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Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door

I’ve finally found the Quickest, Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door! Old Masters Oil-Based Gel Stains are easy to apply and they look beautiful on any front door.

Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door

I’m so excited to share this tutorial with you today! It’s an easy to follow, step by step guide for how to make your new or worn out wood front door look new again.

I’ve started using Old Masters oil-based gel stains on exterior wood doors. This gel stain is so easy to apply!

You can apply this gel stain on vertical surfaces. That means you don’t even need to remove your front door to stain it.

So, you can apply this gel stain on your door whether you remove it or not. And, you don’t even have to strip the old stain finish off to get a beautiful stain finish on your door. Yay!

After a quick cleaning and light sanding, you’re ready to start applying the new gel stain finish over your old finish.

This stain works perfectly on unfinished and even painted wood doors too. You can even use this oil-based gel stain on fiberglass doors and metal doors to get a real wood stain look.

I’ll cover what you need to know in the instructions below.

I've found the quickest, Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door! Using an easy to apply Gel Stain that always look beautiful on any front door. How to Stain Over Old Stain on a Door.
Don’t Forget to Save this DIY for Later.

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Let’s get to the Best Way to Stain An Exterior Wood Door.

What Kind of Stain Do You Use on an Exterior Door?

I prefer gel stain over already stained wood doors. AND I almost always use gel stain on unfinished wood doors too.

Most gel stain is easy to use, even for beginners. I also like to use gel stain to stain wood furniture without stripping it too.

A gel stain is much thicker and less transparent than a penetrating wood stain. Gel stains sit on top of wood and any existing wood stains on a door. Gel Stains do not penetrate into the wood.

That means gel stain can give you an even color over an old finish that is worn or uneven, like in the before picture on my door.

Gel Stain is also a nice and thick finish. Using a thick finish on my front door means it was thick enough to give the door a uniform color and thick protective finish.

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Just be sure to pick a gel stain color that is as dark as or darker than the existing finish on your wood front door. You can’t use a gel stain to go for a lighter stain color over a darker stain color.

How to Get a Wood Stain Look on Fiberglass and Metal Doors

You can use that same Gel Stain to get a rich, beautiful wood stain color on fiberglass and metal doors too.

You can layer medium to darker gel stain colors over certain paint colors to get a rich wood look with depth.

That real wood look is easier to achieve over certain paint colors. I recommend using earthy paint colors, like light browns, earthy yellows, and muddy beiges as a base color.

You should always test the paint colors under your gel stains on scrap wood before staining your fiberglass and metal doors.

To get an even more realistic real wood look on flat fiberglass and metal doors, you can use a wood grain pattern rollers.

Just be aware that if your door is currently painted with a very dark paint color (like black) or a bright, bold color (like hot pink) you will need to repaint it.

Use a more neutral, earthy paint color before using gel stain on it. And, be sure to follow application and dry times on any paints and stains you use.

Before You Start

Now, let’s talk about what you need to know before you start staining your exterior door.

You’ll want to do this on a cool, low humidity days. Avoid rainy days. Or days with tons of moisture in the air.

Don’t stain your door in direct sunshine or on extremely hot days. Both can mess up the finish while it’s drying.

Avoid windy and cold days too! You don’t want dirt and bugs blowing into the finish. And cold weather can also effect the dry time and the final look of the gel stain finish.

In general, Spring and Fall are the perfect time to stain your exterior doors. You can read more about why the weather is so important for this DIY in Stain a Door Without Taking It Down.

I always stain my front door on mild weather days, in the shade, with the front door open and still on the hinges.

Which Stain Should You Use On An Exterior Door

Like I mentioned above, I love Old Masters Gel Stain on exterior doors. It works on any type of exterior door, including wood, fiberglass, and metal doors.

But you can use similar gel stains that are made for exterior applications.

Just be sure to follow that products recommendations for application, dry time, and top coat.

AND, be sure to follow safety precautions about Lead Paint, if your door is old enough to have had Lead Paint on it. Generally, that would be doors painted in the 1970’s and prior to that.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need these items to Stain An Exterior Wood Door.

You can use these steps, even over faded uneven stain on a door. Gel Stain is thick enough to provide even color.
Gel Stain provides an even stain color over exterior wood, fiberglass, and metal doors. I prefer Old Masters Gel Stain because it is long lasting and easy to apply.

How to Re-Stain Your Front Door

Quick Step Overview

Here’s a quick look at the steps for the best way to stain exterior wood door. You can find the detailed steps below.

AND, If you decide you’d rather strip your front door and start fresh, you can find my easy DIY steps to stripping wood in a previous post.

