When we bought our 140ish year old house, we knew we would have many repairs ahead of us. We ended up deciding to stain metal door to look like wood.
Last winter when it was snowing and blowing, we discovered the original doors had holes in them. Gaps in the wood, letting light though. Something that couldn’t be fixed. We put weather striping around the edges to help seal most of the drafts around the warped doors, but knew we’d have to replace the doors in the Spring (way to cold in a Michigan winter to have doors off for a long period of time).
When we made our selection, we ended up going with steel doors due to cost and durability. But who wants to look at a steel door in their home that they are trying to restore to the 1870s?
I did a lot of research online on how to stain a steel door to look like wood and the videos basically said to stain it. They didn’t say with what. They showed using a tool that put in knots for a grain look (which I didn’t want to do).
I went out to the store and talked to someone in the paint department and asked what I needed. I was told what products to use, but still not really HOW to do it. That came with just doing it and learning.
How to stain steel doors
This did not go as planned. I felt it was darker than I wanted, because we used gel stain. Something no one told me and I didn’t think of. Gel stain isn’t wiped off. It stays on, so what you see is what you will have stained. I recommend use a shade lighter than you want. I used dark hickory and then used an antique walnut over them to tone them down and give depth in the color. This was finished with a satin varnish.
These are are also oil based stains, so they take FOREVER to dry.
I also recommend staining the doors BEFORE you install them. This is better for the lines and better for your safety of not having the locks off your house for many days (like we did).
So how did I do it? Take a look below.
What you need:
Almond oil based stain (base coat) 3-4 hour drying time
gel stain hickory-or the color you want (12 hour drying time)
gel antique walnut- or another lighter color (12 hour drying time)
polyurethane (oil based) I used satin and it turned out like glossy.
cleaner for the brushes
Remove the hardware from the door and tape of the door and tape of the windows (I found using a scraper versus taping worked well as the tape pulled off the stain when I removed them… grrr). Tape the rubber gasket on the bottom so you don’t get stain on it as well.
Clean off the door and remove any dirt. Make sure the door is dry when you stain.
Take the almond paint and paint a layer on the door. Do the side edges you will see as well. Allow the paint to dry. My can said it would take only 3 hours to dry. The stain will pull off if it is not completely dry, so so wait a day before going to the next coat. I was told to use almond color. It sorta looks like wood if you were to cut into it.
Paint the hickory color next. You want to stain in smaller sections. You should stain the panels in the middle first, because you will mess them up if you stain everything else first and then go back to them. so stain where it goes in, and then the panel. then stain whatever else you want.
When you stain, do it in small section, stain it and then take your brush and pull some stain off, giving a grain look. (not too much, but to your liking. I pulled off stain, so that it allowed the next coat (the antique maple) to fill in the pulled off areas.
Allow the stain to dry over night before applying the second color of gel stain (I used antique walnut). I stained this over the entire door, making sure it went into the areas that I had pulled the darker stain out of. Make sure you get the sides of the door.
Allow this to dry overnight as well.
Once it is dry, you can go back and take the hickory or walnut color and touch up to your liking. I found I would use the hickory to make some areas darker. Allow this to dry and then apply the polyurethane over the entire door. Put the hardware back on when the door is dry.
Uninstalled doors are easier
If the door isn’t installed, you can install the door. Once the door is no longer tacky, you can close it. I found letting it sit over night it was dry enough to finally close in the morning (12 hours after painting).