How to fix (or not) expensive scratched metal door?
June 28, 2019 1:35 PM   Subscribe

I need help fixing a scratched painted steel door and/or not getting screwed over by our landlords for damaging their stupid expensive door.

We're moving because our landlords are repossessing our rental. As part of the agreement for us to move, as is pretty much standard operating procedure here, they have to pay us $2000, less any damages beyond "normal wear and tear."

The thing is that, just a few month ago, they replaced the doors and windows with stupid expensive painted metal things. I think the front door was like $800 (looking at very similar doors online). And, in the agreement, they very specifically spelled out that there must be no damage to the new doors and windows. So of course, we accidentally scratched them.

The scratches are not very deep, but are pretty noticeable. What do we do here? Is there are reasonable way for us to seamlessly repair this ourselves, or do we risk making it worse? How much should it cost to get the paint touched up professionally (so that we can either hire someone, or get a quote for the amount of damage)?

We fought tooth and nail against the repossession so, unfortunately, we have a very adversarial relationship with our soon-to-be-ex-landlords. I think there's a very real possibility that they will see these scratches and either try to deduct the cost of an entire new door, or avoid paying us at all because we technically violated the agreement by damaging the door. I don't think either of those courses of action would stand up if we took them to the landlord-tenant agency for dispute, but that is a huge pain in the ass that we want to avoid.

posted by 256 to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
Response by poster: This is in Montreal, by the way, in case anyone has any specific advice pertinent to local laws and regulations (or experience fighting this sort of thing at the Regie).
posted by 256 at 1:40 PM on June 28, 2019

How do they know you did the scratches? It looks like they are on the outside of the door. It could have been the AMZN delivery guy, anybody really.
posted by AugustWest at 1:40 PM on June 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: It honestly could have been anyone. We don't specifically remember any incident where the door got scratched. But they're there, and I'm not sure the Shaggy "wasn't me" argument will avoid us having to go to arbitration to get our money.
posted by 256 at 1:42 PM on June 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

It’s difficult to see how they could prove you did the scratches since they are on the outside of the door. And if you don’t remember making them maybe it actually wasn’t you?
posted by catspajammies at 1:52 PM on June 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Scratch removing paste meant for cars. Possibly. Depending on how deep they are, half of the visible part of a scratch is visual and the way the surface catches the light. You polish the scratch to make the surface of the scratch smooth and then you wax it so the entire surface is back to flush. Doing this tends to make the scratch much less visible.

It's the same principal as polishing scratched CD's with furniture polish. Anyways, I'd treat it like scratch on a car and try the scratch remover and wax / polish to see if I could mostly make it unnoticeable on casual inspection. YMMV.
posted by zengargoyle at 2:12 PM on June 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

posted by hollisimo at 2:33 PM on June 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

Hard to tell from the picture, but it looks like it goes all the way to the metal. If so, buffing it out won't be an option.

Is there a plate on any edge of the door identifying the manufacturer? If so you might be able to find more information and possibly some touch-up paint.

Or you could try scratch filler. You'll have to see if you can find a close color. They sell it in hardware stores near the stain, in grease-pencil form and sometimes in little cans. It's kind of waxy, and you can build it up to fill the scratch and simulate the surface texture.

If you can't find scratch filler you could use crayons. The color matching will be the hard part.

You could also try shoe polish.

If the scratch produced a ridge you should see if you can knock that down a bit first.

Or yeah, use a sharpie. If your landlords aren't super observant that could be enough to camouflage it.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 2:56 PM on June 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

Lateral thinking idea. Call one of those mobile car airbrushing scratch repair services. A painted sheetmetal door is probably pretty similar to a car in terms of the techniques and finishes used to repair it.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 3:10 PM on June 28, 2019

Agreeing with under-petticoat_rule, scratch remover doesn't help if the scratch goes all the way through the paint to the metal. I would use a Sharpie and avoid overlapping onto the surrounding area. Fill it in once, let it dry, then repeat.

Hiring a car touch-up service is interesting. I'd have them test on an inconspicuous area, like the hinge edge of the door, first.
posted by wryly at 3:29 PM on June 28, 2019

Yep, scratch remover thing won't work if it's to bare metal.

As I see it, in no particular order: Sharpie, consult with airbrush / car painter, or hard denial of reality.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:52 PM on June 28, 2019

If you do ANYTHING to try to fix it, you can't plead ignorance to its existence later on... pick one tactic and stick with it.
posted by kate4914 at 9:01 PM on June 28, 2019 [10 favorites]

Fingernail polish.
posted by Oyéah at 9:27 PM on June 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm with Kate. Any attempted repair says 'sh*t we are liable for this damage, let's hide it'. You need some quick legal advice about the extent, if any, of your liability for damage which you did not do.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:10 AM on June 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don't think there is any fixing it, and attempting to cover it up will only make it look like you agree it's your fault. Your position should be that you have no idea how the scratch got there, but you know it wasn't you. Heck, it could have been made by the guys who installed it.

Are you in an apartment building, complex or similar accommodation in which it is reasonable to assume that people pass by your front door on the regular? Or in something more like a rental home or townhouse in which you have more exclusive control of access to the door? Especially in the former case, I don't know how you can realistically be held responsible for something that happened to the outside of the property. If you are really the only person who passes by the door, you may have a weaker argument on that point -- although you could argue that a scratch to the exterior of a door doesn't constitute "damage" so much as predictable wear and tear.

Of course, if the landlord decides to be a jerk about it, you will have to be prepared for a fight. I would counsel you to pre-plan your leverage. One very common way of doing this is simply by not paying your last month of rent (assuming it's higher than the $2,000). That way you owe them money instead of the other way around, and you can say that they will get their rent just as soon as you get your move-out money. What can they do, evict you? They already have.
posted by slkinsey at 5:23 AM on June 29, 2019

I should also add that, given the extent of the scratch, it seems highly unlikely you could have made it yourself without knowing it happened.
posted by slkinsey at 5:28 AM on June 29, 2019 [1 favorite]

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