garage door
Garage Doors
Home Improvement

Protecting that Wood Garage Door

Natural wood garage doors can enhance the curb appeal of any home.

The beauty of natural wood with the random patterns of grain is not an easy look to duplicate with manmade materials. If you have a wood garage door, whether it is painted or stained to show the grain, routine care will keep it looking great for years to come.

Unlike the siding of your home, garage doors move with every button push on your remote or lift with your arms. This movement can add stress to the door’s finish and to the panels themselves. Check to see if stress has caused cracks or gaps to form in the finish coat. These cracks are the inroads for water, which can lead to more damage.

The best way to protect wood is with a durable, weather-resistant finish. These can fall into two groups: film finishes, like varnish or paint; and penetrating finishes, like oils and stains. Film finishes are more susceptible to movement-induced stress and can crack and flake. Penetrating oil finishes, by comparison, are more flexible and therefore hold up better. One advantage to maintaining garage doors is that they are relatively small and accessible, compared to other areas of a home. It is easy to reach the upper areas from a simple stepladder.

Cleaning before painting or staining may seem obvious to many people, it is often overlooked; however, its omission can lead to problems down the road. In their excitement for a new look, some people jump right in without the proper preparations. Wind-blown dust and dirt can get into the corners or gaps in the door’s panels. When refinishing, this debris can get into the finish coat and cause unsightly results. Prior to any finish work, the surfaces should be properly prepared. Loose paint or varnish should be removed by scraping or sanding. If mold and mildew are present, the surface may require some scrubbing with a dedicated cleaner. Power washing is an option, but should be used with caution; the high pressures of these machines can actually damage softer woods. Another way to protect wood while cleaning is by using a simple brush; this, along with a garden hose, can get the job done without the risks of power washing. After any “washing,” it is important to ensure that the surface has plenty of time to dry before proceeding. This time varies by climate and season and can range from hours to several days.

Unlike siding, you can access the back of a garage door; to protect wood on both sides, finishing will need to done on the interior and exterior. Wood is a hydroscopic material: It changes with the humidity levels of its environment. Wood swells in high humidity and contracts in low humidity. This expansion and contraction is a primary cause of many finish failures. If the inside of the door is not protected, it can cause finish stress to the exterior side. Because the inside of the door is protected from wind and rain, you will not need to maintain this surface as frequently, but it should still be checked regularly.

Inside and outside finish work can protect wood from the effects of sun, wind and rain; proper preparations can yield long-lasting and beautiful results. Whether you work with colorful paints or simple penetrating oils, your goal is to protect wood. The added stress of movement makes garage doors more susceptible to damage, but their accessibly can make quick work of the required tasks.

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