The front door is finally done, and it took most of the summer so I won’t draw it out any longer. Here’s the repaired and repainted front door:
Let’s take a look at where I started a few months ago:
The original paint on the door and surrounding side lights and transom was chipped and flaking and had even worn down to bare wood in places. Long slivers of crumbly glazing putty were peeling away from the transom window panes. A few of the glass panes had lost so much glazing putty that they looked like they might fall out of the window frame if they encountered a stiff breeze. Clearly something needed to be done. So naturally I spent a few weeks agonizing over what color to paint the door before I started any actual work.
As you can see, I eventually settled on dark blue for the door and off white for the trim. These colors aren’t all that different from the original light blue-gray trim and medium blue door. Even though my neighbors pretty much gave me free reign to choose whatever colors I wanted, I didn’t want to upset anyone by doing anything too crazy. So I more or less stuck with the existing color scheme. I considered painting the door yellow after so many of you suggested it, and if I owned the entire building I might have gone for it. But in the end, something dark and traditional seemed like a safer choice.
Once I decided on dark blue, I had to pick a specific shade of dark blue. I’m easily influenced by the names and descriptions of paint colors, so when I began looking through Benjamin Moore colors online, I was immediately drawn to “Hale Navy,” which Benjamin Moore describes as, “a timeless classic, this deeply saturated shade of navy blue evokes rich maritime traditions and storied exploits at sea.” Do I want my front door to recall storied exploits at sea? Well now that you mention it, yes, yes I do. I was sold. Until I came across “Washington Blue,” the description for which reads, “suggesting gentility and culture, this deep, lush navy blue is based on the color created by hand-grinding Prussian blue in oil.” You had me at gentility and culture.
But after I picked up paint chips in a few different shades of dark blue at the paint store and held them up to the door, the Washington Blue looked too green in comparison to the blue-gray portico, and Hale Navy didn’t look dark enough. Instead I chose Polo Blue, which despite its preppy name, is a simple, inky blue-black. For the side lights and transom I chose French Canvas, a grayish off white that echoes the color of the building’s mortar.
Before I could start painting the door and trim, there was a long list of prep work to complete. I began by reglazing the transom window. I then moved on to the soul-crushingly-tedious work of scraping away every last bit of loose and peeling paint. Whoever originally painted the door apparently didn’t believe in the merits of priming raw wood before painting. So there was a seemingly never-ending amount of loose paint that needed to be scraped – a boring, awful process that took forever.
Once all of the loose paint was gone, I washed everything down with a sponge and soapy water followed by clean water. I let everything dry for an hour or so and then primed. I used a primer called Peel Stop Triple Thick made by Zinsser. As the name suggests, this primer is really thick. It’s designed to even out the surface of weathered wood, and again, as the name suggests, it’s supposed to prevent patches of old paint that are still adhered to the wood from peeling further. It goes on smoothly, and judging by how well it stuck to my hands, it binds tightly to the underlying paint and wood, but we’ll see how it holds up over time. I used an exterior oil based primer to prime the new glazing on the transom window (since the glazing itself is oil-based, an oil-based primer is needed to seal it).
After everything was primed, I caulked all of the seams in the trim. The side lights, transom, and trim had never been caulked before, which allowed water to seep into the cracks between pieces of trim, and was probably part of the reason why the trim was weathering so poorly. The caulk will help protect the trim from the elements, and as an added benefit it gives the whole entryway a more finished, seamless look.
The bottom of the door and the edges of the door frame had sustained some pretty serious gouges over the years, so before I moved on to painting, I repaired the corners with wood filler. I used WoodEpox, which is a two part epoxy. It’s really easy to work with – just grab approximately equal sized chunks of each component and mash them together in your hands (preferably while wearing gloves). Then press the paste-like epoxy into the gouge, leave it to dry for a few hours, sand, and paint. WoodEpox is supposed to stay in place even on exterior wood that expands and contracts with changing weather, so we’ll see how it holds up. Here’s a corner of the doorframe that I repaired after applying the wood filler (left) and after sanding (right).
Finally, I painted everything, which ended up being one of the quickest and most enjoyable parts of the entire project. I used Benjamin Moore’s exterior latex paint in soft gloss. It’s a nice, thick paint, and I only needed two coats to fully cover the door and trim. I considered Benjamin Moore’s “Grand Entrance” paints, which are their specialty front door paints. But the ”Grand Entrance” paint is oil-based and the guy at the paint store convinced me that latex paint is just as durable as oil paint and, unlike oil paint, it won’t yellow over time.
The hinges on the door were completely rusted out, so once both sides of the door were painted, I took the whole thing down and removed the hinges, sanded them, and painted them with Rustoleum rusty metal primer and enamel topcoat. There are these big, rusted, iron bolt and washer things clamped to the granite on either side of the steps, so I decided to spray paint them while I was at it. I used a plastic drop cloth and painters’ tape to seal off the granite while I painted.
The door is solid wood and it’s really heavy, so Mara and I had a miserable time rehanging it. Since it opens onto the steps, it’s impossible to balance the door in the doorframe while screwing the hinges into the doorjamb. Instead I had to hold the door and try to maneuver it into place while Mara screwed the hinges into the jamb. We got it eventually, but it was an ordeal.
So there it is, the finished door. I still need to order a brass address plaque, and I’d also like to get a pair of brass toe kicks, but otherwise it’s done. I think it turned out nicely, and the neighbors seem to like it too, so we’ll call it a success. And even though I didn’t use “Hale Navy” in the end, the dark blue door with brass hardware surrounded by white trim has a definite maritime character, which seems fitting for a building located on the harbor in East Boston, a neighborhood that has historically been associated with the shipbuilding industry.