How To Gel Stain An Embossed Fiberglass Door.

Remember when I posted about my hopes for a front entrance makeover?

I couldn’t be more pleased with the results! I am a total gel stain convert-this stuff is amazing. Here’s what you’ll need to try this door makeover:

  • Fiberglass embossed wood-grain door
  • Old Masters Gel Stain (you can use any brand I suppose, but I’d heard good things about this one)- I used American Walnut
  • Lint-free rags
  • China bristle brush (should be less than $1, I used a 1.5″ one)
  • Exterior flat paint in a yellowy/taupe color (I’ll explain this later)
  • Exterior UV protective polyurethane

Before I get started, let me remind you how our door used to look.

Of course from this distance everything looks peachy, but up close you can tell the paint is scratched and just plan rough (this picture was taken in 2008).

In order to get the payoff in the end, you have to do something a little wacky first. Like painting your door an odd shade of yellow.

Pardon the creeper cat appearance. Here’s a truer color shot from the inside.

In case you want to run out and paint your door this color, it’s “Glazed Pecan” by Behr, color matched to Glidden Exterior Flat. This is a great way to give your neighbors a heart attack, by the way. Not that I hate yellow- that’s not the case at all. It’s just this particular shade combined with the colors of the house…well let’s just say I almost put up a sign saying it wasn’t permanent. In any case, I kinda took a gamble with this color as the base. After doing tons of research, I had seen taupe, ochre, and everything in between used under the stain. For some reason, this color jumped out at me from the sea of swatches. Since my door was cranberry on one side and white on the other, I knew I needed a clean palette for both sides and took a chance on this more-butterscotch-than-pecan color. Sidenote- now is a great time to paint your hardware.

Krylon Oil Rubbed Bronze strikes again! Now the fun starts (and the sighs of relief!). In order to get the most realistic and natural effect, you’ll want to stain in sections. Start with any raised panels and then do all the vertical grain, followed by the horizontal grain (you can reverse the last two). Use painter’s tape to mask off the sections at the joints.

When I read that gel stain is literally fool proof, I was doubtful. But, it totally is. All you have to do is take your brush, dip it into a TINY amount of stain and brush in the direction of the grain. It goes on very dark and opaque. I brushed about a 6 inch area then wiped it lightly with a rag in the direction of the grain. Then I went back with my mostly depleted brush and feathered it with the grain. You’ll want to move quickly, but don’t panic-you can always brush more stain on and try again. Some of the base paint color should show through. Don’t try to get perfect coverage the first time, I think the layering lends to a more realistic effect so shoot for two coats.

I moved on to sides of the door, the outer edges of the raised panels, then the window frame. Finally when those areas were dry, I was able to tape around the horizontal planks.

By the end of the first day, I had a really impressive look already!

The next day I began the process again, doing each area in the same order. I’m really happy with how it turned out!


Try to ignore the blue tape, the inside of the door still needs a second coat (it wasn’t quite dry this morning). This is really important: even though the can says you can recoat in 8 hours, DO NOT do this if the surface is tacky at all. I know this the same way I know most of what I tell you- I’ve been there, done that, and messed it up. After completing the outside of the door, I began on the inside but the new stain was rubbing the old stain off. Not good. Patience is a virtue. I figure it was more hot or humid in here than outside.

I still have to poly the door on both sides when the stain is dry, then I’ll start on the upstairs door and the shutters. Pretty soon, I’ll convert our cranberry madness into classic American Walnut!

Have you guys ever done this? Would you be willing to try? Have you used gel stain for other projects?

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31 Responses

  1. Kathleen Leone

    Absolutely Love this! Can’t wait to try this on our new place! Especially the barn… which is painted a really odd/sort of barfy (not technically a word, but properly descriptive) color. ;o) Thank you for sharing this wonderful idea!

  2. Rachel

    That’s fantastic. I can’t wait to show my husband these pictures. We just put up a new garage, and right now the doors are bright white.

  3. Kassi @ Truly Lovely

    WOW!!! That worked so well!! I have a post scheduled for next week that shows the front door on our new house… Once you see it, you’ll see why I LOVE THIS POST so much! Our new door needs help!

  4. DeAnna

    This is amazing! I was scared hearing that you were going to do this. After all it is the front door. I loved the first coat but the second coat was fantastic. I can’t wait to see after the poly coat. And the inside too. Thank you so much for sharing. Have a great day!

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  6. Brandon

    Our front door is steel with a large oval window. How do you think this would like since it doesn’t have the wood grain? I really like your door!

    • rachaelevans

      Brandon- I actually did this method to my upstairs door as well which doesn’t have wood grain and it looks great. I would recommend taping off the door in the same manner to create planks, and you could try a wood graining tool to make it even more realistic.

  7. Hanna Schelling

    That looks absolutely fantastic! I am amazing by the transformation, you are awesome!

  8. Marilyn Gilbert

    Is the process the same as you did it if the door needs to be refinished?

    • rachaelevans

      Marilyn- Is the door solid wood? If that’s the case, I would just strip it and re-stain. This process is really geared towards making fake wood doors look real. Not that you couldn’t use it on a real wood door.

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  10. Sandii

    Would you mind posting a picture of the door you did without the wood grain? Did it really turn out out as well as this one? Im nervous to try ;)

  11. catia

    I have a stained fiberglass front door that has started fading. Do you think I can use the gel stain directly over the old stain? Do I need to paint it first?. It has some sort of finish over the stain and I know that I can’t sand the fiberglass so am wondering if the gel stain will stick.

  12. Krist

    Hello! Great project, looks fantastic! I am thinking about attempting it myself, but I want to ask: how has this held up since you did it? Has it chipped at all?

  13. Christina

    Great job! Thanks for the step by step directions and tips! I’m going to try this on my basement door. Christina ~

  14. Christine

    The door looks great! What finish polyurethane did you use? Was that a satin? Thanks!


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