.

Step 10 - Flip and Repeat

The door can then be turned over with the door's preferred side up. If the points of the supporting screws left any mark, they would be on the reverse side once finished. Repeat steps 6 through 9 to complete the painting of the door.

Repeat the process for several coats.

Caution: Once you begin spray painting, never pause your movements, don't try to correct a missed spot—you'll cover on the next pass, don't move too slowly but rather adopt a fast, steady movement.

Reinstall the Doors

Make sure the doors are completely dry before you bring them back into the house to reinstall. Once they are dried, hang them back up in the closet.

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