Re-Finishing Steel Doors to Look Like Wood

Gel stain, a squeegee, and toner add color to the raised grain imprint on a steel door. February 21, 2011

My customer wants her steel garage door to look like real wood. The steel is stamped to look like raised panels and has a wood grain pattern. Can I just make a glaze out of gel stain and something else? Can I paint the door first with an almond colored base and then gel stain followed by exterior poly? Has anyone done this before?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
Is the wood grain stamped into the steel? That might make it a bit trickier.

From the original questioner:
It looks like I can just use their stain over a basecoat similar to the section on fiberglass doors. This door too is embossed with wood grain. I think I will just dab in few knots beforehand and let that dry.

From contributor O:
I do several of these doors annually. The easiest way is to use a bonding prime on the door with a base coat to match the lightest part of the flake of the wood. Take a gel stain (I use old masters) and apply (I spray the gel stain through a pressure pot its very fast). Use a small squeegee to remove the excess stain (wipe off the squeegee after each pass) leaving only the deeper grain profile holding stain. If you are spraying the stain you don't have to wait, but if you are applying by hand you must wait for the stain to fully dry to tone the door. Repeat as necessary to tone. I usually use to different stains, one for the grain and a lighter one for the flake. Use a waterborne exterior poly to two topcoats (I use Zar's exterior wb poly). With a pressure pot I do a door in less than 15 minutes, without it is a half day job.