Spice Up Your Steel Garage Doors! Two Easy Ways To Increase Curb Appeal

New home construction often features steel, foam-core garage doors. While these doors are lightweight, good insulators, and inexpensive, it is common to find row after row of homes with nearly identical doors in newer subdivisions. If you live in one of these homes, your garage door can become a unique object of beauty by implementing either one or both of the following creative touches:

Paint or stain your door

You have the option of making a bold statement by painting your garage door with bright colors, or you can paint it in a subtle shade that adds an elegant flair to your home. There are no limits to your creativity if you decide to go with paint.

As an alternative, apply stain, and take advantage of the fake wood grain molded into your garage door's exterior. Stain will bring the grain alive and create a warm, inviting look.

Here are some things to keep in mind when painting or staining a steel garage door:

  • Prepare the surface - use medium grit sandpaper or steel wool to scuff the surface of the door; this will provide much better adherence for your primer, paint or stain. After scuffing, thoroughly wash the surface of the garage door with a mixture of water and trisodium phosphate (TSP) to remove grease, sanding dust and other contaminants. You can purchase TSP at most home improvement stores; just be sure to follow the directions on the package for preparing your cleaning solution.
  • Prime the surface - regardless of whether you intend to paint or stain, you should prime the surface of the door with an appropriate product. If you plan to paint your door, the best choice is to use an all-purpose white primer designed for metal surfaces. For staining, you need to use a flat exterior latex paint as your primer. Be sure to use a light color such as tan or almond, but avoid using white since it might show through the stain.
  • Choose a paint or stain - you can choose paint from either a water-based or oil-based exterior latex. Oil-based paints are often more vibrant and longer-lasting, but water-based paints are still suitable choices for this application and make clean-up easier.

As for stains, you will find the most success by choosing one with a gel base. Gel stains are thicker, don't drip or run, and they tend to provide a richer appearing finished product. Be sure to work fast when applying gel stains due to their fast drying time. If you want a darker finish, continue applying coats of stain until you achieve the look you want.

  • Protect your finish - once you have painted or stained the door, apply a coat of polyurethane to protect it from the elements. Polyurethane comes in different types of finishes, such as matte or gloss, so choose whichever one you feel will accent your door's appearance the most.

Create a faux carriage house

A trendy and low cost upgrade for garage doors is to create a carriage house look by installing mock hinges and door handles. Here is what you will need:

  • Four heavy duty decorative strap or T-hinges - these are often used on gates, horse stall doors and other outdoor applications. Since these are for ornamental use only, be sure to locate hinges with removable pins so that you can remove unnecessary hardware. Carefully place the hinges in a vise, and use a hammer and steel punch to remove the pins; separate the straps from the mounts, and discard the hinge mounts and pins. You will use only the hinge straps for your garage.
  • Two gate pull-handles – choose any style or size that you like.

On each side end of your garage door, measure from the top about a foot--the exact distance is up to you--and install one hinge strap at each end with the included screws. Next, measure up from the bottom on each side the same distance, and attach hinge straps. When finished, you will have a total of four hinge straps mounted on the garage door; this should give the appearance that each side is hinged to the garage door framing.

The next step is to measure across the full width of your door and find the midpoint. Make a light mark at the midpoint about four feet up from the ground (again, the exact distance is a matter of personal taste). Measure three inches from each side of the midpoint, and install the pull-handles.

When finished, you will have a convincing imitation of charming carriage house doors that open from each side. Should you need help along the way, call places like Smokey's Garage Door.