  1. Remove or Open Door
  2. Tape Off Hardware and Scuff Sand
  3. Repair Any Damage
  4. Clean Door with Mineral Spirits
  5. Apply Old Masters Gel Stain
  6. How to Maintain Your Doors Finish

Remove or Open Door

You can either remove the door completely or stain the door while it’s still hanging.

If you want to remove the door to stain it, pick a shady, protected spot to stain your door. Like in a garage.

If you want to stain your door while it’s still hanging then, open your door wide enough to be able to apply the finish to every spot.

I put a heavy piece of furniture behind my front door to keep it from moving while I applied the new gel stain to the front of the door.

If the sun is shining on your door, you may want to wait until it passes or open the door wide enough to get it out of the sun. The sun will dry the product too fast to get a nice looking finish.

You’ll also want to put a drop cloth down to protect your floors while you work.

Tape Off Hardware and Scuff Sand

Then use painters tape to protect the hardware on the door from the stain.

After taping the hardware, lightly sand the entire door with 120-grit sandpaper or a sanding block. This is also called scuff sanding.

Don’t press too hard with the sandpaper. You only want to scratch the surface enough to give the new finish a good surface to grab onto.

Repair Damage

This step only applies to doors that have minor dents and dings that need to be repaired.

Clean off all dust from the scuff sanding before patching dings and dents.

Patch any damage that needs repairs with a wood colored exterior grade wood filler or Bondo All Purpose Putty.

After the patch dries, sand smooth as directed on the filler that you used.

Clean Door with Mineral Spirits

Now, it’s time to clean the door. Wear Nitrile Gloves to protect your skin from the Mineral Spirits. Use a clean, lint-free rag to wipe down the door with Mineral Spirits.

Mineral Spirits will remove any oils, dirt, and dust.

Apply Old Masters Gel Stain

Follow the directions on the container of Old Masters Gel Stain to get the best results.

Apply one coat of gel stain and wipe off as directed. Let that first coat dry for 8 full hours.

If you apply a second coat of Gel Stain or top coat too soon, it can ruin the finish or make it take a lot longer for the finish to dry and fully harden.

After 8 hours you can apply a second coat, if needed. But, if you already like the color and coverage, a second coat is not required.

Let the second coat dry for another 8 hours.

Please note, the Carbon Black Color of Old Masters Gel Stain has an even LONGER dry time. Follow the directions on the container for the best results.

Apply an Exterior Top Coat

After the Gel Stain has dried for a FULL 24 hours after the last coat, apply a good UV exterior grade top coat over your gel stain to extend the life of the new finish.

How to Maintain your Doors Finish

Finally, keep the door looking great and preserve the finish every 4 to 6 months with Howard Outdoor Furniture SunShield Wax.

Even the best door finish will dry out and fade over time, using an orange oil protective wax, like Howard’s SunShield, will help to extend the life of your finish.

You can see the before and after pics and a quick video showing how amazing this product is in my post for how to fix a Sun-Damaged, Dry Wood Front Door.

Sunshield cleans the door a bit and it makes your door look nice and shiny.

That’s it for the Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door!

If you have questions about your door not answered above, be sure to check the Old Masters Gel Stain Technical Data Sheet.

I've found the quickest, Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door! Using an easy to apply Gel Stain that always look beautiful on any front door. How to Stain Over Old Stain on a Door.

Here’s a printable version of these instructions.

Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Doors

I've found the quickest, Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door! Using an easy to apply Gel Stain that always look beautiful on any front door. How to Stain Over Old Stain on a Door.

I've found the quickest, Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door! Using an easy to apply Gel Stain that always look beautiful on any front door.

Materials

  • Old Masters Gel Stain
  • Old Masters Ascend Exterior Top Coat

Instructions

How to Re-Stain Your Front Door

Quick Step Overview

Here's a quick look at the steps for the best way to stain exterior wood door. You can find the detailed steps below.

AND, If you decide you'd rather strip your front door and start fresh, you can find my easy DIY steps to stripping wood in a previous post.

  1. Remove or Open Door
  2. Tape Off Hardware and Scuff Sand
  3. Repair Any Damage
  4. Clean Door with Mineral Spirits
  5. Apply Old Masters Gel Stain
  6. How to Maintain Your Doors Finish

Remove or Open Door

You can either remove the door completely or stain the door while it's still hanging.

If you want to remove the door to stain it, pick a shady, protected spot to stain your door. Like in a garage.

If you want to stain your door while it's still hanging then, open your door wide enough to be able to apply the finish to every spot.

I put a heavy piece of furniture behind my front door to keep it from moving while I applied the new gel stain to the front of the door.

If the sun is shining on your door, you may want to wait until it passes or open the door wide enough to get it out of the sun. The sun will dry the product too fast to get a nice looking finish.

