How Should You Treat a Cedar Garage Door?

Updated February 21, 2017

A natural cedar garage door can add character to your home. Cedar is a durable, quality lumber. Properly maintained, a cedar garage door can last for decades. A cedar garage door can be finished with a solid colour paint, or a more revealing penetrating stain. The best treatment for your cedar garage door depends on the finished look you prefer, and the amount of maintenance you are willing to perform.

Prepare the Wood

Before applying any finish to a cedar garage door, clean the wood thoroughly with a wood cleaner. This will remove any surface level grime or dirt that might interfere with a finish. Hose down the door and apply the wood cleaner with a brush or a garden sprayer. Let the cleaner sit for 15 to 30 minutes, and then scrub the garage door down with a nylon scrub brush. Rinse thoroughly with water.

If you are planning on applying a stain to the door, follow the cleaning with an application of wood brightener. Cedar wood tends to contain high levels of tannins. Tannins are a natural preservative in the living cedar tree. Tannins can bleed to the surface of the wood and cause it to turn dark and discoloured.

Apply wood brightener to wet wood and let it sit for 45 minutes. The oxalic acid in wood brightener is a mild acid that will neutralise the tannins in the wood. After 45 minutes, hose the wood brightener off the garage door. There is no need to scrub.

Tannins may continue to leach out of the cedar periodically. If the door darkens, just hit it with an application of the wood brightener. Wood brightener will work even when applied to stained wood.

Penetrating Stains

A penetrating oil-based stain is a popular finish for cedar wood. These types of products tint the wood, providing a seal from moisture and protection from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight. A stain will reveal the natural characteristics of the cedar garage door.

Apply a penetrating oil-based stain with a paint brush, roller or garden sprayer. Start in one corner and maintain a wet edge as you apply the stain in the direction of the wood's grain. Feed the wood as much stain as it will absorb, but be careful not to overapply. Use a dry paint brush to pick up excess product that is left sitting on the wood's surface.

Reapplication of penetrating stains is relatively simple. When the finish starts to fade, wash the door down with wood cleaner, brighten if necessary, and apply a fresh coat of stain.

Darker stains tend to last longer than lighter stains. The longevity of a stain is primarily affected by exposure to sunlight. Expect to restain your garage door every couple of years.

Solid Color Stains and Paints

A solid colour stain or paint affords your cedar garage door with the maximum protection from moisture and UV light; but these types of products will completely obscure the natural beauty of the wood. Solid colour stains and paints form a protective film over the surface of the wood.

When using solid colour stains and paints you first apply an exterior wood primer to the garage door, followed by two coats of the stain or paint. The product can be applied with a paint brush, roller, or sprayer. The colour is completely consistent throughout.

A solid colour paint or stain can last a long while; expect more than 10 years before it will need to be recoated. However, when a solid colour product fails, it will peel and lift from the garage door. Some sanding and scraping will need to be done before two fresh coats of finish can be applied.

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About the Author

Robert Howard has been writing professionally since 2004 and writes a weekly column for the "Synthesis," a Chico, Calif.-based newspaper. He maintains a blog and has published articles and works of fiction in a variety of different print and online magazines. Howard holds a Bachelor of Arts in visual arts from the University of California, San Diego.