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I am SO PLEASED to be bringing you this before and after today. Not only because it’s the next big reveal of the house exterior makeover, but because I made my own tongue and groove boards! And installed them myself! And it made me feel so badass, I can’t even tell you how proud I am that I accomplished THIS:

me standing next to my new tongue and groove garage door that I built myself

I’m tellin’ ya: if you’ve never picked up a power tool before, this project is likely to be one I’ll point you back to over and over again. Because I faced challenges. I went through plans A, B, C, and D. I learned how to use a tool that intimidated me. I doubted myself and my abilities so. many. times. during this process. But I overcame them, and sitting on the other side, I want EVERYONE to feel the way I felt when the dust settled and I had a brand new garage door that I MADE.

I made this stack of tongue and groove boards myself

Disclosure: This project was sponsored by Cabot Stain. All words and opinions are 100% my own. Hope you enjoy!

But I’ll get to the DIY instructions soon enough in another post (I started typing and realized there’s so much to cover, and best to do them in separate posts!). Let’s do the fun part first — the big, juicy, before and after!

Before: matchy-matchy cedar siding (sNORE)

I promised you just a couple weeks ago when revealing the new house paint that there would be more transformations to the exterior. In reality, the house paint actually happened a couple of months ago, but I’ve been way behind at getting updates on the blog (you may have noticed a new logo and website redesign, which took up a lot of my non-baby-caring time!). In fact, I knew that because I needed to reveal this garage door project on a deadline, I had to get the house paint post up so they could be revealed chronologically. During the paint job, I specifically told the house painters not to worry about the garage door or the front porch (which is why the paint in those places might look a liiiiittle off) because I had a few DIY plans up my sleeve, and this is the first one to share!

before - white siding on garage door

After: a Renewed look with cedar tongue and groove

After a few ups and downs (more on that below), my garage door is nearly done and ready for its blogging debut:

after - new cedar garage door and white siding

Incredible, right? The rich brown of the Australian Timber Oil I used from Cabot really takes the newly painted exterior to the next level!

I’ve been imagining warm cedar accents to the exterior for a while now, and I decided to go all-in with a bold statement and transformed the garage door first. Initially, the plan was to re-use the existing cedar siding that already covered the garage — removed and flipped to the aged cedar side, stain it, and reattach in a new configuration. The painter told me the siding was still in decent shape and I should be able to salvage it in some way. All I would need to do is ensure that I removed the paint (whether flipping to the other side to use the back, or sanding down and staining the front, the wood would need to be bare on the back for temperature and moisture fluctuations).

You know what they don’t have out there on the web? “How to remove cedar siding without damaging it.” I looked it up and found out (not that I’m all that surprised) most people don’t remove siding with the intention of putting it back up, so no one has really bothered to create a tutorial for it. So, I’ll be posting that directly after this post so you have that supplemental info, just in case! Not only that, I’ll also be making other posts on this whole process (I’ll come back to this post and link them as they go live):

  • Our front garden makeover (from a weedy mess to wildflowers implementing our tidy garden plan!)
  • How to remove cedar siding
  • How to make your own tongue and groove boards with a router table
  • A more detailed tutorial about the nitty gritty of creating this garage door

As you might imagine, all of those details are… a lot. I realized if I didn’t break them up, you’d be sitting here long after your work day is over and still reading about my garage door. Which I know is fascinating (/s), but even I have my limits.

How to Revamp a Cedar Garage Door

1. Make a detailed plan, but be prepared to make changes.

First things first: you need to know how my plans changed as I went! I feel like this gets glossed over in DIY so much, almost to the point where people pretend everything went exactly as smoothly as they envisioned. I completely get why it often goes unsaid; we DIYers don’t like to admit or look like we don’t know what we’re doing, and it makes for a better tutorial to magically have all the answers. But, you already know that’s not my style — I think sharing my process below may help those of you who feel discouraged. We learn, we adapt, we press forward (maybe after a little swearing), and the most crucial step is in that determination, we get it done!

PLAN A (reuse the siding): In the end, I wasn’t able to save every piece, and given how pricey new wood is right now, I realized that having old wood and new wood mixed together might not ultimately give me the end result I really wanted. Plus, I had to solve a few challenges before that would even be possible: I would have to find a way to rework the wood so it could be mounted flat, rip it down so that it wasn’t the same width as the white painted siding next to it (I wanted to avoid it staying matchy-matchy, so that meant thinner strips, but I don’t have a table saw OR the best track record with my circular saw for straight lines), repair splits, sand off the old paint, fill in old holes, etc. Which meant I could potentially invest money in a path that didn’t work and didn’t give me the look I was going for, only to have to then spend money on new wood and change course. I decided to jump to the likelier outcome and invest in a completely new look. I still have lots of the old siding saved and a new project in mind for how to use it, so all is not lost there!

back of old salvaged cedar siding

PLAN B (simple 1×4 slats): I next thought to simply stack and attach each piece of 1×4 horizontally, did the math on how many pieces I needed and bought them, only to rethink it the next morning when I realized I could be making the beginner woodworking mistake of not planning for wood movement. I asked a friend who advised me that potentially, the 1x material was just enough thickness that it could dry out and warp with the sun hitting it, and that might turn into total disaster if I relied on nails alone. So, I then came up with a new plan: tongue and groove would keep each piece aligned with each other. And I had a router!

