Updating Old Brass Hardware & Handles With Spray Paint

How you like them handles?

(Handles, apples. It’s all the same. Right Matt Damon? What? You don’t think Matt Damon reads this blog? Of course he doesn’t.)

Anyway, I’m back to share the hardware makeover play-by-play and a ton of pics that we couldn’t squeeze into our door-painting post on Wednesday. So fasten your seat belts. Oh yeah, it’s gonna get crazy. First I have a secret. The hardware on our sliding doors in the living room looked like this:

Le yikes, right? It’s all sorts of bad with the swoopy handle and the Donald Trump-ish gold finish. Sidenote: remember when I had a dream about The Donald? Memories.

If you look a little closer it’s not even shiny and new looking gold, it’s all rusted and neglected…

So as you can probably tell from the photo above (duh) down they came. We stripped the hardware off of both of the sliding doors in about five minutes (I took one side while John got the other one) by just unscrewing things on the front, back, and side to free them with a regular old philips head screwdriver…

… and then we removed the doorknob and the rusty old door knocker on the front door (also with a screwdriver – there were exposed screws that we just removed from the back).

You can check out our door-painting post for more details on that stuff (like how we sanded the paint around the hardware that we removed so it was nice and smooth before painting).

But back to our pile o’ removed hardware. Here we have the sliding door hardware along with the doorknob, deadbolt, and the door knocker from the front door:

It was like a Gold Hardware “Where Are They Now?” Special on VH1. Some folks weren’t as crusty as others, but they were all well past their prime.

So after some decent amount of online research and chatting up the paint pros at Lowe’s (there’s a woman at the one near us who is phenomenally knowledgeable) we learned that the most recommended method for refinishing hardware (to gain the most durability and long-lasting finish) was:

  1. Sand as much of the hardware as you can with high grit (200+) sandpaper to rough it up
  2. Use a liquid deglosser (like Next, which is low-VOC and biodegradable) to degloss everything to get oils and sanded particles off of the hardware before spraying
  3. Apply one thin and even coat of high quality spray primer meant for metal (we grabbed Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Coverage Primer in gray since we figured it would blend more than white)
  4. Apply two to three thin and even coats of high quality spray paint meant for metal in your color of choice (of course, our poison was: Rustoleum Universal Metallic All-Surface Spray Paint in Oil-Rubbed Bronze)

So I grabbed my high grit sandpaper and started on the first step: sanding.

Ahhhhhhhhh. Baaaad idea. The sandpaper left tons of obvious scratches in the gold finish that I knew wouldn’t completely be covered by thin coats of primer and spray paint. I should have taken a picture of the one side of the doorknob that I thought I ruined with the dumb sanding step but I was too busy freaking out. So naturally I made some sort of sound that resembled a walrus screaming and chucked the sandpaper as far away as possible while cradling/apologizing to my doorknob and promising him that I’d never hurt him like that again. Luckily I realized the knob would be installed with that part underneath, so only Clara-height children may be able to see the slightly roughed up texture on the underside. Whew.

Update: A few smarter-than-me commenters recommended trying steel wool or super high grit automotive sandpaper to rough up the surface, so I plan to try that next time. Just tossing that out there for anyone who might be doing this (who may want extra “insurance” that the spray will hold).

So it was out the window with step one, and on to step two: deglossing. I just used some rubber gloves and a rag to apply Next Liquid Deglosser (which is low-VOC and biodegradable) and then let everything dry a little so it wasn’t soaking wet before moving onto step three: applying one thin coat of spray primer. But when I went to grab the primer I noticed something intriguing on the ORB can next to it. It said “paint & primer in one” right on the label. Duh. No need to beat a dead horse.

So I trusted my beloved ORB spray primer + paint to lead the way and just applied three thin and even coats to all of my hardware (that I strategically placed on cardboard so I could access all of the exposed parts by piercing the long metal interior hardware rods through the cardboard so they stood up). I will now repeat that thin and even is the key when it comes to spray paint. If you apply thin & even coats they won’t be globby and thick, and they’ll bond/cure very strongly, which will greatly reduce any issues with things flaking, scratching, or peeling down the line.

Oh and see that key? That’s a secret.

I decided I didn’t want to muck up the inside of my lock with spray paint, so I used a spare house key to block the spray from getting into the lock (while allowing me to access the rest of the knob). I didn’t push the key all the way in for fear that the top of the key would block some of the outside of the doorknob, so I just stuck it halfway in so it would block the interior part without inhibiting access to the metal facade around it. Then I just removed it and used it on the deadbolt’s keyhole when I sprayed that.

