Black painted exterior doors… why you shouldn’t.

Most interior designers I know, self included, have a love-hate relationship with trends.  Mainly because trends don’t always apply to the design concept or work within the constraints of our client’s home, site or budget.  We hate to say, “no, that won’t work,” but frankly, sometimes it doesn’t.

Black exterior doors are not for every home and they are not a trend.  They date back to the early eighteenth century.  A black front door says “smart, stately, in control,” and they look beautiful with white trim.  What’s not to like?

A couple of things…

  • Southern exposure.  Black paint and southern exposures do not mix.  Read that sentence again, please.  If your front door faces south, has no coverage or protection from the sun, and especially if your door is made of wood, the warranty on your door will be voided if you paint it black.  Black quickly absorbs UV rays, causing the substrate (your wood door) to expand.  If your wood door expands in it’s opening, it won’t open well…which will be a bummer when you want to welcome friends inside.  It also puts stress on the door opening, better known as the door jamb.  This phenomenon is a result of the Light Reflective Value of paint.  Black paint has a light reflective value of 0%.  It does not reflect, it absorbs light…hot, bright, sunshine-y light.  Wonderful for you if you’re cold in the winter (wear more black), terrible for your wood door all year round.  You can expect the finish to fade, crack and look crummy in short order.

“Fine,” you say, “I wasn’t planning on having a wood door anyway.  I’ll just paint my fiberglass door black.”

  • Flaws  The irony of a black painted door is that often they are requested by homeowners who like things, “just so,” with zero room for imperfection or interpretation.  If that’s you, steer clear of black paint.  Black paint, especially with a high gloss finish, exacerbates imperfections.  Whether your door has the tiniest of factory blemishes or your toddler runs into it with a toy truck, black paint will show a bump, nick or fleck and draw your attention to it every day.  All week.  Even on Sundays.

“So what’s left?  Taupe?”

  • Color There are plenty of colors which will add interest to your entry without also voiding the warranty on your door.  Consider colors for your door by referencing their LRV (Light Reflective Value).  You’re looking for something better than 0% if your door faces south and has no coverage from the sun.  In fact, if that’s a description of your entry door, shoot for 55% LRV or higher.  Most paint manufactures include this number on the back of their paint chip or on their website.

Orange is always a good idea…

-Holly Bayer, ASID