Treating your wooden gates, garage doors and external joinery

Like all exterior joinery, our wooden gates and garage doors need protecting from the extremes of the British climate if they are to last for many years. There are many types of treatments available, from paints to stains and oils.


Contents

Whats best for external joinery?

If you decide to oil your wooden gates or doors, then be aware that you could end up having to regularly apply additional coats of oil every 2-3 months to keep the timber in tip-top condition.

Of paints, steer away from ranch or fence paint as these are quite often made solely for rough sawn timber and will not adequately protect smooth planed timber. Gloss paints used to be the most common choice, but the main drawback with these products is that if water does penetrate the paintwork, then it won’t be able to escape effectively; if you’ve ever gone to repaint a window or similar that was previously coated in a gloss paint and found a paint shell on the exterior with rotten timber beneath it, then this is basically because moisture has gained access to the timber and not been able to be released.

Microporous? Moisture vapour permeable?

Our recommendations are microporous or moisture vapour permeable paints and stains; this basically means the paint or stains will allow the timber to breathe, stopping any moisture from entering the timber, whilst releasing any moisture already present. A good quality microporous paint or stain will also contain a UV (ultra violet) filter to help protect against damage caused to the timber by sunlight. Amongst the many makes and brands available, our favoured is Sikkens, which we have over thirty years’ experience of using. If used correctly, and according to the manufacturers instructions, you could get up to three years’ usage before having to re-coat your wooden gates or garage doors.

So which particular Sikkens product do we recommend?

As mentioned, our favourite is Sikkens, which is a translucent stain (i.e. you can see the wood-grain underneath but it does have a tint which acts as a UV filter) which comes in a variety of shades.

The Sikkens products that we recommend, after speaking to the very helpful people at Sikkens’ Technical Advice centre, are Sikkens Cetol HLS Plus as the base coat, with Sikkens Filter 7 Plus for the top coats. For more information on both the mentioned products, you can visit Sikkens’ website at the links below, where you can find technical data and information on the various shades available.

As well as the traditional Sikkens stains, which are available in a variety of timber shades (i.e. Mahogany, Oak), you can also source stains in a choice of colours from Sikkens’ Classic Collection – just make sure the colour you settle on is for outdoor use (as previously mentioned, Cetol HLS Plus and Cetol Filter 7 Plus).

To UV or not UV that is the question

As mentioned we recommend using stains that contain a UV filter, an often asked question is do Sikkens make a clear external stain that has a UV filter – the answer being no.

Others do manufacture clear stains with UV filters for external use, however after talking to the British Woodworking Federation we do not recommend these. Think of the stain as sun tan lotion – the darker the stain the greater the sun protection factor of the sun tan lotion!

You want a paint rather than a stain?

If you’re looking to paint your gates or doors rather than stain them, then there are a few paints that are micro-porous/moisture vapour permeable. The most notable being International Paints and Johnstone Paints, but having said that, with the experience we have of Sikkens, we would always recommend the aforementioned Sikkens over everything else!

How to paint or stain your wooden gates.


Before you hang your gates, you’ll need at least one coat of your chosen treatment; however, the more coats the better. Personally, I would always start by coating the rear of the gates.

Start with the areas shown in the picture that are marked with 1, coat the higher ares first and work down.

As you coat the area marked 1, also be sure to also coat the underside of any horizontal rails and top of any horizontal rails that border the area; also paint or stain the diagonal braces as you go.


How to paint wooden gates

Click to enlarge (Image from our Beaumaris driveway gates range)

Finish off the rear of the gates by coating the face of the horizontal rails marked as 2, before moving onto the stiles (vertical outer uprights) shown as 3. When painting or staining your wooden gate stiles, be sure to get a good covering on the joggles (pointy bits on the top corners) as these are timber end grains.

You then need to treat the front of the gates; to turn the gates around (if needed) grab a willing assistant and lift the gates using the underside of a rail (you can touch this up later, or leave a handhold unpainted for the time being; just remember to coat it before you start on the front of the gates). Then it’s simply a case of repeating the process as before, obviously leaving out the parts of the gate which are only on the rear.

