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Restoring a Dull Garage Door Panel

Restore Garage

There’s a reason most garage doors are made of composite or metal; they’re hardy and much more resistant to time, weather and wear and tear than older, wooden garage doors. But even so, over time, a garage door panel will lose its luster, especially if it isn’t something you’ve thought to regularly maintenance. 

If your garage door is looking a little dull and weathered, but doesn’t have any structural damage, there’s a good chance you can restore its appearance so it looks brand-new again. But first, it’s important to check your garage door for any signs of damage.

How Much Damage is Too Much Damage?

Often, a garage door gets oxidation damage from water and salt as well as the sun, especially in warm, coastal areas. But rust isn’t always a deal-breaker; if it’s just surface rust and it hasn’t eaten its way into the door yet you can easily mitigate the surface damage by scraping the rust off with a wire brush, sandpaper or steel wool. But if you do have damage that goes below the surface of the garage door, or other structural or hardware issues, then you should consider a new garage door installation instead of trying to restore it. 

If you’re garage door is too far gone, a restoration will just be a small band-aid for a much larger problem. A broken garage door is a safety hazard; it’s not something that should be left as is, and it’s also not something you should try to fix yourself. This would be the time to call a professional company (like us!) who specializes in garage door repair. 

But, assuming you don’t have any structural issues and your garage door is only weather-beaten, you can save yourself a lot of money by restoring its appearance and sealing it against further damage.

DIY Steps You Can Take to Restore Your Garage Door

Outside elements can be harsh on a garage door, even if it received multiple coats of paint and sealant before it was initially installed. Depending on the age, even if it was repainted and resealed again, you’re still fighting the constant factors of time and weathering. Eventually, your door’s color will fade and, unfortunately there’s not much you can do to prevent it. 

However, you can restore it to its former glory and in the process learn how to keep your garage door looking fresh for years after you finish your restoration. We’ve already discussed that the damage has to be limited to the surface of the garage door panels. However, depending on the extent of that surface damage, your project may be easier than you’d think.

Cleaning Tips for a Gunked-Up Garage Door

Sometimes garage doors will get cloudy or acquire greenish, algae-like deposits as they weather. Sometimes this actually coats the door and slows damage. But still, it’s unsightly. As well, letting any kind of buildup on your garage door go unchecked can start to damage other parts of the door like hinges, fittings and hardware. Buildup can also hide actual problems like if there is a crack or water damage is causing the garage door panel to rust. So better to give it a good cleaning every once in a while.

If your door is just cloudy with salt deposits, calcium/mineral deposits and maybe a bit of mold, you can easily restore its look with a good cleaning. A cleaning brush and a household cleaner mixed with water may do the trick, but if that’s not enough to get that gross coating off, a light power wash will do just fine. If you don’t own a power washer, most hardware stores rent out units for a small fee.

Our three favorite natural cleaners to use on garage door buildup are:

1. Borax

Borax is a natural mineral that’s great at removing grime, grease and dirt via abrasive and solvent action. Using a ratio of ½ cup borax to one gallon of water, use a soaked sponge and apply generously to the whole door. Leave it for a few minutes to give the borax time to work. Go back at it with a scrub brush, rinse with a hose, and more times than not you’ll be good to go.

2. Baking soda

Everybody knows the cleaning power of baking soda! You probably have some in the kitchen right now. You can use baking soda in paste form (1/2 cup baking soda to ¼ cup water) to scrub off the nasty stuff. Once rinsed, it’s a residue-free option. It removes dirt, grease and grime like borax, but isn’t as abrasive, which may be a better option for a painted garage door.

3. Natural acids

You can use white vinegar or lemon juice to break down dirt and grime on your garage door. Create a spray solution equal parts vinegar/lemon juice to water and use it the same way you’d use a chemical cleaner like 401. 

