Faux Wood Doors

I’ve always loved the look of rustic wood doors, stained dark with wrought iron hinges, “clavos” (decorative nail heads) and ornate handles. It reminds me of our honeymoon in Italy and the look we’ve been going for in our home since we moved in 10 years ago – an eclectic mix of Spanish/Italian Mediterranean: Spanish Colonial, Rustic Tuscan Villa, Mediterranean Revival. Below are some examples of my “dream doors”…they’re all gorgeous, but waaaay out of our price range right now.
Real wood garage doors by Dynamic Garage Door.

A client’s door faux-painted by EITAK Design (me) to look like a wood door, over a previously painted base coat (please excuse the bad iphone pic and the painter’s paper in the window panes).
Many of my clients in Rancho Santa Fe have fabulous homes in these styles…and most of them have real wood garage doors. The garage doors of the suburban “tract” homes in my neighborhood are painted aluminum…which I’ve been dying to redo since I started faux painting garage doors years and years ago. I just haven’t had any time…like I’ve said before, I’m too busy painting clients’ homes to do anything to ours. And when I’m not painting, I’m working on invitations, single-handedly running my business, and being a mom and wife. So, when my mom-in-law planned a visit in April…she said she would help me take care of the kids and the house so that my husband and I could have some time to paint the garage door like we’ve always wanted. Is she awesome or what!!! I knew we’d only need a couple of days…so I took a break from work and she totally took care of EVERYTHING so that Aaron and I could complete this project in a weekend.

Here’s our garage door: BEFORE, a weird pinkish tan due to 10 years of oxidation and exposure. I can’t even remember what the original color was.
Here’s our front door: BEFORE, a faded rust-brown, you can see where a wreath has been hanging over the years.
Here’s the inside of our front door: BEFORE.
We started by wiping down the door (you can also wash and prep the door with TSP-trisodium phosphate) and then priming with KILZ. P.S. – My mom-in-law took this photo…had I known she was going to snap this, I would have worn some of my “cuter” painting clothes and not these baggy dungarees!
Then we painted a tan-yellow exterior eggshell base-coat. Basically I chose a color similar to the look of raw, unstained wood, but wanted a tad bit more yellow in the undertone than real wood.  It’s actually very close to the color of the house.
Base-coated front door.
Then, using my own custom mixture of several Minwax oil-based Gel Stains (Walnut, Aged Oak and Chestnut), as well as a few drops of Universal Colorant, I quickly brushed the stain onto each panel of the garage door, using brush strokes in one direction. I used a cheap china bristle brush or throw-away chip brush, because the coarse bristles leave more brush marks in the stain (as opposed to more expensive brushes that tend to soften or feather brush strokes). Plus the metal door is already embossed with a wood grain texture which helps create the look without having to do traditional wood-graining or faux bois. Since the Gel Stain is of a thick consistency that applies more like a glaze than a wood stain, the layering and overlapping of color gives it more of a natural wood-stained look, where there are darker patches (i.e. in natural wood where you would find knots or uneven grain absorption). And some of the original base coat subtly peeking through the brush strokes keeps the finish from looking like a solid brown painted door.  It’s a quick and very cost effective faux wood door effect. Until the day we can afford to make the investment in a beautiful real wood door, this faux painted door will do just fine. 