You'll also want to put a drop cloth down to protect your floors while you work.

Tape Off Hardware and Scuff Sand

Then use painters tape to protect the hardware on the door from the stain.

After taping the hardware, lightly sand the entire door with 120-grit sandpaper or a sanding block. This is also called scuff sanding.

Don't press too hard with the sandpaper. You only want to scratch the surface enough to give the new finish a good surface to grab onto.

Repair Damage

This step only applies to doors that have minor dents and dings that need to be repaired.

Clean off all dust from the scuff sanding before patching dings and dents.

Patch any damage that needs repairs with a wood colored exterior grade wood filler or Bondo All Purpose Putty.

After the patch dries, sand smooth as directed on the filler that you used.

Clean Door with Mineral Spirits

Now, it's time to clean the door. Wear Nitrile Gloves to protect your skin from the Mineral Spirits. Use a clean, lint-free rag to wipe down the door with Mineral Spirits.

Mineral Spirits will remove any oils, dirt, and dust.

Apply Old Masters Gel Stain

Follow the directions on the container of Old Masters Gel Stain to get the best results.

Apply one coat of gel stain and wipe off as directed. Let that first coat dry for 8 full hours.

If you apply a second coat of Gel Stain or top coat too soon, it can ruin the finish or make it take a lot longer for the finish to dry and fully harden.

After 8 hours you can apply a second coat, if needed. But, if you already like the color and coverage, a second coat is not required.

Let the second coat dry for another 8 hours.

Please note, the Carbon Black Color of Old Masters Gel Stain has an even LONGER dry time. Follow the directions on the container for the best results.

Apply an Exterior Top Coat

After the Gel Stain has dried for a FULL 24 hours after the last coat, apply a good UV exterior grade top coat over your gel stain to extend the life of the new finish.

How to Maintain your Doors Finish

Finally, keep the door looking great and preserve the finish every 4 to 6 months with Howard Outdoor Furniture SunShield Wax.

Even the best door finish will dry out and fade over time, using an orange oil protective wax, like Howard's SunShield, will help to extend the life of your finish.

You can see the before and after pics and a quick video showing how amazing this product is in my post for how to fix a Sun-Damaged, Dry Wood Front Door.

Sunshield cleans the door a bit and it makes your door look nice and shiny.

That's it for the Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door!

Notes

Before You Start

Now, let's talk about what you need to know before you start staining your exterior door.

You'll want to do this on a cool, low humidity days. Avoid rainy days. Or days with tons of moisture in the air.

Don't stain your door in direct sunshine or on extremely hot days. Both can mess up the finish while it's drying.

Avoid windy and cold days too! You don't want dirt and bugs blowing into the finish. And cold weather can also effect the dry time and the final look of the gel stain finish.

In general, Spring and Fall are the perfect time to stain your exterior doors. You can read more about why the weather is so important for this DIY in Stain a Door Without Taking It Down.

I always stain my front door on mild weather days, in the shade, with the front door open and still on the hinges.

Which Stain Should You Use On An Exterior Door

Like I mentioned above, I love Old Masters Gel Stain on exterior doors. It works on any type of exterior door, including wood, fiberglass, and metal doors.

But you can use similar gel stains that are made for exterior applications.

Just be sure to follow that products recommendations for application, dry time, and top coat.

AND, be sure to follow safety precautions about Lead Paint, if your door is old enough to have had Lead Paint on it. Generally, that would be doors painted in the 1970's and prior to that.


After you Stain Your Door, check out the Best Outdoor Door Mats for your Home to get great curb appeal.

Here's my top picks for the Best Outdoor Door Mats for any home! Including tips for picking the right size, best materials, & beautiful style.

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How to Whiten Grout with a quick and easy DIY Grout Renew.

And, here are 3 easy DIY Steps to increase that front door security.

Here’s How to Clean Car Seats At Home, the easy way. This is a-mazing!

Written steps and a how to video showing how to Clean Car Seats at Home, the Easy Way with a portable Bissell SpotClean Pro. This even worked on my gross chocolate milk covered seats!

See how easy it is to Fix Water Stains on Ceiling Leaks.

Quick and easy written steps and video for How to Fix Water Stains on Ceiling Leaks without paint. In just a few minutes, get rid of most water stains.

I also recommend this great tutorial for how to paint furniture for beginners.

Step by step guide for How to paint furniture for beginners, when to sand, when to prime, which paints to use, and when you need a top coat! Beginners Guide for How to Paint Furniture. Detailed explanation of each step and whether or not you can skip that step. Printable version available.

Feeling inspired? Now that you know the Best Way to Stain Exterior Wood Door, get to it! Have fun and let me know if you have questions.

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