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. Ashley says

    Is it sad that I was looking forward to this post since I saw you removed the hardware from the door?!

    I’ve been trying to convince my husband that we could do this without making them look terrible… and you guys have done it! Yahoo!! We’re planning to sell our house in about a year, and we’ve been trying to find cheap ways to do the little upgrades, and this is perfect!!!

  2. says

    Okay, now I’M obsessed with ORB oil-rubbed bronze… thanks a lot YHL :P

    The handles look great! It’s amazing what a small project can do. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. says

    From one ORB lover to another, congrats on your knobs going brunette in time for fall. This isn’t LA, not everyone has to be blonde, right? But aside from that, WOW, I just can’t say enough about the new knocker on the yellow background of the front door. Just pops. And I LOVE the new header.

    I also make imitation walrus sounds. But I think only my husband knows that. :) Hope the office reno is going smoothly today and no more Groundhog Day crashings!

  4. Karen says

    I recently spray painted some picture frames for a frame gallery (inspired by you) that I am putting in my house. I am not smart enough to use gloves and ended up with very spray-painty hands. In case you were wondering, goo gone was amazing at removing the spray paint from my skin. One spray and a little rubbing with my other hand and all evidence of my fiasco was gone! It washed off really well too, with no greasy feeling after, and had a nice orange scent! Thanks for letting me share my (totally random, I’ve been waiting for you to post something about spray paint so I could share this) tip!

  5. Emily says

    WOW – I’m totally amazed at the difference and not to mention the price. So many ideas just WAITING for me to get my hands on around my house. And, it’s something as little as a door knob and handle – something I touch EVERY SINGLE DAY and never thought about renovating.

    Thanks for sharing this one. I definitely need to try this!

  6. Monica says

    So glad you posted these instructions! I’ve tried twice now to spray paint my hardware, but never tried the deglosser. The first time around, the paint started rubbing off soon after the job. The second time I used a clear coat finish to hopefully make it last. The yellow door looks awesome!!

  7. Audra says

    They look great, but speaking from experience, sealing them with SOMETHING might be a good idea.
    I discovered ORB 4+ years ago and sprayed all the hardware in my home, proud of my cheap update. In no time, though, it became scratched. None of it chipped, as in bad adhesion, rather it scratched. My kitchen cabinent hardware and doorknobs scratched from wedding bands, keys (or jingly keychains attached to the keys), etc. Now all that ugly gold is peeping out. I would be willing to respray it all if I could find a proctective coat that works well. I wish I had sealed them when I first did them and they might still look lovely. Maybe you will luck out and not have this problem.
    Love the yellow door, very cheery and pure sunshine.

    • says

      Thanks for the tip Audra! They just added the primer to the ORB formula (literally about a month ago, the stuff we used on Karl’s legs didn’t have it) so we’re hoping it’s even more durable with that formula change. We’ll definitely share an update with everyone if it scratches/chips or holds up though. And if it does have scratching/chipping issues we’ll likely sand it all down and start over and seal it- it’s more of an experiment at this point to see how it holds up. Haha.


  8. says

    Hee, I knew when I read yesterday’s post there was going to be more ORB lub! But the pics of the front door read ‘black’ – ah, the mystery of ORB…

  9. says

    I ORB’ed our closest door knobs one year ago… goodbye brass! They have held up really well. I’m curious to see how your outdoor door handle holds up. And then I’ll do ours! They are that snazzy gold too!

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