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. Cindy says

    Okay, two things in addition to my opinion that these are great upgrades! 1) My husband’s nickname at work is Walrus because our last name is vaguely similar, so your walrus comments were hiLARious to me; 2) I believe that John *would* use the term “delish” – he knows what VPL is! Haha ;)


    • says

      I just busted out laughing at that. I was totally expecting VPL to be some renovation term, not visible panty line. I give you my applause. That was unexpected and hilarious. Second, always check for VPL AND to make sure there’s no funky bra line. Bra with embroidery + silky shirt = terrible idea, also referred to as a VBL. I should have known what VPL was.

  2. Cara D says

    I’m glad you kept the swoopy door handles, very interesting shape. They look so much better painted. You could try spraying them with a coat of Minwax Polycrylic for extra protection too.

    • says

      We did hear from someone else who added a lacquer to theirs too. So we’ll have to see how it all holds up (I think I like the slightly less shiny finish of oil-rubbed bronze in real life).


  3. Debby says

    Love the ORB. Since seeing you use it in previous posts, I ran out and got myself a can. I brought back a ugly lamp from my mothers a while back and decided to give it a spray. It looks brand new now. It was white ceramic (I guess) and fake brass, but she had had it forever, so it probably was a nice lamp originally. Looks wonderful now. Just gotta find a shade. Thanks for all the tips.

  4. Veronika says

    Nice to meet you Sherry! Were you always addicted to ORB? How did it begin? What was the first thing you ORB-d? Karl’s legs? (sounds weird)How did you discover ORB? Did you always know it was there but never tried it?

    Just curious….

    • says

      Yes, I think it was Karl’s legs. What a slippery slope that has been! Haha. I’ve always loved ORB curtain rods (we hung them in every room of our first house and continued them in this house) but slowly my addiction grew to sofa legs and chair legs and patio sets and frames. Now hardware. It’s official. There’s no turning back.


  5. Elizabeth Poynter says

    Does spray painting affect the functionality of the hinges and knobs at all? In other words, to they end of sticking from the layers of paint? Just wondered if you were stick able to turn/open…etc.

    • says

      Nope, nothing functions any differently than it did before. Thin and even coats are key, and giving everything lots of time to dry so nothing gets gummed up helps too!


  6. says

    Duh, why didn’t I ever think of this? I look at my nasty gold hardware on my front and back doors all of the time and sigh because I don’t want to go buy new ones! Plus, every doorknod in our house is brass and I hate them. It NEVER even occurred to me to just take them off and repaint! Simple things like this that I would never think of – that’s why I love you guys so much! When I get home tonight I’m going to make a mental checklist of everything I can convert to ORB that I’ve hated about our house (built in the 80s) but never wanted to fork up the cash to update!

  7. Callie says

    Sherry, You have inspired me. I just ORB spray painted old lawn furniture. My grandma gave it to me because basically none of the other cousins wanted peeling off-white half rusted lawn furniture but I saw them for the beauties that they were (wroght iron!) and now they are a thing to envy. I am about to be unemployed for (hopefully only a month or less) and I just told my best friend to watch out because I was morphing into one part martha stewart and one part sherry petersik for the next month. Yeah, she thought that was as dorky as I’m sure you do.

    But anyhow, just wanted to let you know that the lawn furniture looks awesome. Thanks to you and your inspiration.

    • says

      I think if you combined me and Martha it might make the world start spinning the other way or something. Haha. There would be an internal ironing vs. no ironing debate. Haha.


  8. Steph says

    Love the re-do. Love pretty much everything you guys do, though, so THAT’S not a surprise. I do have to say (and of course this is your blog, your style and you get to decide the manner in which you convey information) that I miss what I would call your “toned-down” writing style of the past. Sometimes lately it seems like all these puns and attempts to be clever and funny are really over the top. I don’t know… maybe I’m having an off week (which could certainly be the case), but sometimes I feel like… Wooooahhh, calm it down! (I think that about myself a lot, though, too… so maybe I’m just crazy?)

    • says

      Sometimes we get giddy and just can’t help ourselves, and we know our brand of humor/weirdness isn’t for everyone. It’s pretty much been a theme since 2007 when we started this ol’ blog though. Here’s Exhibit A and Exhibit B. We’re definitely more comfortable letting our freak flags fly now though (and we write more/longer posts in general, so it might be a mo words, mo weirdness thing). Dorks for life.


    • says

      Gotta do you, can’t please everyone <3 Love it, though, really. We are all John's sisters, after all, so there’s no need to be self-conscious.

    • Ashley says

      Hey guys! I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while that your blog is one of the things that is keeping me sane these days. My son was born in May with a congenital heart defect, and has been in the hospital ever since. So, your craziness is some of the only humor I get every day! Don’t you dare “tone down” your writing style! Know that you bring happiness to some folks every day.

    • says

      your silliness and quirky sense of humor is what keeps me coming back. my life can be pretty stressful at times, and i always leave this blog with a smile on my face. i used to come for information re: home improvement. now i come because you guys are just so personable and friendly – it’s so nice to see.

  9. Val says

    I came to check out the comments in the hopes that there would be a little box with “Matt Damon says: I totally read your blog!” complete with a little thumbnail picture of him and everything. Sigh. Maybe he checks in mid-day, not first thing in the AM.

  10. says

    You guys inspired us with the ORB spray paint. We dismantled our 80’s shiny gold ceiling fan in our kitchen and gave it the ORB Treatment. It is so GORGEOUS! No one believes that we didn’t get a new fan…and I totally love that. :D Thanks for the ORB love!

  11. El says

    Looks sooo much better. I spray painted all the hinges at my old house to match the new iron style handles. Too expensive to buy new hinges. Plan to do it to match our ORB in our current house too (brass hinges), but want to replace the doors so won’t do it until then. Costly to replace doors since I want to move from the ugly fake wood look hollow core to solid doors.

    I used steel wool to remove some of the imperfections on my hardware when painting it. Probably better than sandpaper. Gets the loose stuff off.

    • Page says

      Whoa! I never thought about the hinges! Did you have to take them off the doors? I’m guessing yes? So, Sherry, I didn’t see hinges in your photos, so what’s it like having hinges a different finish from the other hardware? Or did you do them also?

    • says

      Our two sliding doors didn’t have hinges and our front door had two that were only visible from inside (but they were already painted over with the same white paint on the back of the door, so they blended in well enough not to bother us).


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