Painting Steel Garage Doors: Give Your Door Curb Appeal For Under $100

Applying a fresh coat of paint can give your faded garage door some much needed curb appeal. It can also extend the longevity of the door by protecting against corrosion. Before starting an overhead door painting project you need to keep a few things in mind.

The finish provided by the manufacturer is going to be better quality than any paint application you decide to pursue. Factory finishes involve paint coats that are baked on to the metal surface. They also have precision paint quality through an industrial grade spray gun assembly – ensuring a consistent coat throughout the entire door section.

Even factory finishes age over time given enough exposure to dirt, grass, debris and road salt. When older paint finishes fade and eventually starting dissolving you will notice chalk like powder or film covering the exterior. This is a good sign that your garage door needs a thorough washing, resurfacing and paint application.


How long should garage door paint finishes last?

A factory applied steel door paint application and seal finish should last 15-20 years. External factors like exposure to weather, sunlight and man made elements can influence the lifespan. Road salts in cold climates along with exposure to dirt and grass clippings wear down paint finishes. To extend the lifespan of your paint finish you can wash your overhead door seasonally and apply a spray on wax finish.

What is Light Reflective Value (LRV)?

LRV is an abbreviation for Light Reflective Value. This rating describes the amount of light absorbed or reflected off a painted surface. LRV scores range from 0 to 100 with a 0 score meaning 100% light absorption and a 100 score meaning 100% of the light is being reflected.

The outer surface of your garage door can get very hot if exposed to direct sunlight. This is even more of a factor if your garage door is a dark color like black, brown or green. Depending on the door manufacturer and door model, the paint used on your garage door must have a light reflective value (LRV) of at least 50% to avoid voiding your warranty.



1. Paint Primer & Tools


Should I prime my garage door before painting?

A bonding primer should be applied to your door surface first to help with the adhesion of the top coat of latex paint. Primers are recommended, but not always required so you will need to review the instructions and specifications on whatever paint products you choose. Here are some of the recommended primers:

  • Sherwin Williams DTM Bonding Primer
  • Sherwin-Williams Bond-Plex Acrylic Coating
  • PPG Seal Grip®

What paint should I use on my overhead door?

Premium exterior grade 100% acrylic latex based paint (flat, satin or semigloss) with a minimum 50% solar reflective value is recommended. Resilience Exterior Acrylic Latex paint by Sherwin-Williams® is recommended to ensure compatibility with factory finish.

  • Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint™ Exterior Paint with optional VinylSafe™ Technology.
  • PPG Manor Hall® Exterior Paint with optional SidingSafe™ Color Technology.
  • Sherwin-Williams Polane® Solar Reflective Polyurethane Paint (Professional Grade)


Protective GlovesSafety GlassesExtra Fine Sandpaper
Mean Green CleanerGarden HoseTowels
Painters TapeDrop ClothExterior Primer
Exterior Paint2” Nylon Paint BrushSawhorses
Paint Roller Tray Combo



2. Cleaning The Exterior Surface

Cleaning the exterior surface of your garage door should be done seasonally, but is especially important if you intend to paint your overhead door. Garage doors can get stained by dirt and grass clippings getting thrown up against the bottom panel. They are also prone to mildew buildup if they are in a damp and shaded location.

Using a garden hose you should first rinse off the exterior surface of the door and any visible dirt buildup. Power washing is not recommended, especially on wood doors where paint could chip off the surface.

After rinsing you should use a mild detergent like Dawn dish soap and water to clean the surface. If you are looking for a more powerful cleaning agent I would recommend Mean Green or Mr. Clean products. Light scrubbing can be done with a cloth, sponge or soft bristled brush. Mr Clean also makes a magic eraser for stubborn surface staining.

After scrubbing the surface with detergent or cleaning agent you should do a final water rinse off – DO NOT let the detergent dry or bake onto the surface of your door. After rinsing you could do a final wipe down with a dry cloth or simple let the surface air dry.


2. Removing The Factory Finish

New garage doors have an outer protective coating to seal the painted surface directly from the manufacturer. You will need to remove some of this coating along with any wax finishes you have applied yourself.

Garage doors don’t have a wax finish from the manufacturer, but its possible you may have done with yourself. If you have applied a coat of wax to you door it will have to be removed first. To accomplish this you will have to use a cloth saturated in xylene (xylol) to wipe down the surface. After a light scrubbing you will need to rinse the door down with water – do not let the xylene sit on the surface of the door for a long period of time.

The shiny protective coating on your garage door is a special seal from the factory. It helps keep your doors paint from fading and peeling.




Always follow the manufacturers instructions when painting garage doors in the field. Failing to do so will void your warranty and cost you time and money. A new coat of paint can freshen up the look of your overhead door and give your home much needed curb appeal. Steel and wood overhead doors can be painted using the correct materials and process.

New Garage Doors

When painting new doors always see if factory powder coating is available. If the cost is too high you can paint the doors yourself. Order the color of door that best matches the paint you will be using. Using a low grit sand sponge , gently wipe the clear coating on the door panels. Do not sand with force or you will strip the existing paint off. Clean all doors removing all dust, dirt and debris. Apply at least two light coats of premium exterior grade 100% acrylic water based paint.

Note: Repainting using dark colors like black and brown with a 50% light reflective value (LRV) voids most warranties, except when using VinylSafe paint products.

Old Garage Doors

Old garage doors show signs of sun damage frequently. Repainting old garage doors is a great do it yourself project if its done properly. Use Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) to remove dirt and grime that builds up on the face of the door. This can be purchased at most local hardware stores. Dilute TSP according to the instructions and wash the surfaces you intend to paint.  Using an exterior grade 100% acrylic water based paint, coat all surfaces lightly.