To paint or stain the front of the timber gates, repeat the process, omitting any parts mentioned above that are only rear features of the gates (i.e. diagonal braces, various rails).

To finish off paint/stain the outside edges of the gate stiles.

Now I know, that if you’ve read all the way down, I’ve mentioned that you should coat all of the timber at once rather than leaving, say, the front of the gates to dry; how do you paint the very bottom of the gates? This is the one part that you can either leave until the rest of the gate is touch dry OR before you start painting/staining the gates, you can coat this area first; to use either method, it’s often easiest to tip the gates onto their sides, apply the paint, then lift them up the right way up (if doing this prior to coating the rest of the gates, then you’ll need to sit the gate on a couple of timber skids or packers to avoid them sitting directly on the floor).

How to paint or stain your wooden garage doors

Again as with wooden gates, timber garage doors should have at least one coat of your chosen treatment applied.

If staining wooden garage doors with windows, you’ll need to remove the glazing beads and get a coat of the paint or stain on where the glass would sit when fitted; I recommend starting on the rear of the doors and with this area first. The glazing beads will also need a coat, but they can be done once the doors are coated.

Moving onto the boarded area, shown as 1. Coat this, making sure to cover any other areas that border this (underside/top of any horizontal rails, inside edges of the stiles and diagonal bracing on the rear).

Next onto the Mullion and any glazing bars 2 (if applicable, for doors with windows only).

How to paint wooden garage doors

Click to enlarge image (Image from our Elwy garage doors range)

Horizontal heads & rails next 3 before finishing with the stiles 4.

Remember to turn the doors around so you can coat the alternate side and finish the process by painting or staining the outer edges of the stiles 4. Also, don’t forget to get a coating on the underside of the doors as well.

Any door frame should also be coated prior to fitting, paying close attention to the side that will sit against the wall.

Tips for painting or staining timber

You’ll need to get a coat of paint or stain on prior to fitting, the easiest way to do this is whilst the gates or doors are leaning against a wall – to avoid the whole of the painted area being in contact with the wall place a small piece of timber between the wall and the gate.

Whether you are painting or staining timber, make sure you coat both sides at the same time; the paint/stain manufacturers will tell you this and we certainly recommend it as they tell you for a reason…

For instance, if you paint/stain one side of a gate, garage door or door, leave it to dry BEFORE turning it around and painting the alternate side, you are risking the gate twisting or warping; this is because you have created unequal surface tension within the timber and also because the unpainted or unstained side of the gate/door/garage door will try and suck moisture in, which again will cause movement within the timber.

Hot to paint a gate before it is fitted

Once one side of the gate or door has been painted, spin it around, lean against a wall with a small piece of timber between wall and gate and then coat the unpainted side- saves getting paint everywhere!

Paint/stain the timber in the same direction as the grain, don’t paint across the grain.

Use the best brush for the treatment you are applying; for water based paints, use a synthetic brush as these do not absorb much water. For oil based treatments, natural brushes are the best. Don’t skimp and use cheap brushes, you’ll spend more time removing bristles from the surface of your newly treated woodwork than actually coating the timber!

Also, make sure you get a decent coating of paint/stain on any end grain of the timber; the end grain is the most susceptible to sucking in water; you’ll notice this when treating, as the paint or stain will soon soak into the wood.

As you paint/stain, watch out for any drips or runs and brush them out.

Why paint/stain the bottom of the gates or garage doors?


It used to be tradition in joinery to leave the very bottom underside edge unpainted or unstained in the belief that any water that did gain access to the timber would be released. However, with micro-porous or moisture vapour permeable paints and stains, there is no need to do this as they are made to release any moisture/water that has somehow gained access!

If you’ve found this at all useful, then have a heart and please share on the social media medium of your choice so others can use this guide!

