DIY Painting & Finishing

How To: Paint a Garage Door

This small project will go a long way toward enhancing your home’s exterior. Talk about an open-and-shut case!
How to Paint a Garage Door


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As long as it goes up and down on command, it’s easy to ignore your garage door. Yet this aspect of your home’s exterior is a crucial component of its curb appeal. Letting it look shabby is like allowing your lawn to grow knee-high. Fortunately, a fresh application of paint will improve the appearance of your garage door and also offer protection from the elements, extending its lifespan.

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Like all outdoor paint jobs, this one will be a bit time consuming due to the drying time required. Otherwise, it’s a fairly simple project. Just set aside two to three days to paint a garage door, and then enjoy the spiffy results.

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How to Paint a Garage Door - Fresh Exterior Color Choices

STEP 1: Plan to start your project on a cool day.

Check the weather forecast the week before you plan to start. The ideal temperature for painting is between 50 and 75 degrees, with low humidity and indirect sunlight. Choose three consecutive days that fit these criteria as closely as possible.

Then gather your materials: Be sure to select paint and primer (to promote adhesion and durability) appropriate for your particular garage door—most are now made of aluminum, but if you have an older home yours may be wooden. If you have any doubts about what to purchase, ask the experts at your local paint store. A gallon of paint ought to be more than adequate for a two-car garage door plus a bit to spare. But remember, putting a lighter color over a darker one may require more than one coat.

STEP 2: Remove rust, sand, and wash the surface before you paint the garage door.

Prepping the garage door ensures that paint will go on easily and hold up well. Put on your protective gear (the work gloves, dust mask, and safety goggles), and then remove any rusted or chipped spots by scrubbing with a wire brush. Next, sand these areas with fine grit sandpaper to create a smooth base. Clean the entire surface with all-purpose cleaner and a sponge. Once all dirt and grime are removed, rinse the door with a garden hose. Dry the surface with clean towels or rags, and then let it air dry for at least an hour.

STEP 3: Cover up anything you don’t want to paint with tape. 

To prevent paint from going where you don’t want it, use heavy-duty painters tape to mask off any handles, locks, and windows. If you don’t intend to paint the trim, tape it off; if you are going to do the trim, tape off the edges of the garage. Protect the driveway and garage interior by laying out a drop cloth both inside and outside the door.

STEP 4: Set the garage door so that you can manually raise and lower it.

Stooping while painting is asking for a backache! For easier maneuvering, disengage the electric opening mechanism so you can move the door manually, then raise the door so that the bottom is at a comfortable height.

STEP 5: Prime the garage door with an exterior paint primer that’s suitable for the door’s material.

  • If your garage door has inset panels, prime these first using a high-quality 2-inch paintbrush with nylon bristles. Wipe away any excess that may have crept outside of the panels, in the areas known as the “stiles.” This will ensure a super smooth finish.
  • Next, prime the stiles using the brush or a ¾-inch roller. Be sure to get in between the “lips” of the horizontal panels too.
  • Lower the door as you go, and stand on a step stool or ladder for the top portion.
  • Do the trim last.
  • Let primer dry for at least 12 hours.

STEP 6: Paint the garage door.

Apply a quality exterior paint to the door using the same method as described for priming: bottom to top, starting with the inner panels and working outward to the stiles.

STEP 7: Apply a second coat of paint as needed.

Now, step back to survey your work: If the surface appears to be completely covered, you’re finished! If there are uneven patches or spots where the old color shows through, apply a second coat—just let the first one dry for at least 12 hours before starting. Once done, remove the tape and let paint dry overnight before opening the door.

You’ll appreciate your nice-as-new garage door and so will your neighbors. As far as a new car to go with it, well, that’s up to you!