How Do You Get Rid of Rust on a Garage Door
Tips & Tricks

How Do You Get Rid of Rust on a Garage Door?

Most metallic garage doors are made of painted steel. It is strong and cheap compared to other stainless solutions like aluminum and stainless steel. While a steel garage door will keep the baddies out for a while, it will begin to rust if not taken care of.

ProTip: Modern garage doors are increasingly made of rust-resistant alloys. People are moving towards active security features, and heavy steel doors might not be necessary anymore.

Deal With Rust As Soon As You See It

Rust spreads very fast on sheet metal. If you notice it, chances are it is taking root and will damage a considerable part of your garage door should you leave it unattended.

Be extra cautious if you live in the coastal region. The high humidity and salty air accelerate rusting. The same applies if you live where the local government uses salt to melt snow on the roads. Salt is a catalyst, and your steel garage door will rust faster.

How to Get Rid of Surface Rust on a Garage Door

If the rust is still on the surface and hasn’t poked any holes into the door, you can get away with some cleaning, sanding, priming, and painting. Here is what to do to get rid of the rust and protect the door.

  1. Fill a bucket with warm water and add some dish soap to create lather
  2. Use a large sponge or rag to wash off any dirt, pollen, and grime accumulated on the door. This wash cycle won’t get rid of the rust. So don’t spend too much time scrubbing it
  3. You can use a soft bristle brush for better results
  4. Rinse the door and wait for it to dry
  5. Fill a small bucket with white vinegar and soak a small clean run in it
  6. As it soaks, use a steel wool pad to scrub and clean off the rusty spots.
  7. Alternate between using the steel wool and wiping with the vinegar-soaked rug until the rust is gone
  8. If the rust is too much for the steel wool pad, consider using medium grit sandpaper to loosen it up (or gently use a wire wheel on an electric drill for faster cleaning)
  9. Get a small piece of medium-grit sandpaper and sand the area damaged by the rust and some spots around it
  10. Wash it down with vinegar again and let it dry

Once the spot dries and all the rust is visibly gone, it is time to treat it with a rust-preventing primer. Zinc chromate primer will be a good solution.

Use a paintbrush to cover the sanded area with the zinc chromate primer. Be keen not to apply the primer to already painted and non-sanded surfaces

Let the primer dry for the recommended time before painting over it with a color that matches the garage door

ProTip: Color matching old paint with new paint is tricky. A more aesthetic treatment would be painting the whole door. Instead of spot sanding the affected areas:

Sand down the entire garage door. A power sander might make the job faster and easier

Apply primer to the entire garage door

After the primer dries, you can apply coats of paint to perfectly seal the door and protect it from rusting while making it look marvelous.

How to Fix a Rusted Through Garage Door

When left untreated, rust can eat through your garage door, poking holes and causing structural damage. Having the bottom of a garage door rusted out is common since the bottom is in contact with water and other accelerants most of the time.

If it is rusted through, no amount of cleaning and vinegar treatment will fix the problem.

You will have to patch up the damage and repair the door before priming and painting it.

Is All Garage Door Rust Damage Repairable?

No. Some damage will heavily deteriorate the door making it more practical to rebuild or replace the door.

You can repair small spots of damage. However, if the door is damaged to the extent that its structural integrity is compromised or over 40 percent of the door is lost to rust, it is time to get a replacement.

Patching Up a Rusted Through Garage Door

Fixing a rusted-through door is not a beginner DIY task. You will need some power tools, handy skills, and, most importantly, sheet plate welding skills.

If you don’t have these, consider getting a professional to help you patch up your door.

Otherwise, here is an overlook of what you should do.

  1. Start by cleaning the entire door with warm soapy water to get an idea of what you are dealing with
  2. Identify spots with superficial rust and use the steps in the superficial rust treatment section we addressed above.
  3. Identify rusted through spots and mark them for different treatment
  4. Using an angle grinder, grind off the rusted and brittle metal around damaged spots until you get to unrusted parts
  5. Softly grind an inch around the now open spot created by sanding off the rust damaged section
  6. Cut pieces of equal thickness sheet metal such that they roughly fit the holes you want to repair
  7. Smoothly weld the patches onto the metal door. Be keen to use a strong, thin, consistent weld that is almost watertight (or watertight if you are good enough)
  8. Sand down the joint to get rid of jagged edges and make it as smooth as possible
  9. Apply epoxy primer to the freshly sanded surface and let it dry
  10. Once it dries, apply automotive body filler and sand it to create a smooth and continuous look.

ProTip: Steps #7 and #10 will determine how flawless the repair will look. A professional can merge the repair to the rest of the surface, leaving no bumps or jagged edges. The door will look fabulous after painting, and you won’t realize it was patched up at one point.

Once you’re done with the body filler and comfortable with the finish, you can clean off any powdery residue and apply zinc chromate primer before applying paint of your choice.

