How to Paint Garage Doors to Look Like Wood

There’s something so warm and inviting about the rich texture of wood garage doors. They add incredible curb appeal and character to a home’s exterior. However, replacing your existing garage door with a real wood one can be extremely costly and high maintenance. The good news is you can achieve that coveted wood look for a fraction of the cost by using gel stain to create a faux wood finish. This affordable DIY project allows you how to paint garage doors to look like wood with just a few supplies and some elbow grease.

How to Paint Garage Doors to Look Like Wood

Key Takeaways:

  • Gel staining is an inexpensive way to make garage doors look like real wood
  • Increases curb appeal and perceived home value
  • Durable and low-maintenance compared to real wood
  • Practical DIY project most homeowners can tackle

4 Benefits of a Faux Wood Garage Door

Besides the obvious cost savings compared to installing new wood garage doors, there are several other advantages to this faux wood project:

  1. Increases your home’s perceived value and stunning curb appeal
  2. Completely reversible if you ever want to change looks down the road
  3. Requires very little maintenance compared to real wood doors
  4. A practical weekend DIY most homeowners can handle themselves

So whether your current garage door is plain, outdated, or just not your style, gel staining allows you to craft a custom, high-end wood look tailored to your home’s aesthetics.

5 Detailed Steps for How to Paint Garage Doors to Look Like Wood

Here are the steps for how to paint garage doors to look like wood:

Supplies Needed:

Gather these supplies before getting started:

  • Gel stain in your desired wood tone color (brands like General Finishes, Old Masters, and SamaN offer great options)
  • TSP substitute or dish soap for cleaning
  • Sponges, rags, and brushes for cleaning
  • Cheap brush for gel stain application (a 3″ brush works well)
  • Wood graining tool (optional for added realism)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Mineral spirits (for thinning gel stain if needed)
  • Protective topcoat sealant like polyurethane (optional)
  • Decorative garage door hardware accents (optional)

Step 1: Prepping Your Garage Door

Preparation is key for ensuring an even, seamless gel stain application and long-lasting results. First, give your garage door a thorough cleaning using TSP substitute or dish soap and water. Scrub into all the crevices and wipe away any dirt, grease, or debris. Once fully dry, use a de-glossing pad to lightly scuff the surface if it’s particularly shiny. This will help the stain better absorb.

Use a De-glossing Pad

Next, use painters tape to cover any windows and mask off the areas you don’t want stained, like weather stripping. Put down drop cloths to protect your driveway. Pay attention to the weather – work on a day that isn’t too hot, cold, or humid for best results.

Step 2: Applying a Base Coat

If your current garage door color is very light, applying a slightly darker base coat before gel staining can help achieve richer, more realistic wood tones. Choose an exterior paint color 2-3 shades lighter than your desired finish color. This base will allow some of that color to peek through the gel stain, mimicking the look of natural wood grain. Let this base coat dry completely before moving to the gel stain step.

Step 3: Gel Staining Techniques

When applying gel stain, work in small, manageable sections of your garage door at a time since the stain dries quickly. Use a brush to apply the gel stain with horizontal strokes following the direction of your desired wood grain pattern. For raised panel sections, focus on the indented areas first before moving to the flatter panels.

Don’t try to brushstroke too perfectly – the more varied and natural your brush marks, the more realistic the result will appear. You can even use a wood graining tool to accentuate the wood grain look as you go. If the gel stain becomes too thick, thin it slightly with mineral spirits. Wait for full drying between coats, then apply a second or third coat as desired for a richer tone.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

Once fully dry, consider sealing your hard work with a protective polyurethane topcoat using a high-quality brush or sprayer. This adds weather protection and a durable finish. Decorative garage door hardware accents are also an easy way to amplify the realistic wood door aesthetic. Installing magnetic decorative hinges and door pulls/knockers creates the perfect finishing touch. If any areas appear too thick or unevenly coated, use a rag dampened with mineral spirits to carefully smooth and blend those sections so the final look is cohesive.

Using a High-quality Brush

Step 5: Maintenance and Durability

One of the major advantages of using gel stain over real wood is the minimal maintenance required. No sanding, staining, or refinishing is needed for years assuming normal wear and tear. Just give your faux wood garage door an occasional cleaning with mild soap and water to remove dirt or dust.

Re-applying a fresh gel stain topcoat may only be required every 5-7 years on extremely weathered areas, whereas wood doors require re-staining far more frequently. With proper surface prep beforehand, a gel stained garage door can potentially last just as long as painted doors when properly maintained.

Before and After Gallery

Before and After Gallery

“The faux wood finish on our garage door looks astounding – you’d never know it’s not real wood unless you see it up close! Neighbors have asked if we had the door replaced since it complements the stone and woodwork so perfectly now.” – Ellen F., Sacramento

5 Pro Tips for How to Paint Garage Doors to Look Like Wood

  1. Start early in the day or late afternoon when the sun isn’t directly hitting the garage door
  2. Use two different gel stain colors blended together for more dimensional, realistic tones
  3. Brush in the direction of your desired wood grain and use wood graining tools for effect
  4. Work a section at a time, feathering the edges into the next section before it dries
  5. Add decorative magnetic hardware for an instant high-end, custom look

FAQs About How to Paint Garage Doors to Look Like Wood

Can You Paint Your Garage Door to Look Like Wood?

Yes, you can paint your garage door to resemble wood by following a few steps. Start by cleaning and priming the surface, then apply a base coat followed by creating a wood grain effect using darker paint. Finish with a protective clear coat. Using high-quality paint and taking your time to create a natural-looking wood grain pattern will help achieve a realistic wood finish for your garage door.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Garage Doors?

When painting a garage door, it’s essential to use exterior paint that is specifically designed for the material of the door, whether it’s metal or wood. For metal garage doors, using a high-quality exterior latex paint is recommended, while for wooden garage doors, an exterior acrylic paint or an exterior enamel paint is suitable for providing durability and weather resistance. Additionally, choosing a paint with UV protection will help maintain the color and finish of the garage door over time. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the best results.

What is the Best Paint for Garage Doors?

The best paint for garage doors is typically a high-quality exterior paint that is specifically formulated for the material of the door, whether it’s metal or wood. For metal garage doors, a durable exterior latex paint is often recommended. For wooden garage doors, an exterior acrylic paint or an exterior enamel paint can provide the necessary durability and weather resistance. Look for paints with UV protection to help maintain the color and finish over time. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the best results and long-lasting performance.

What Tool Makes Doors Look Like Wood?

To create a wood grain effect on doors and other surfaces, a wood graining tool is commonly used. This tool, often made of rubber or plastic, is designed to simulate the appearance of natural wood grain when used with paint. By dragging the wood graining tool through wet paint, a realistic wood grain pattern can be achieved, providing a cost-effective alternative to real wood surfaces. Additionally, some skilled painters use traditional dry brush techniques to mimic the look of wood grain.


Creating a faux wood finish by gel staining your garage door is such a cost-effective way to elevate your home’s curb appeal and exterior style. With the right techniques and some patience, even an amateur DIYer can achieve incredibly realistic and long-lasting results. By following this comprehensive “how to paint garage doors to look like wood” guide, you’ll have a gorgeous new wood-look garage door to admire every time you pull into the driveway. So gather your supplies and get ready to dramatically transform your home’s first impression!

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