Call Ted & The Team

For quality workmanship by time-served Joiners:

Call Ted & The Team on 01745 362444

or email a question to enquiries@woodworkersuk.co.uk

Comments

  1. Interesting that you use vapor permeable paints and that it stops moisture from entering the timber.

    I’m more familiar with using first a sealer and then something like a polyurethane topcoat to basically block out moisture and dirt. I’ve never considered allowing the timber to “breathe.”

    I wonder if it’s because of the type of wood you are using? I’m using mahogany.

    Dan

  2. If you’ve totally sealed the timber and moisture does gain access (through a scrape in the coating of sealer), then the moisture has nowhere to go. Using a micro-porous or moisture vapour permable product any moisture that manages to get into the timber will be released.

    We do use Mahogany from time to time and treat it exactly the same way as mentioned in the article above.

  3. hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

  4. potential customer says:

    as someone who lives in Cumbria where it is very wet, I cannot understand how something that lets water out will not let water in.
    we want our doors to be as similar as possible as existing wood work, which is painted a mid blue..
    How can we get the best treatment to protect our considerable investment in our climate to go with the rest of our timberwork?

    • It’s the microscopic make up of the product, the pores on the outside of the paint or stain are smaller than the pores on the inside of the coating thus the product has the ability to release moisture whilst stopping any moisture from gaining access. This is how Sikkens’ very helpful technicnal people explained it to us.

      If your’re looking for advice on Sikkens, then they do have a page within their website for contacting them with your questions (theres also a phone number if you prefer to contact them that way). You can get in touch with them at http://sikkens.trade-decorating.co.uk/information/contact/index.jsp

      Hope that helps!

  5. Alun Wilkie says:

    I plan to follow your advice with my new untreated redwood garden (side) gates, using Sikkens Cetol HLS Plus as a base coat, followed by Sikkens Cetol Filter 7 Plus as the top coats.

    However, I have been unable to find out if one should rub down the doors (sandpaper) between coats.

    The Sikkens Technical data sheets and FAQ don’t specify.

    Can you please advise?

    Many thanks,

  6. Peter Roberts says:

    I have gates made of Iroko hard wood which the previous owners finished from new with Danish oil.

    The weather side looks terrible and has blistered and peeled away but the other side is in good condition. What do you recommend I do – I would like to use a Sikkens product that is clear but they all seem to be stains requiring application to new wood not previously coated wood as mine is. Could I use a Sikkens product after a good sanding?
    Any advice would be welcome.

    • Hi Peter.

      Wouldn’t like to say yes go ahead and use Sikkens once you’ve given it a good sanding as I don’t honestly know how the Sikkens would react with any remaining oil that you’ve not been able to remove. Your best bet would be to give the Sikkens tech helpline a call and see what they say, you can get them on 01254 687 950. Whatever you treat the weathered side with, do the same on the opposite side too!

      Sikkens don’t do a clear external stain, as to get a decent UV filter you need a bit of colour tint.

      Hope that has helped – if so please give this page a share/like 🙂
      Jon

      • Peter Roberts says:

        Thanks for the advice Jon- I called the helpline and the advice was that I should not have used Danish oil in the first place. I would have to sand off at least 2mm and even then there may still be some wax remaining from the oil.

        I am left with a problem that requires I continue using the Danish Oil every 2 or 3 months.

        What a lesson to learn – The gate manufacturers apparently recommended the use of the oil!

        Never again.

        Peter

        • That’s why we don’t recommend it, has to be maintained far to frequently! It’s become quite fashionable to use due to programs like Grand Designs etc but they always fail to mention the maintenance required to maintain the protection of the timber.

  7. Brian Worsley says:

    Wanted to say a massive thank you for your advice on caring for the timber of smooth garden gate’s. Sikkens it is but the price!…….frightening!!!!!

  8. Henry Phillips says:

    Thanks for the advice. Looking at the Sikkens products, is it really necessary to use both to have an undercoat and topcoat or would 1 be sufficient in reality. Having both is going to be both time consuming and very costly! Thanks in advance for your advice.

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