AFTER: The finished door. Some of our neighbors thought we had a new wood door installed. Yep, that’s what I was going for! Now we just need to add some of the black wrought iron accent “hinges” and repaint the rest of the house. My husband plans to rebuild the shutters and I’ll stain them to match the doors.
AFTER: The finished front door. I still want a speak-easy and some clavos for that Spanish/Italian Mediterranean look that we LOVE.
AFTER: The finished inside of the front door.
My husband sprayed both sides of the door handle with an antique brushed nickel color. Rust-Oleum makes a fantastic product that goes on beautifully, dries quickly and is really durable. He sprayed a few coats and it looks great…no drips or funky, rough patches.
I had my husband do a quick Photoshop mockup of what the house will look like once we have it painted. I’m not sure if we’ll go this yellow, but I do want more of a golden color and cream/antique white for the trim.
On another note…you may recall that I posted about a bird’s nest I discovered in our front door wreath when I started painting the door…here’s a recap/update…
Before painting the front door, I took the wreath down and found this neatly formed nest. It was so perfect that I thought it  must have been part of the wreath when I bought it (on clearance at Homegoods about 6 years ago).
The very next day, there was one egg.  On the third day, there were two….
And on the fourth day…there were three perfect little eggs.  After painting the door, we put the wreath back up so that Mommy Bird and her eggs would be sheltered from the crows and other predators. But it wasn’t easy for her, we kept going in and out of the front door, sometimes forgetting that the nest was there.
A couple of weeks later, one of the eggs hatched.  This is the Baby Bird a few days after hatching.
A week or so later, the Baby Bird’s feathers had all come in and it was fluffy and cute, alert and  ready to spread it’s wings.  The day after this picture was taken, the bird did indeed fly away. We threw away the wreath (the two other eggs never hatched), and cleaned the bird poop off the door. The finish is durable enough to withstand caked on bird poop and simply wiped off without damaging the stain.


  1. […] wood door. So I began looking around to see how I could create a faux wood door. I stumbled across this post by Love Paper Paint and loved the look she accomplished. The only problem was that our door was a metal door with […]

  2. Beth Klaser says:

    My husband and I were trying to attempt this yesterday, however, he bought what they call a “rocker/grain tool”. It just looked cheap and gross. It didn’t even look like faux wood. It just looked bad.

    So, today before I give up and take my can of gel stain back, I am going to try this for myself…. by myself. Thank you for your post!

    1. Hi Beth,
      Sorry it didn’t work out with the woodgraining tool. It definitely takes some practice and finessing to get the treatment right using those tools. If you’re attempting it for the first time, I would suggest just the brush stroke technique with a coarse bristled brush. The brush strokes somewhat emulate the look of the wood grain or stained wood. Most aluminum garage doors in my neighborhood are pre-stamped or embossed with a wood grain pattern, so it’s not necessary to use a woodgraining tool. You can also brush over the previously faux grained areas with more of the gel stain to smooth out the areas that maybe look too “faux” and contrived. Good luck! Let me know how it works out.


  3. girljoey says:

    Thanks for responding, Katie. I’ve been walking the aisles of Lowe’s and reading the stain can labels so I have to ask: Must I begin with an oil-based base coat? I have fresh latex on there now. And now I’m also wondering about sealing with polyurethane. Here in Texas where it is white HOT, polyurethane gets cloudy and breaks down really fast. Usually we use marine-grade stuff but that still needs to be touched up quite often. Do you have an opinion about this?

    1. Hi Joey,

      I did not use an oil-based base coat on my garage door. But I did use a tinted primer for exterior/outdoor use followed by the exterior latex base coat paint in the tan color. You’ll need an oil based paint or primer in order to cover up the oil-based stain, should you decide you don’t like the look of the stain. But as far as the base coat, I haven’t had to use oil based in the past. I did not polyurethane my door yet, and it’s held up beautifully. I’ve been able to wipe off bird poop and mud with a damp cloth, no problem. I live in the very temperate climate of Southern California, so I’m not sure how the paint will react in Texas. I would suggest seeking the advice of your local paint experts who have experience with the temperature extremes. I haven’t had to touch up any of the garage doors I’ve painted, some were done almost 10 years ago. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions!


  4. girljoey says:

    I am so impressed with your garage door effect! And I’m totally going to try it myself. When you mentioned “universal colorant” what did you mean??? Also, if I really mess it up, am I able to repaint the door with latex again? BIG THUMBS UP!

    1. Hi Joey,

      Glad you like my garage door! Universal colorant is the color tint you can pick up at any paint supply store, Home Depot and Lowes. Just ask the paint department for it. I don’t think you’ll “mess up”…but if you do decide to paint over it, you’ll need to use a primer first to cover up the oil based stain before you apply exterior latex. Or used an oil-based paint.

      Good Luck!


  5. Sara says:

    WOW! You did a wonderful job! Just stunning! I would have never known it wasn’t wood! I was actually just googling “how to make foam board look like wood” for a piece of wall art I want to make, and this was one of the things that popped up. I am going to try this technique and see what happens. I’m so glad I ran into your page. Thanks for posting these photos!