What To Use When Removing Rust From a Metal Garage Door

Sandpaper, a steelwool pad, vinegar, and some elbow grease (or an orbital sander) are more than enough to remove rust from most metal garage doors—a power sander or a wire wheel that makes rubbing off the rust spots easier.

If you want to go the easy way, you can opt for commercial rust removers. These are unique chemical solutions designed to dissolve and wash away rust. While you will still have to sand down the surface, you won’t spend as much time doing it as you would when using vinegar.

Some of the best rust removers to try out include:

Can You Paint Over Rust on a Garage Door?

No. You should never paint over rust. Even though the rust might be out of sight, it will continue damaging the metal surface. Moreover, the paint has nothing to bond to and will begin peeling off very soon.

There is no shortcut if you want a long-term solution. Follow the correct procedure of rubbing off the rust, priming the surface with rust resisting primer, and then painting it for a smooth and professional finish.

How to Prepare a Rusty Garage Door for Painting

Preparing a rusty garage door for painting involves dissolving and removing the rust, using the correct primer, and applying paint.

We have already given the steps on how to treat surface rust and rusted through garage doors. Check out the sections above for a detailed guide on preparing your rusty garage door for painting.

When Not To Fix Garage Door Rust

Fixing garage door rust is the most responsible thing to do. However, ignoring it and calling the manufacturer is wiser if your garage door has a rust warranty.

Some manufacturers are confident of their rust treatment and will issue a five-year or more warranty against rust.

Just ensure you take good care of your door and don’t mistreat it in a way that would damage the rust protection layers, as this will void the warranty.

How to Prevent a Metal Garage Door From Rusting

The easiest way to deal with rust on steel or iron garage doors is to prevent it from happening in the first place. While preventing rust might sound like a tall order, it is simpler than treating and repairing rust spots. You have to do it more often.

Here are the top things you must do to prevent your iron or steel garage door from rusting.

Keep Your Garage Door Clean

Clean garage doors have fewer rust catalysts on them. Salt from the road, dirt, and grime make it easier for the protective paint and weatherproofing to get rubbed off, exposing the metal to rusting.

On the other hand, mud and moss keep the door damp, hence making conditions more favorable for rusting.

Cleaning your door often leaves it pristine, making it dry up faster after rain hence reducing the time conditions are favorable for rusting.

Lubricate Moving Parts

Sometimes, garage door rusting doesn’t start on the bottom panels only. It starts in moving parts that rub each other as you open and close the garage door.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the pulleys or rollers. It also applies to metal edges that rub against something as the door closes or opens.

This could be the side edges of the door or the very bottom panel that will rub against the ground briefly in overhead doors or constantly in-swinging doors. Lubricating and constantly inspecting these heavy-use surfaces for any damage will help you repaint or lubricate in time before rust sets in.

Wax Your Door

Wax is a great transparent protective barrier that does a great job at protecting automotive paint jobs. Its protective qualities will also come in handy when applied to a garage door.

It will make the door look glossy and pristine and prevent salt and dirt from making contact with the door’s paint. This keeps the steel or iron from exposure to rusting conditions.

Don’t wax the aluminum components of your door.

Paint or Touchup Your Garage Sooner than Later

Finally, retouching the paint on your garage door often or as soon as you see some substantial damage will keep the rust off.

Garages see a lot of physical use. It’s not uncommon to find a couple of scratches on the door after a year.

Don’t let these scratches sit untreated. They will be the rust starting points.

The factory finish on a good-quality garage door is remarkably resilient. It will last for anywhere between five and ten years if not physically damaged.

However, you should do spot rust treatment and paint treatment to take care of any scratches as soon as possible.

If your door is older than this or has been painted once, consider painting it more often. I would do it once a year or as soon as the paint starts flaking. It depends on how well the door was painted after this and the quality of paint used.

What Metal Garage Doors Don’t Rust?

Steel and iron garage doors are susceptible to rusting unless you take really good care of them. If you don’t have the time to keep painting and priming, you could opt for an alternative like:

  • Wood: Wood will not rust. It is aesthetic and classic. However, it does not have the same weight to strength ratio as steel. You can only have swinging wood garage doors.
  • Aluminum frame and panel: Aluminum is an excellent alternative to steel. It is lighter than wood and can build different opening style doors. However, it is weaker than steel, and the panels are easier to dent.
  • Fiberglass garage doors: Fiberglass creates ultra-light garage doors that rarely dent or crack. They never rust but can easily break on impact. Most fiberglass doors will still have a bonded steel frame that is well protected by the insulation and fiberglass and will not rust unless the door is damaged.
  • Vinyl garage doors: Another approach of wrapping a steel frame in a protective and attractive layer. The frame sits inside a polyurethane protective layer and vinyl that keeps off moisture and other rust conditions.

Bottom Line

Steel doors, despite their rust problem, are the most common and traditional garage doors. They give you different installation options and are perfect if you want to automate the door.

With some primary care and rust treatment, they can last for ages, offering your home one of the best protection you could ever get from standard garage doors.