How to Paint French Doors + DIY Door Replacement Cost

A quick tip for painting French doors without scraping, taping, or splotchy peeling paint. And how much it costs to replace an exterior door.

“We’ve been painting most our lives living in a French door paradise.” 🎵🎶 Because there are so. many. French. doors. in. this. house.

They made me fall in love with this place. The minute I walked into the living room on our first tour, I knew those pretty doors needed to be mine.

living room before painting
wall of french doors in living room

Exterior Door Replacement

BUT there was one outlier door that didn’t match the rest and it wasn’t even functional having been screwed shut many years ago by previous homeowners.

For years, we didn’t have easy access to the side deck and just treated this corner like a window.

yellow living room before
old door in a living room with leather recliners, lime washed brick fireplace, and fandelier

So here we are 6 years later and just now fixing the problem… good things take time, right?

I always thought our house would be “done” by now. But really… what is “done”? There’s always something to do and it’s a slow progression.

That can feel crippling if you let it, but really I’m thankful for time to slowly settle on decisions and make this place more functional and a reflection of our family gradually. It’s not a race. It’s part of enjoying this home journey.

But as it turns out, replacing this exterior door cost much less than I thought it would and we had it done in a day! It’s one of those projects that can give your home a resale value boost too (not that we’re selling).

exterior french door replacement in a living room

Door Replacement Cost

The cost to replace the old non-functioning door with an exterior French door wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be! Really if I had known it was going to be less than $1,000, we would have done this project much sooner.

We spent a little extra on the hardware by installing a smart deadbolt so that the side door can be easily locked and unlocked from our phones or with the numerical key pad. It has added security too in case anyone ever tries to tamper with it.

Here is the cost breakdown:

TOTAL: $750.95

Most exterior doors come pre-hung rather than as slab doors, so as long as you carefully pry away your existing trim, you can reuse the trim after screwing the door jamb of the new door in place inside of the door frame. This DIY door replacement tutorial can help with those steps.

If you plan to hire out the labor, expect to pay an average price range of $300-800 for exterior door replacement labor depending on where you live, door size, and if the frame needs to be replaced.

Front door installation with types of doors that have sidelights and transom is usually more complicated and cost more for labor. Custom doors cost more as well (we just used a basic 15-pane French).

exterior diy door replacement

Robert’s friend who is a windows and doors contractor came over and helped us out with the job, and the entire door installation project was done in a couple hours.

*If doing your own DIY door replacement, always make sure the interior is the hinge side to reduce the chance of a break-in.

Then, it was up to us to handle painting. In our living room alone, we have 9 French doors with 4 more in our playroom and office! So we’ve learned the secret for the easiest way to paint French doors since moving here.

Originally, 8 French doors in the living room took dayyyyyys of taping and scoring and scraping and maybe a little bit of cursing. 🤪

They sure turned out pretty. It was just a laborious process to get there.

black painted french door in a living room

Easiest Way to Paint French Doors

Years ago, after trying two methods of taping the panes individually and trying to paint directly on the glass and scraping it off with a razor, I searched through contractor forums to find a solution from the pros. (By the way, if you ever feel stumped on a project, contractor forums on Reddit have ALL of the secrets.)

I finally found the BEST door painting trick ever! And it’s actually really fun to do. Yeah, I said fun. I know, that’s nuts.

Masking liquid! We always keep a quart of Mask & Peel or Masking Liquid stocked in our garage because it’s the best when painting French doors and windows with grids. A little goes a long way with this stuff.

masking liquid can

*I pinky promise this isn’t a sponsored post or anything like that. This was just one of those tricks that was too cool and time saving to keep to myself, if you happen to have French doors or windows needing a paint job. Just passing it along friend to friend.

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How to Use Masking Liquid

Step 1 – Brush On a Thick Layer

I just use a 3″ angled brush to apply a thick layer to all of the glass window panes, which takes me about 10-15 minutes per door.

It looks like Elmer’s glue at first and will start out looking white.

Don’t worry if you get it on the grids. When it comes into contact with wood, metal, or fiberglass sections of a door, it acts like a primer.

freshly applied masking liquid on a french door

Step 2 – Let Dry Completely

After a few hours, it dries to look like this clear film. You’ll likely need about 24 hours for the masking liquid to fully dry.

dried masking liquid on french door panes

Step 3 – Prime / Paint

Then, just prime the door (if needed) and paint on whatever color you’d like. (I brushed on our go-to door color, Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron.)

My preference for painting interior doors is always a great bonding primer like INSL-X STIX primer and Benjamin Moore Advance so it cures to a hard finish to resist peeling and scratches.

Since we were painting a newly replaced door this time that came pre-primed, we didn’t have to worry about priming. Any other time when painting an existing door, always prime. It’s worth the extra step for durability.

painting on top of masking liquid for easy french door painting

Step 4 – Score Edges

Let the paint dry, and then score the edges of the window panes with a utility knife blade using a sharp razor blade.

cutting masking liquid away from a french door window pane

Step 5 – Peel

Peel back a corner of the film on the glass pane and remove it as it comes off in one sheet. This is much easier to do if you brushed on a thick layer on Step 1. Just be sure to remove the Mask and Peel within about 48 hours of application or it gets much harder to peel off over time.

peeling masking liquid away from a french door window pane

If you have French doors and try it out, you’ll see what I mean. Totally fun! It’s oddly satisfying right up there with power washing concrete. (Don’t ask why, but I love it.)

It only took me about 10 minutes to peel all of the window panes on one door without any flaws. Whaaaat?!

peeling masking liquid away from a french door window pane

Painted French Door After

I totally kick myself for not finding this stuff sooner because what took us roughly 48 hours before back when I painted 8 of our living room French doors took us all of 45 minutes this time around.

exterior french door leading to a side porch

So now, not only does the living room look SO MUCH BETTER having a French door in this corner that matches all of the rest, we now finally have access to our side deck!

The kids can come and go from the living room to their side yard play area without having to run in circles around the back porch. It’s such a simple change that makes the house a bit more functional.

exterior french door on a side porch

We’ll probably keep this door locked at Christmas and still use this corner to set up our Christmas tree one month out of the year because our living room’s layout doesn’t really allow any other spot. But I’ll take it!

living room before painted yellow
living room after with painted black french doors

One of these days, I hope we can replace our front door that has function issues and give our exterior a curb appeal boost, but that project is probably further down the road.

Living Room Sources

Here are the paint colors, DIY tutorials, and furniture/decor sources in our living room with a few of our reviews, in case you want to know.

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  1. Awesome, Lauren!!! Thank you for sharing this. I have 6 French Doors in my house that need to be painted and I’ve been putting it off because it would be so TIME CONSUMING! I’ll use this on my windows, too. Love this hack!~

  2. You have saved my sanity! Our house has 12 French doors…on the first floor alone. And they all need to be painted since I changed the wall colors during a renovation. I’ve been dreading the task, I can’t thank you enough ?

  3. Thanks for the tip! For the exterior French doors are the mullions plastic? The black paint you used stuck to that without a problem? Or did you need to prime?

    1. Yes, they’re plastic, but I used Sherwin Williams Infinity paint (in semi-gloss), and it applied perfectly. I used primer on the beige doors, but only because they had oil base paint already on them. All of the other doors had latex, so I didn’t need primer for those.

      1. Just wanted to say thanks for all the info. I am in love with your house!!! I have a very small house (with no French doors!), but many Windows. I will be using this stuff on all my doo rd etc! Anything to make the job easier?! Thanks again!