    1. Hi Sara,
      Thank you so much for your comment and I’m so glad to hear that you thought our garage door was real wood…that’s what I was going for! 🙂 Feel free to contact me if you have any questions while you’re trying this technique on your wall art. I’m happy to help and I would love to see how it turns out. Best, Katie

  6. Annette Montierth says:

    Hi, I love your garage & door! Is there any way you could offer a few more details on the technique you used to paint your front door? Like; Did you use a water based or oil based paint? How many coats of stain did you? Did you coat it with polyurethane afterwards? Just any tips to help me get my door to turn out at amazing as yours! 🙂 Thank you!

    1. Hi Annette, Thank you for your comment! The stain I used is a mixture of several colors of Gel Stain by Minwax. It is an oil-based product and is very durable. I just brush it right on with a cheap, coarse-bristled brush (I buy the china bristle brushes in bulk and then throw them away). For my clients, I usually do a polyurethane top coat afterwards for further protection. But in the case of my doors, I held off on doing a clear coat because I was considering possibly doing another layer. I only painted 1 full layer and then a 2nd touch up layer the next day. I painted the doors over a year ago and haven’t had any problems with fading or chipping/scratches. I have clients I’ve painted doors for over 8 years ago and their doors still look great. Good luck with your doors! Best, Katie

  7. Double Glazing says:

    You guys are so creative! You have some up with lots of ideas and it all looks good!

  8. UPVC Door Handles says:

    I really enjoyed reading this awesome post about Faux Wood Doors: One Project A Weekend! I hope to have that kind of transformation soon. keep up the good work!

  9. plumbing says:

    I love the new door! The dark wood looks really great in your house.

  10. Double Glazing Tamworth says:

    Two of the greatest benefits of a wood door are its environmentally friendly properties and its ability to complement the existing and new classic architectural features.

  11. Double Glazing Oxford says:

    The front entry door of the house often makes the first impression on guests. The best way to make an unforgettable good impression is with wood front doors.

  12. Toronto Bathroom Renovations says:

    Impressive blog and I really enjoyed reading your information and mostly peoples are like your blog. Most of the wood doors are very colorful and artistically designed, so they will make very attractive and cool your house. Thanks for your wonderful sharing.
    Toronto Bathroom Renovations

  13. Dynamic Garage Door says:

    Katie, we wanted to stop by and thank you for featuring our real wood garage doors in your blog. Faux painting these days is an excellent option for a budget-minded homeowner. It really has several advantages over the real thing if you can live with the fact that you don't have the real thing. First off, the maintenance level is extremely low compared to that of real wood garage doors. The consistency of the grain pattern and color is much more manipulative than with authentic wood. There is no cracking or splitting as it occurs in natural wood. The cost is absolutely the major difference! Don't get me wrong, natural wood doors are extremely characteristic and nothing shows grain quite as beautifully as mother nature does with authentic wood – that being said, if you are willing to overlook the differences and you want the look of a BMW on a Honda budget faux painting the way to go and you'll be supporting our environment by saving a tree. We do offer composite wood garage doors at a mid level budget between a faux painted steel door and real wood doors for those who prefer a more customized garage door design look. Kudos to you and your family, your project looks fantastic and I would only suggest you not go with the yellow in the picture above but go with a more earthy color like a beige or paper bag brown, it will really make your dark faux stain pop and look more natural. Call us at (714) 900-3667 if you need any advise.

  14. EITAKdesign says:

    Rach – Thanks for your comment, I love it when my painting is "insane"…that's the kind of stuff I like to hear…you made my day!

    Aloha, Riners! Thanks for checking out my blog. The door is painted metal (aluminum)…just the standard builder grade doors that come with suburban tract homes these days.

    Best, Katie

  15. Anonymous says:

    Aloha, we are ordering a door and are wanting to follow what you guys did.. after stocking the neighborhood and learning we are to cheap to pay that much for the real thing, we wanted to know if your door was painted wood or painted metal , to begin with?

    thank you .. love love yours!

    The Riners

  16. Rach says:

    OMG!! THIS.IS.INSANE!!!!!!! I can't believe you DID that!!! It looks so gorgeous!!! Amazing. Well done!!