Can You Use Interior Paint On Exterior Doors

Can You Use Interior Paint On Exterior Doors


I get this question several times per month; Can exterior doors be painted with interior paint? Or, can exterior paint be applied on interior doors? Would like to set paint records straight. You'll have all answers through this latest article.

Most new paint grade interior doors are prefinished, with a flat white primer, both interior as well as exterior ones. This allows a quality acrylic enamel, or 100% acrylic latex to be applied.

However, not all paints are the same. Interior paints differ dramatically from exterior coatings.

Before getting into reasons & answers to these questions, this brings up different instances which prompts questions in the first place.

Having this asked of me just last week, while our painters were painting an interior in the D.T.C area of Denver, CO. We were finishing up, putting the final touches on this, as painters sprayed all interior doors, trim, walls, & ceilings. All the doors gave the appearance of a showroom, professionally painted.


During our preliminary walk-thru, upon opening a metal clad, fire rated door to the backyard, looking at exterior painting, could not help to notice exterior side looked worn, used, and certainly need of a fresh coat of paint. We had painted the interior side, but not the other.

That is when the homeowner asked me if we could paint the exterior side of raised six panel metal door, but quickly reminded it would be an extra cost, needing an exterior paint, and not any paint we had left over from interior painting.


Reason for this is interior paints are not designed, manufactured, tested, to be used outside, during a vast array of weather conditions. If we did, the homeowner would be asking for trouble.

Have seen interior paints applied to exteriors in the past, by unscrupulous painters, this is where interior paints will crack, bubble, blister, also chip. Causing the exterior door to be stripped, removing interior paint completely before an exterior paint coating is applied.

After explaining, we agreed on a price, painting the exterior side w/a color of her choice, wrapping up interior paint job that afternoon.

Interior Paint on Exterior Doors

  • Interior paints not tested
  • Interior paints will fail outside
  • Interior paints will require total removal

Can You Use Exterior Paint On Interior Doors


Most paints today are Earth Friendly, having lower volatile odor content (V.O.C). Interior paints have fewer V.O.C's than exterior formulations. Keeping the air quality at it's best, it is not recommended applying exterior paints inside the home.

Even paints with lower V.O.C's, especially exterior ones will give off formaldehyde, also other gases up to 3 years. This is what you smell, "Oh, fresh coat of paint", a week later.

Our noses tend to get used to the smell, not bothering after a short time, but it's still smelling the same. Just like frying garlic and onions, smelling up the entire home, but you get used to it, not even recognizing it, until you step outside, coming back in. Although exterior paint still emits these gases for a longer duration.

Therefore, keeping interior air quality as good as possible, use only paints designed for interiors. Benefiting infants, pets, elderly, mothers-to-be, anyone with breathing concerns, and/or anyone wishing to further the Green movement with paint coatings inside your home.

Painting Interior Cabinet Doors


Same goes for your interior cabinet doors. Using a high quality interior enamel, instead of an exterior paint. Much study has been done by some of the largest paint labs in the country, more than one can imagine. Today, paint technology has come full circle, than just ten to fifteen years ago. Many painters resources available to you today on the web, however this article pinpoints using correct paint for which it is designed.

Funny thing now, even schools, hospitals, government offices, retail stores, libraries, all using a higher quality interior paint having low to zero V.O.C's today. So if they are using them, why shouldn't you?

Exterior paints generally are of a satin finish, as interior trim is usually painted with semi-gloss. Satin and semi-gloss very similar, but not an exact match. So, painting an interior door using an exterior paint with correct color, but finish may not match exactly, just so you are aware.

Exterior Paint on Interior Doors

  • Exterior paints have higher V.O.C's
  • Exterior paints on interior doors will impede air quality
  • Exterior paints on interior doors have different paint sheen

I suppose another reason wondering if interior paint can be applied to an exterior door, or visa-versa, is you might have left over paint from a previous paint job. Am I right? I'm the same way in many things, like refilling empty quart size paint thinner cans from one gallon containers, but always using the paint for which it was intended.

Well, if you go to your nearest paint store, tell them what you are painting, chances are, they will tell you the exact same thing. Not to just make a sell, but protect any occupants inside, while making sure a long durable lasting finish for the outside of your door.

There you have it! I've said my spill. You can take it for what it's worth. Having over 40 years experience painting homes, interior as well as exteriors, hope you've enjoyed.

Hey, if you do, please share and/or make a comment below!

Other articles can be found at our paint blog, talking all about paint.



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