When cleaning your garage door, use a non-scratch scrub brush – not wire. Wire brushes can abrade the garage door’s coating, making it more porous and susceptible to water and weather. And it’s always a good idea to wipe the door down with a dry microfiber brush after rinsing to make sure everything is clean and no residue is left.

Restoring Luster to a Faded Garage Door

If you loved the color of your garage door before it faded, and upon inspection you find no rust or surface damage, you can clean your door the same way as mentioned above, and then follow up with a color-restoring protective oil or wax. You can easily find kits for this in stores or online, and it saves you a lot of time and effort as opposed to priming and repainting.

Keep in mind when using a color restorative:

  • Try the product on a small, inconspicuous spot of the garage door panel first to make sure it doesn’t damage the door or cause it to look poorly.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to a T.
  • A thorough cleaning and drying process is key to the successful application of a color restorative.

If You Need (or Want) to do a Full Repainting and Sealing…

Sometimes we just want a change. And other times there’s too much surface damage to put this project off any longer:

  1. Wash your garage door with a mixture of water and a gentle detergent that contains degreaser. You can even use a dish soap like Dawn for this part. The point is to get all the debris and oil on the door loosened from the surface. Scrubbing with a cleaning brush with plastic bristles will be perfect for this 9 times out of 10. But if it’s not enough for the tough spots, try a wire bristle brush and/or try raising your ratio of detergent to water and try again.
  2. Wipe the whole door down, repeat step 1 on any tough spots or places you missed, and then rinse thoroughly with your garden hose.
  3. Take a wire bristle brush, medium grit sandpaper or steel wool and remove any rust you can find, then rinse again. Make sure to check the top, sides and bottom surfaces of the panels as well, not just the faces. (If you’re garage door is really caked, step 2 can be done with a power washer. But make sure it’s on a low setting so you don’t damage the door.)
  4. Allow the door panels to air dry, or expedite the process with a dry rag.
  5. Next, roughen up the surface with a palm sander or medium-grit sandpaper. This is going to help the primer grip the door better, which is going to make your paint job more durable so it will last longer.
  6. Apply a paint primer to your panel. Use a primer containing zinc chromate if you’re dealing with rust- it makes metal less susceptible to oxidation and the resulting rust. Avoid any metal hardware on the garage door panels, as the primer may cause permanent discoloration.
  7. You can now apply your first coat of paint. It should be an exterior paint specifically for garage doors. These paints are designed to withstand weather and sun. A paint roller works for flat doors, but a paintbrush is better for textured doors with heavy ridges.
  8. Repeat step 7 for as many coats as it takes to cover the primer, making sure to allow each coat to dry before applying the next. Zinc chromate turns the primer a reddish color, so it’s not the quickest color to paint over.
  9. After your paint job is fully dry, apply at least one coat of a UV-resistant sealant, then let the garage door panels dry for the recommended time.
  10. Optional but recommended: with a rag made of a soft material like microfiber, apply a protective wax over the whole garage door to further protect it from weathering and oxidation.

While DIY garage door repair can be a lot of work, it can also save you a significant amount of money compared to a new garage door installation. However, we do want to remind you that while painting your garage door panels is a safe task, we don’t recommend trying to fix broken garage door parts on your own. It’s usually much safer (and simpler) to have a professional take care of issues that involve your door’s function, structure or hardware.

Once you’ve finished painting, sealing and waxing, you can step back and admire your brand-new (looking) garage door!

How to Tell If You Have a Broken Garage Door

If your garage door is not opening, then don’t panic. There’s a good chance that it could be as something as simple as a dead remote or power outage. Start by checking the batteries in your remote or use the wall switch instead. If the door still doesn’t open, then verify that you don’t have any power outage issues. Just because the electricity is on in the rest of your house doesn’t mean that a fuse wasn’t blown or that there’s an issue in the garage. Try plugging your opener into a different socket to be sure. If you’re still having issues, then it’s possible you have a broken part on the panel or with the opener.