Oh and another spraying tip would be to put all of your screws into the hardware and pierce them through the cardboard so the ends of them get sprayed to match (like the two that you see below). Also, be sure to move things like latches back and forth between coats to make sure you can access all areas of the hardware with spray paint. Like this…

… and this:

About an hour later (I probably waited 20 minutes between each of my three thin and even coats, just to be sure it was nice and cured before piling more on) I was left with these beauties:

Who sees a winking face? Just me?

I probably waited six full hours after my last coat of spray paint before reinstalling anything. Just to give them a lot of time to fully cure and ensure that I wouldn’t scratch or ding something while putting them back on the doors. I can’t speak to the long-term durability of this process since it has only been… oh, about 48 hours. But I can tell you that reinstalling them went really smoothly and everything works just as well as it used to and nothing was even remotely marred or dinged during installation or in the past two days since.

So I guess we’ll check back in with an update about how they hold up over the long haul (these doors are used every single day thanks to a dog who loves going in and out). But so far, so good. And it definitely beats buying all new hardware (we figured we didn’t have anything to lose in trying to make the old stuff work before resorting to trashing it and splurging for all new hardware).

Oh and it bares noting that things look pretty black in some of these pics, but it’s just because ORB is a mystical creature. So it’s hard to capture the true color that you see in real life (which is a rich metallic-y chocolate). Actually, the exterior sprayed shots above show the true color really well. It still looks like that inside, it’s just seemingly impossible to get it on film.

Perhaps the most exciting thing is that in taking this style quiz, the thing that I loved most about the room they said was “my style” was the white door with the dark hardware. And now it’s mine. All mine. Mwahahaha. (<– yup, I broke out my maniacal laugh)

I think it looks delish with the oil-rubbed bronze curtain rods and the dark beams. And John digs it too (delish just isn’t an adjective he’s apt to use).

Me-ow old sliding door friend. My how you’ve matured. Well, as much as a twisty twirly old 80’s knob can really mature.

And you’ve already seen our freshly sprayed front door hardware, but let’s just revisit it for a moment:

So yeah. We’re happy with our little almost-foiled-by-the-sandpaper process. Although I must admit that after I sprayed the underside of the knob, the scratches were hardly noticeable. So maybe if you’re a staunch rule follower (and not a freaked out walrus impersonator like me) you could get away with the sanding step. Either way, I have high hopes that the deglosser and included-primer will do their job when it comes to adhesion (especially since our old scratched and rusted fixtures weren’t too glossy or shiny to begin with).

As for the ORB finish: Hi my name is Sherry, and I’m addicted to oil-rubbed bronze. They say you can’t help who you love. But it could be worse. I could be addicted to sanding things, which would have been a cruel joke since sandpaper was the kryptonite of this project. I wonder why. Has anyone else successfully sanded their metal hardware before spraying it? Was it not all scratched up? Maybe it just looked “brushed” in the end? I just didn’t trust myself to do it all in one consistent direction (aka: not make a hot mess that was oh so obvious after the spray-job). So in summary, my method was just to: use a liquid deglosser (although I’ll also try steel wool or extra high grit sandpaper next time), lay everything out on cardboard standing up so it could be sprayed evenly from all angles, use a half-inserted key to block any keyholes, spray everything thinly and evenly in 3 coats applied every 20 mins or so, be sure to move toggles and locks so all parts of the hardware were sprayed, and let it cure for about 6 hours before rehanging it.

Oh and the total cost of this project was $6 for the spray paint (I was able to return the unopened can of primer and I already had the deglosser and that dastardly sandpaper on hand). But for someone who needs to purchase deglosser, you might want to budget four more dollars for that. Considering a new knob, deadbolt, knocker, and two locks and four handles for our sliding doors would probably come to about $200, I think we got one heckova deal. So I’ll let you know how they hold up. If they’re anything like our ORBed sofa legs (which we sprayed five months ago, and they still look mint) we’ll have bona fide jazz hands going on. So it’s probably only a matter of time before I really go nuts and remove every last interior brass door and hinge and go to town. Like I said, my name is Sherry, and I’m addicted to oil-rubbed bronze. Holla.

UPDATE: Our handles are still holding steady. Check out the update post here.


