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.
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.
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!
Do I need to seal the knots?
It used to be common to have to seal any knots with ‘knotting’ (shellac knotting solution) , this was to stop the knots present on the timber from releasing resin which in turn would bubble up under the paintwork which in turn would mean you having to recoat more often as the surface could become blistered.
Micro-porous paints work in a different way and knotting solutions are no required. Modern day paints and stains allow the resin to filter through the paint or stain so you won’t suffer blistering or bubbling on the surface. You can still over time get a build up of resin on the surface of your doors or gates, this can be wiped off using a lint free cloth with either meths or cellulose thinners.
Over time (around a year or so) the resin supply becomes exhausted so you’ll no longer have to clear any excess resin away.
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.
(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).
(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.
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!
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