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DOOR MAKEOVER: GEL STAIN FAUX WOOD FINISH

Filed in PROJECTS & DIY — March 25, 2022

I’ve wanted to switch out our garage door in our kitchen for years! Last summer when we completed our kitchen refresh I kept hoping to find an old vintage wood paned door we could use. If you know anything about wood doors, they’re both PRICEY and hard to come by in specific sizes. Spoiler: we never found one. Instead I found a product to create my own wood finish for my existing door. I also got nervous and never did it. Until now.

Then, a couple weeks ago we started working on my office refresh, and those ugly bifold closet doors kept staring at me. Sure, there’s ways to refinish doors: trendy sliding barn doors, and even resurfacing old doors with wood planks. Neither of those options were possible as I had to keep the bifold function with my built-ins. I finally decided to use the product I had in my stash since our kitchen refresh intended for that door and knocked them both out!

I used a gel stain to create a faux wood finish on both of my doors. This stain is meant for veneer, fiberglass and other non-wood surfaces especially useful if applying vertically. This project is super simple and only required 2-3 materials. I barely even used any out of the quart I had. This product is perfect on exterior garage doors and staircase banisters or treads as well!

I only cleaned my surface with a mild cleanser first. This requires zero prep work- no sanding! Hallelujah, am I right?

Be sure to start applying the product in small sections, you don’t need much at all on the brush. Use long brush strokes up and down or side to side, following the natural grain of the surface. It helps to do long strokes first then go back over and blend it in.

I also used a different dry brush to blend and work the product in. It is a bit of an art form. I recommend trying it out on a scrap piece of wood to get the hang of it first. Apply the stain just as you would paint a door. Up and down on the sides, horizontally along the top and bottom and middle. Continue using the brush to do long strokes back and forth and up and down to fill in the panes.

Keep blending it in with the dry brush. Once it’s starting to dry, maybe an hour later I added my favorite liming wax to lighten it up and give it that aged look I wanted. This step is totally optional. I used a paper towel and very lightly worked it in following the same technique as above in some areas on the door.

I noticed the next day the door looked a bit lighter, and as it continued to fully dry and cure it lightened up a bit more. This stain doesn’t have an overpowering odor. I had the door open as I applied but in my office I didn’t have anything besides the door to the room open, and was totally fine.

If you want to seal to protect the door that is the final step. I suggest using Minwax Polycrilic for interior projects because it will not yellow! If you’re doing this on garage doors or an exterior door you’ll want to use an exterior polyurethane to protect it from the elements.

I love how this project came together. I’m so happy with the outcome. I’m thinking about adding it to our garage door this spring once we start tackling some outdoor projects too! The aged oak is the perfect light wood tone. If you try this project I’d love to see yours, tag me or send me a photo so I can share on IG stories.

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  1. Kelly Goodman says:

    Thank you for writing this! This was exactly what I was looking for!! LOVE your kitchen & how this turned out!

  2. If this doesn’t turn out as good as yours, can gel paint be painted over with latex ? Thanks

  3. Kelsey McNamara says:

    Can you share the types of brushes you used? Going to attempt this! We also can’t find an aged door and I’ve given up on that at this point. This is the perfect compromise

  4. Nikki Shimp says:

    Hi Hillary, I am looking to stain new fiberglass doors. Just wondering if your kitchen door was fiberglass or wood? The salesman is concerned that I wont get a light wood look with a fiberglass door because it already has a tint to it. But, yours is the perfect color.

    • Hi! Yes, my door was fiberglass. I also did the same on a standard bifold closet door with the same outcome. My door before the stain was white which helped. If yours is another color I’d first paint it white then do the gel stain. Good luck! I’d love to see how it turns out.

  5. Kimberley Powers says:

    Hi, this turned out beautiful! I’m going to attempt a bathroom vanity. Can you tell me which liming wax you used? Thank you!

  6. Sandra says:

    Looks amazing, what liming wax did you use?

  7. Linda says:

    Looks amazing! Could I use this technique on orangey fake wood laminate cabinets? Would I need to paint them white first? Also, could I use the liming wax and then seal with the polycrilic sealer for durability? Sorry for so many questions but I’ve never done anything like this and I always love your projects

    • Hi there! No worries I’m happy to help when I can. I think it would work great on cabinets with proper prep. I would very lightly sand, prime the cabinets with a solid great primer, and then finish with the gel stain. Definitely seal them using several coats!

  8. Cindy says:

    Did you wipe the stain off or just let it dry?

    • Hi Cindy! I applied and let it sit for a few minutes then wiped access off. I also then buffed the valspar limewash glaze overtop and working it into the stain. Hope this helps!

  9. Vivian says:

    Did you sand at all? I tried this inside my kitchen cabinet because I really want to do this to my cupboards but it looked terrible.

  10. Vivian says:

    I tried to use a minwax stain on my white kitchen cupboards. I did the inside of one door and it was pretty much clear with what looked like dripping grease or dirt. Is the gel stain different and would it work on kitchen cupboards? If you think so should i sand a bit first?

    • Hi! You definitely need to clean and sand first using either stain option! Always start with a degreaser to cut that. You can also use a deglosser instead of heavy sanding. But a light sand would be necessary with the gel as well.

  11. Taylor Tipton says:

    Hi! I’m currently attempting this project in my kitchen. We are having a very difficult time getting the stain to dry. We let one coat dry about 8 hours and it came off on our hands just touching it. Any suggestions?

    • Hi! It does take a while to dry. Especially the more coats you do. Just like any other stain. I think with the coats on my door it took an entire day. We used the door knob when necessary but didn’t touch the door itself for 48 and it was perfect.

  12. Holly says:

    Hi, I applied the gel stain, used the dry brush technique, however I did not put the liming wax on after an hour, as you stated you did, because the doors were so tacky. They are completely dry now and I’ve attempted the lime wax in a small area…nothing happened. Is it necessary to put the wax on after an hour to get the whitewash effect?

    • Hi! If it didn’t do anything after it’s dried then yes. Some surfaces react different to the product. I did apply mine shortly after so the stain was still tacky and I think that helped the blending of the limewash. You could try going over it with another layer of gel stain (very lightly) and then apply the limewash again once it’s tacky.

  13. Jackie says:

    Pretty! I love the way it came out! I love that light raw wood look.. Can you seal with a polycrylic over liming wax?

  14. jackie says:

    Oh also, what type of finish was the door before you started? Just curious. Ours are all a couple layers at least of semi gloss white paint. I’m thinking I may need to sand a little first and not sure if the wood grain will show through ours.

    • Hi! Thank you it’s really nice tone. Yes, you can. My doors were hollow core closet doors and a fiberglass door. They had both been painted white prior. The fiberglass door didn’t have a wood grain you create that look with the gel stain. My closet doors were easier because it had that already.

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I created Grace Oaks Designs based on a need for attainable design. I kept coming back to my signature style time after time and realized, this is it! We bridge the gap creating attainable design for the modern family. Home tells our stories. It's the cornerstone of where we're going and where we've been. Where beautiful style meets comfort and functionality. For an elevated everyday. It's our safe haven. Which is why I'm so passionate about creating refined casual interiors. Elevated yet livable. Because I want you to love coming home. 

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Grace Oaks Designs is an interiors and lifestyle brand located in Central IL. We offer inspiration and design services to help you elevate your everyday.