  1. Chris says

    Love it! I will say that I’ve tried the ORB on a glossy brass finish without sanding, and it chipped off after a couple of months, so horrifying! So sanding is a big deal on the shiny finishes.

    I also removed brass plating from a lamp once by using Easy Off oven cleaner and a fine scotch brite pad – it became a lovely brushed chrome look! (This obviously doesn’t work on real brass, just things made of another material like zinc or steel and plated in brass finish)

    • says

      We actually noticed that old cans of our ORB didn’t have the built-in primer (that’s a very new addition, it seems) so we’re hoping that added “foundation” along with the deglosser will help with adhesion!


  2. Sara says

    Very excited about this post. Time to stop replacing our 1950’5 two-tone (yep! two-tone) door knobs and break out the spray paint.

    Thanks for the idea ;-D

  3. says

    Love it as usual.

    I may have mentioned this before, and I know you guys have top-notch security, but for anyone else with sliding glass doors — which make me so nervous since they can be lifted right out of the track and are usually the weakest security point in a house — the “Deerfield Lock” is the best thing I’ve seen for sliding door security.

    BTW, I tried to comment yesterday but it didn’t go through — one of my favorite things about your dining room (apart from the gorgeous built-ins) is the view of those awesome chair backs in the office, so I’m glad you’re keeping the desk on the carport wall (even if you do eventually put doors on the office).

  4. Sara says

    We didall of our interior doors like this. The sanding did completely rough them up but you couldn’t tell at all in the end. Maybe because we didn’t sand in one direction? We just sanded each piece all over and it completely took off the shiny-ness of the knobs and hinges. We were VERY happy it worked in the end!

  5. says

    Your hardware looks awesome! I also like the fact you have all the directions here for me so I don’t have to do the research. My whole house is full of that ‘Donald Trump’ hardware. Now I just have to convince the Hunk we need to update! Great idea. susan

  6. Jill says

    Definitely keep us posted on how these hold up – I’d love to be able to do this to all the brass hardware in our house! So far I’ve ORB-ed a brass chandelier and it looks sooo much better than before, but I’m a bit worried about doing it to fixtures that get more use. Also, can I just say that the hubs and I are hoarding ORB Rustoleum spraypaint? After searching for it everywhere we found it at a Walmart and bought all 5 cans they had!

  7. says

    I love it! Those outside shots that show the depth of the colour are lovely :-) Now I’m wondering whether we could get away with doing this to our inside door hardware.

    Most of the internal handles are in decent condition, although a couple are rusty and a couple are quite loose – hopefully they just need their screws tightened, if you know what I mean ;-) … Actually, I really did mean I’ll just try tightening the screws. But hey, who can resist the opportunity for a bit of wink wink nudge nudge?

    • says

      I spoke too soon. The handle on our bedroom door is stuck, so the catch won’t… catch. Which would be fine if our kitten wasn’t so insistent on getting in there! I tried to trick her by holding it shut when she tried to push her way in, but she’s too persistent.

    • says

      You know, sometimes when that happens it just means something is hung a smidge too high or low or deep when it comes to the little metal “catch” piece in the doorjamb. Maybe try watching it almost-close and try to see if you can figure out what’s not lining up? Good luck!


  8. Wendy says

    Thanks for showing this. I want to re-do our all-white front front/entry but don’t have the $$$ to replace the handle.

    Here’s a tip for sanding — try steel wool next time. I used it my plastic/metal contractor bathroom lights. It did nothing on the plastic, but gently roughed up the metal parts. (And I painted them ORB!)

    • says

      That’s such a great tip that someone else has mentioned. I’m going to add that tip to the post to hopefully help other and give that a try next time!


  9. Sonel says

    I wish I would have thought of painting doorknobs! In our last house I replaced all the old rusty gold doorknobs with brushed silver ones. It wasn’t that expensive since I got the new brushed silver knobs from Habitat’s ReStore, but it was a hassle making the new knobs line up with the original holes in the door frame.
    Thanks for the great idea for next time!

  10. ShellyP says

    You are a silly ORB fool!!! Love the yellow door (my favorite color) and love the ORB updates to the handles. I do LIKE THEM HANDLES. Who knows, maybe Matt Damon might just read this blog. Anonymously. At 3 am. When he has insomnia. I am painting my front door now after being inspired by you!

  11. says

    I sanded our bathroom faucets before using primer, ORB (love it too!) and then gave a coat of matte lacquer. Holding strong since 2009! ;)

    Your new finish makes a huge difference! Great job!

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