Garage Door DIY Makeover - White Fiberglass to Wood

Mark L
by Mark L
3 Materials
4 Days
I was planning on purchasing a new wood look garage door when I came across some other DIY postings on how to use Gel Stain to transform a boring white fiberglass door. Thanks to the brave souls that did this before me! I never would have thought of it, or had the nerve to tackle it, but am so happy with the results and with saving thousands of dollars!
I used a power washer, soap/water wipe down, and power washed again since the door was 12 years old and had never been cleaned
I decided I didn't need to paint a base coat color (as others did) and ignored the directions of "testing an area" and forged on thinking I knew better and began applying the stain to the white door....DON'T DO THAT!!  Trust me, this was my first time using gel stain, and this is not a situation where you want to "wing it".  Base color, stain color, and how you apply it will dramatically change the final look
As I was applying the first coat it was nagging in the back of my mind that while I liked the look of the base color showing through (the contrast added to the real wood look), the white was too stark and looked too much like just a sloppy first coat.  I continued until I had half the door done and decided to stop and rethink (and get away from the incessant mosquitos!).  I was thinking that it would look good with black base coat and luckily had an oil based flat black on hand, so I painted one panel and called it a day.
The next morning I sampled with staining over the black sample, as well as a second coat over one of the already stained panels.  That one turned out looking too much like I'd just painted it brown.  The subtle highlights of the black coming through added a richness and authentic wood look, so I was back to square one and painted the whole thing black.  The pic is half flat black, and half with a thin coat of stain over it.  If I were to do it again, I would test paint 3 base colors on 2 panels each, and then sample one panel each with a different stain application, brush, or by hand, or by rubbing some off.  Gel stain isn't difficult to use, but it's unique and how you apply it can really impact the result.
Up close so you can see the subtle black coming through
Before applying Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane in semi-gloss 
After first coat of Urethane (I did 3 in total) using a foam brush
Final product after adding decorative hinges/handles that I got at Home Depot.  They were black but because the door is so dark you could hardly see them so I spray painted with a hammered steel paint.  I couldn't be happier with the result, it would be near impossible to not think they were real wood!  While I would consider this a big job because of the number of coats etc., I would classify it as "beginner level" that anyone could do.  Nothing is difficult, it's just time consuming, and you don't want to rush it, but the end result is unbelievable.  Thanks again to the others who took the time to post their process!
Suggested materials:
  • Minwax Gel Stain - Walnut
  • Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethan, semi gloss
  • Tremclad oil based black paint, flat
Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
Join the conversation
2 of 14 comments
  • Susan Tutor-Smith Susan Tutor-Smith on Jan 12, 2023

    I did mine 8 years ago winging it too. I cleaned the door and it was already a taupe color

    I used a gel stain (aged oak) and it turn out beautiful

    1quart did the entire double door with some left😄

  • Dee Dee on Jul 09, 2023

    Wow what a beautiful change. I have the same type of garage door. Thank you for posting the directions for this project