In a few weeks we are traveling to Missouri to help our son finish out his
new home. Most of the task is hanging and finishing trim, and finishing
cabinets he is having installed. I am pretty comfortable with this part of
However, he has installed a fiberglass entry door with wood grain texture.
I have heard that is is possible to put a good, wood-like finish on one of
these doors using gel stains. I have also read and heard horror stories
about use of gel stains in this application. In surfing the internet I also
found some articles that discuss use of both gel and heavily pigminted oil
based stains with a poly top coat. Several articles mention oil based as
the recommended method. The process sounds a little like the old
"antiquing" process that my mother forced upon me in my teen years.
Any recommendations regarding technique, materials, etc. Also, what are
recommended products for "heavily pigminted" oil based stains? I'm not sure
of his stain color yet but I suspect it will be in the golden oak to light
Thanks in advance for help.
It took me six coats of PAINT to get the right color of red on my
fiberglass door. With gel stains, it never would have happened.
Good luck with the project, though. If it were me, I'd order a wooden
door, if the wood grain were important. Otherwise, a good acrylic
understanding the balance of time budget vs. project details...
Ron, I do a few of these a month. It takes a little time, but it isn't
too hard. If you want bulletproof, you can get the Thermatru finish
kit from someone that handles Thermatru doors. They have a great,
super heavy pigment stain in the kit, as well as gloves, a brush, and
some nice water based sealer. They have great colors and you can get
just about any effect you want with the kit.
For me, I still don't like the water based stuff compared to the
solvent, but so far no complaints.
With the other fiberglass doors out there, this kit will still work.
But if the people don't want to buy the kit (+/- $70) I use the Old
Masters line of gel stains. I warm up their "Dark Walnut" with "Dark
Mahogany" and get a really nice shade of brown with some tones in it.
Unlike many though, I usually stain twice to get the right color. I
put the stain in a container and thin it just a little (10%) with
mineral spirits as I have found that it dries too fast for me to get
the stain to pattern out like wood at the "joints". I put on two coats
and even it out rather than to put on one heavy coat to even things
out. I do not thin the second coats, and it is only put on quickly and
lightly as the gel on the fiberglass with redissolve itself making it
When I do lighter colors like you are looking at, I only do one pass
with the thinned gel product on a clean natural sponge. Make sure if
you cannot find a natural sponge that you find a sponge that does not
have an oil treatment on it to make it soft. If you cannot find one
without the oil on it, wash the sponge out with mineral spirits before
use. Staining will go really fast with a small sponge.
You can put just about any finish on the door you want after the stain
dries (don't be fooled by the label - wait 24 hours on the stain). For
the most part I use conversion lacquer but I have also used a lot of
DEFT brand polyurethane at client request. The DEFT finish is really
easy to handle. You can pad it, spray it, or brush it with great
results. Most of today's polys are pretty good.
DANGER: If you use a gel stain, you should be aware that like any
other stain, it will not really penetrate the resin. It simply sits on
top, just like most stains do. However, it will not bite into the
resin, so when you brush or pad a solvent based finish on the door over
the dried stain you can lift off the stain (hence the waterbased finish
in the Thermatru kit) with your paintbrush or pad. If you use solvent
based clear coat, I would strongly recommend spraying.
Here's a tip. Keep up the clear finish on the door as a fiberglass
door is almost impossible to refinish. I have tried a couple of times
and won't do it anymore. If the clear coat is in good shape I will
sand and shoot, but if it is in bad shape, forget it. The stains used
in the original finish can't be touched up without it looking nasty.
If the finish is shot on a fiberglass door, I sand all the loose stuff
off it, seal it with sanding sealer, and two-three coats of good
My pleasure, Ron.
I put on the lighter finishes with the sponge. It will flex and follow
the contours and profiles of the door, hold a decent amount of stain,
and with the sponge you can work the stain into the grain pattern on
the door. You won't need much pressure at all, and the correct
technique is to get a covering coat on an area, and then work like you
are taking most of it off with the sponge. Leave behind the color you
want, and any coloration (I like to leave a long streak of color here
and there like you would see on real wood) to make the door look like
it could be something other than a big slab of resin with coloring on
Dark stain is a different technique, but for the lighter colors you are
looking at it will work great. Try it on a piece of plywood or a board
before you start and you can judge how much stain your particular piece
of sponge will hold before you start. If you put a lot of stain in the
sponge it will be hard to handle and it will streak. It goes on so
fast with the sponge that you don't need to load up the sponge with
material, so resist that urge. And you will be surprised how far that
Old Masters will go. You will literally be using about 2 -3 (yup.. 2
-3 ) ozs per side if you are doing it correctly.
The Thrematru kit comes with a little six ounce can of stain in it, and
doing both sides, depending on the color saturation, I have never used
more than 75% of the can to do both sides and edges of a door before
Let us know how you do.
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