How To Paint that Garage Door to Look Like Wood

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Estimated Time: 
Approximately 1-2 days (depending on drying time)
Garage Door Gorgeous: Faux Wood Painting to the Rescue!


Tired of staring at that massive white on white garage door every time you pull up to the house? So was our featured Jane, Lana, who wanted the rich look and feel of a thick wooden door, but didn't have the spare $10,000-$12,000 it would cost to swap out her standard aluminum wood grain model for the real thing. Faux painting to the rescue! Click here to watch the video.

garagedoor3 DESIGN PHASE

Designer Look Without the Budget

Lana had a garage door that was in great shape although it was a blanket of white. We used photos of her trip to Europe to inspire us to create a new faux wood look on her garage door to warm it up and blend it in to the rest of the house.


Watch us turn Paint into Wood

The only materials we needed for this project were basic painting tools and supplies and a good dose of patience. Faux painting is a process where you design as you go, meaning you change the look slightly throughout until you're sure that you're at a point you like. Then you're done!


Tool Name Brand Size Power Cost
Paint brushes Purdy 2" and 3" N/A $12.97 ea.
Paint Rollers Foam Pro 4" Mini Trimmer N/A $3.75 ea.
Paint Tray Linzer 8 Piece Professional Paint Set N/A $10.69
Power washer (rented) 2000 PSI 6.5 HP $50/3 hrs
Roller covers Graco 1/4" low nap N/A $8.96

Materials & Supplies

Material Quantity Size Cost
Deep tint primer 1 Gallon $18.00
Exterior paint (we used a deep chocolate brown to add highlights) Left over from garage door project, about 1 quart Leftover N/A
Glaze Gallon $18.00
Clean rags 1 box N/A $2.19
Disposable painting buckets 3 5 Gallon $8.55
A dropcloth or tarp 2 9' x 12' $2.97 ea.
Painter's Tape 1 roll 1" $5.37
Masking paper 1 roll 72" x 90" pre-folded $10.98
Disposable protective gloves 1 pair/person small $6.99
Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) 1 box $2.99

Step 1


garagedoor51. Preparation Makes Perfect
We started by cleaning the existing door with a power washer, but you could just as easily use a soft scrubbing sponge and a cleaning mixture made from Tri-Sodium Phosphate (or TSP) and water. Rinse the door thoroughly and make sure it's dry.

gd62. Remove decorative items
Remove any window inserts, hardware, or decorative elements that might get painted by a careless brush or roller.

gd7 3. Mask off the perimeter
Then mask off any adjacent walls as well as handles, trim, locks or flooring that you want to protect using blue painter's tape and masking paper. Be sure to spread an ample sized drop cloth on the driveway to protect your workspace and tape down the edges to secure it.

Step 2

Prime Time

gd8Depending on the type of door you have, you may need to sand the surface first to give the paint the best chance of adhering to the surface. Lana's pre-painted aluminum door was fairly new and therefore didn't need much sanding or scuffing. Like any painting project, preparation is essential to a long-lasting, good-looking job. In particular, if your door is wood, take care to remove any loose or flaking paint, fill in minor dings or holes, give it a thorough sanding, and wipe down with a damp rag to remove any dust.

For our aluminum door project, our next step was to apply a deep tint primer in light brown. "Deep tint" primer is simply a standard white primer that has color added to it. Have the folks at the home improvement store do this for you when you are buying your paint. Tinting the primer helps to minimize the number of coats necessary to complete the job. Our final color was a deep brown, so our primer came out just a bit lighter, and gave us a better foundation to start with for the new paint.

Step 3

A base to build on

gd9We applied a base coat in a medium brown using both rollers and brushes because Lana's door has plenty of nooks and crannies. In particular, we used a sponge roller which manages to get into those grooves without spraying paint everywhere like long-nap "furry" rollers often do.

Aim to make the coat even, with no buildups or drips. If your door has stiles or other decorative elements, paint from the inside and work your way outward. Let the base coat dry fully before moving on to the next step.