PLAN C (tongue and groove with existing router and new bit): After I bought the tongue and groove bit that would surely solve my problem, I then realized that the bit didn’t have the right size collet to fit in either of the routers I already had! And with so few routing projects under my belt, I may not be able to keep things steady enough to cut these boards well (and making a mistake on boards would get pricey if I had to but lots of extras). With no collet with the correct size locally available (deadline!!), I couldn’t simply run out and solve my router problem. Thankfully, as a sponsored project, I could justify the investment in a new tool that I have also been wanting to get for a while: a router table (which I can also use for some drawers I’m building, so this more or less gave me the push to just buy the thing I already needed!).

PLAN D (tongue and groove with a new tool!): After what seemed like a million little hiccups finally being resolved, I set myself up a little station outside of the garage (where, coincidentally, K was also reorganizing and emptying the entire garage so we can finish the walls and get a proper workshop going). There was a little bit of a learning curve to get the cuts right, so I practiced a number of times on scrap wood before I took the plunge and cut all of my boards down: groove on one side, tongue on the other. It was a success and the pieces actually fit together flat! WIN!

learning how to run boards through my new router

2. Remove the existing siding

I’ll have a dedicated post to this, but I found that slow and steady was the way to go. And I know someone will ask why I didn’t start at the top, and the short answer is: I tried! The nails in the top were really stubborn. This way worked better for me.

removing the old siding from the garage door

3. Replace the old insulation.

We also realized during the siding removal process that the old insulation was in pretty bad shape (full of gouges and holes!), so for a few more bucks, I replaced it all and am replacing the seal around the sides and bottom. It should allow us a more comfortable space to work in. It could all be in my head, but I think I’ve already noticed a more comfortable change in temp in the garage at night (I spent a few nights in there cleaning up the boards as I prepared for install).

collage of garage door with old insulation, demo down to the frame, and new insulation

4. Make (friendly) fun of your opponents

Oh yeah — this whole project was part of a “DIY Duel” challenge with two other woodworkers on Instagram! If you don’t know these guys already, you may want to check out Scott and Stephen. They made this whole project a little more fun because Cabot and Minwax gave us a deadline, we got to do a little smack talking, and it gave me a little extra oomph to not look like a fool as I faced off with more experienced woodworkers. Scott and I both did outdoor projects while Stephen worked on an indoor one, the intent being that stain can be useful both indoors and out. Having that deadline was probably the biggest determining factor in how resilient I was when I ran into hiccups that left me (more than once) feeling defeated. Failure and flailing and throwing a hammer at the wall wasn’t really an option, so I had to pick myself up and try again!

If I do say so myself… I knocked this challenge out of the park. Sure, an Adirondack chair is nice and all, but c’mon — my project left them in the (saw)dust. ;)

5. Apply tongue and groove boards to the door.

I made each board by running a 1×4 through the router table, first on one long edge and then on the other. Be sure to wear a dust mask and hearing/eye protection — it kicks up a lot of dust fast!

progress on installing the cedar tongue and groove starting from the bottom

After cleaning up the edges, I then started tacking each one to the frame of the garage door, checking for level as I went. It’s common to toe-nail tongue and groove boards to hide the nail holes, but after I couldn’t get a good enough hold on the first few boards, I nailed the faces of the boards instead in a straight line where the frame was. With the stain I was planning on using, I knew that the nail holes wouldn’t be very visible anyway.

closeup of new stain on new garage door boards

6. Apply stain

To help protect the new cedar, I decided to treat it with Cabot® Australian Timber Oil®. It only required one coat to deposit the color you see in these photos, plus the oil treatment is formulated to protect against extreme exposures and create a lasting UV-absorbent surface (which this door will definitely experience!). I don’t particularly love the way outdoor clear coats usually look on cedar as it ages because it tends to turn a little yellow or gray, so I chose to go with Jarrah Brown, which I LOVE. And color choices are so hard! At first, I was actually really nervous to apply it because I knew there was no going back, and the tint looked a little more orange than I expected on that first swipe. I almost started to second-guess myself, but in just a few days, I can see that the brown is already starting to meld with the different tones in the cedar, and it’s going to age even better! I can’t wait to add the same stain when I wrap the porch columns and redo the porch ceiling. It’s going to look so GOOD!

can of australian timber oil with garage door behind

If I weren’t doing this project with the intention of a big reveal, I would have applied the stain board by board and then nailed it to the door. This would have probably worked better to get the stain in between the boards where the tongue is slightly exposed. If you’re staining all at once, I highly recommend using both a foam pad and a small foam brush to get in between the boards.

And there you have it! In just a few weekends of hard work, I have a new garage door! The house is really starting to look so pretty. Is this really the same house I’ve been living in all these years? Stay tuned for more!

garage door with the rest of the house in view

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3 Comments

  1. I’m loving the exterior transformations! The new paint color looks so much happier than the brown and the stained garage door looks amazing. Using the same stained wood to trim out the porch will really tie everything together – the stone will look like a featured element rather than something you’re working around.

    Two questions:
    Any thoughts of using stained wood in place of painted trim around the front door?
    Why not traditional haint blue for the porch ceiling? I’d be afraid the stained wood might feel heavy and oppressive.

    Can’t wait for the next update! Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

    1. I’ve tried traditional haint blue and never wound up finishing it, so this is an idea I want to try next! And no, I hadn’t considered wood trim around the front door! But with the rest of the trim around the windows and doors being white, I think I’ll probably keep it white to match. Thanks for the ideas.

      1. I guess my thought was to set the front door apart from any other door by using stained rather than pained wood trim. Plus all the long verticals on your front porch would have a consistent look if the porch posts and door trim were all stained wood.

        But both the door trim and porch ceiling can be changed without redoing the entire exterior so you have options in case you change your mind about the initial design choices.

        Thanks again for sharing and being an inspiration!