Step 4

Glad to Glaze

gd10Because we're going to be applying the paint by hand with a set of rags, we needed to make sure to dilute it with glaze. Glaze is a milky substance that helps thin the paint and make it easier to work with. We also add a time extender because we don't want the glaze drying too rapidly.

Aim to make the coat even, with no buildups or drips. If your door has stiles or other decorative elements, paint from the inside and work your way outward. Let the base coat dry fully before moving on to the next step.

If you haven't already, put on some disposable gloves. If you're allergic to latex, try the blue nitrile gloves that we used in the video. They're latex-free and quite durable. You'll find them at most home improvement stores. We mixed our glaze and paint together in a new bucket, following a traditional mixture of 4 parts glaze to 1 part paint. Now onto the fun stuff!

Step 5

The Ultimate Faux

gd11Have a bucket of clean water and a big bunch of clean rags handy. Don't use paper towels for this process as they'll break up in the paint and ruin your finish.

Dip two rags in the bucket and wring them out well; you want them damp, not dripping. Next, dip one rag in the paint/glaze mixture and begin wiping color onto the door, working a small area (no more than 3 feet across) at a time. Rub the paint into whatever grain or crevices you find; be careful to avoid any drips or streaks.

Step 6

Wipe on, Wipe off

gd12Now, immediately take the other clean, wet rag and begin gently wiping off the paint you just wiped on. The trick is to remove most of the paint/glaze layer, but leave a thin patina of color—just enough to permeate the cracks, crevices, and grain. You want a "wax on, wax off" motion (with apologies to the Karate Kid).

Step back and have a look; keep experimenting until you find a combination that works. You'll quickly appreciate the value of the glaze—it gives you more time to work the mixture until you get just the right look. Move on to the next 3X3-foot section; changing rags often. The secret to solid faux work is to work subtly and you can't be subtle with rags that are completely saturated. Again, be especially vigilant and immediately deal with drips or streaks the moment they occur.

Step 7

Admire; Repeat as Necessary

gd13After you've covered the whole door, let it dry. Step back, admire, and reconsider. Does it need another coat? Some accents? Faux painting is a pretty subjective process; let your artist's eye make the final call. We found that Lana's door needed some selected accents to bring out the stiles and corners of her door. We used a 3-inch brush and dappled on the paint full strength to bring out the details.

All told, it took us less than a day. We'd transformed a bleak white aluminum eyesore into a luxurious "wooden" door that had the neighbors wondering how we did it. The fact is that it's easier than it looks. So, feel like giving it a try? You can do it!

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What are the paint colors used in this project? (From the garage door project)

Glad you liked this project! it was pretty easy and turned out great, even better than the pictures show (a lot more detail and variance in color). It really did look like wood! With 3 of us if took an afternoon. We used Behr paints from Home Depot. The names of the paint color I don't remember (trying to see if we can find out for you), however for the base color we chose a medium chocolate brown in "satin" finish - which is slightly glossier than eggshell, but less glossy than semi-gloss. The medium-chocoloate brown wasn't too red in tone, it was a relatively flat brown. You could go a bit more reddish brown though if you wanted more of a mahogany look. For the top coat, we washed over it using rags dipped in part black-ish brown paint in satin -- think very dark right chocolate, nearly black - and part glaze (and it's going to look *very* dark in the can but don't worry, it will blend well with the lighter coat). Even though the glaze is translucent white when you pour it out, sort of like glue, it just extends the drying time and doesn't actually lighten the darker paint. Another idea: we didn't have time on this project, but another great way to add to the wood look of the newly painted garage door is to add black metal brackets and detailing to the sides of it like you see on expensive wood doors.... Have fun!

what were the paint colors used? specifically what color was added to the primer and to the glaze?

great tips! thanks.

What a good idea! I love it!

I foresee many faux-wood garage-door painting parties taking place all across the country

I have a Spanish-style home built in 1926. My garage door is white aluminum, so this is perfect for making my garage look more style-consistent!

decormarsha looks fabulous! I'm surprised. good directions, too

Finally - some help with great, big, ugly garage doors.

Is it necessary to use an exterior specific glaze? Paint stores I've talked to say definitly yes. Ally