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Thread: Project: New "Front Door", as it were...

  1. #1
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    Project: New "Front Door", as it were...

    This one is a decidedly low-tech project. One portion of our home is a stone structure that reportedly dates to about the 1750s...not unusual in this area, either. There is a door on the front that was originally considered a "front door" but has been unused for the same for decades and will remain that way for both practical and safety reasons. We also put on a "very expensive" new front door back in 2008...it came with a 2200 sq foot addition. The actual door I'm referencing has deteriorated significantly since we bought the property in late 1999.

    IMG_7425.jpg

    I could replace it with another door but it's still not going to be used as a door as I stated and that keeps the potential for drafts in place. It would also be pretty involved because it's not a normal sized door height-wise. One other option I thought about was to wall it in with a window that matches those on either side, but putting a modern window in between two really old windows would look wonky and I'd also have to decide on whether to just frame it in completely or hire a mason to fill the opening with more limestone. Stone isn't an issue...there's a ton of it on the property...but the cost of the mason would be substantial and that's not a skill I really have, despite being a hard-core DIY person. So I decided to combine the ideas...I'm going to frame it in, but it's still going to look like a door. That preserves the look of the structure from the road, but seals it off for better energy efficiency. It's also reversible by a future owner if they so choose to invest in the necessary work to make the 3' tall steps safe again.

    I'm doing this low cost...with the exception of the one stick of PT 2x4 I needed for a bottom plate, the regular 2x4 material is remnants from the huge crate my CNC was shipped in and the face will be made from a sheet of MDO I have left over from a client project. I did order new glass for the light in the "door"...it's the same 20"x20" size as current but is insulated, double pane, low-e glass for $90 from an online supplier. I built the frame yesterday...

    IMG_7428.jpg

    I'll skin it today once I can dig out that sheet of MDO from behind a bunch of other sheets of plywood. I can then install it, sans glass, from the outside without even removing the existing door and work on making it pretty.

    While the tools in my shop are generally used for "fine woodworking", I have to chuckle about the big saw suddenly being used like a job-side saw, cross cutting two by fours...

    IMG_7429.jpg
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  2. #2
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    Great project, Jim. Love those old homesteads. If you’re inclined I’d like to see a full pic of that original wall.

    Yesterday I did some quick work replacing a few boards that frame our dock. I too enjoyed pulling out the “rough construction” tools. Was quite enjoyable.

  3. #3
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    I'll get you a photo in a bit, Phil. I have the inside of the thing skinned and will be having Professor Dr. SWMBO help me move it out front so I can (hopefully) fit it into the opening. I plan on having a stout small sledge hammer available for that.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  4. #4
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    Phil, here's the front of the stone portion of the house. I think you can see why trying to replace the door with a wall and window would have been a challenge.

    IMG_7440.jpg

    Today was productive...I cut the street side skin out of MDO first and just clamped it to the frame before laying out where the window would be living.

    IMG_7432.jpg

    A router and a flush trim bit was used to remove the material in the window area. Note that the little boo-boo was because I inadvertently cut the skin one inch too long, so the pilot hole was, um...misplaced. But it will be under the window trim.

    IMG_7433.jpg IMG_7434.jpg

    Squared up the corners of the window opening...and then unclamped and set the outer skin aside. It gets installed after the frame is in place and insulated as will be seen.

    IMG_7436.jpg

    The inside skin is made from left-over knotty pine plywood from my recent locker door project for a client. I had three narrow off-cuts that were big enough to cover the space. While the joints between the pieces wouldn't fall over structural members, I wasn't worried about it as that can be dealt with. The pieces were glued to the frame and each other with some 18 gauge brads holding things in place. I did use some clamps to tighten up the long joints while putting in the fasteners.



    IMG_7437.jpg

    After that setup for a little while, I flipped the whole thing over so I could glue in some narrow strips of material (more off-cuts of the same plywood) over the long joints to reinforce them into a single unit. Again, brads held things together.

    IMG_7438.jpg

    The window opening was cut out the same way and the skin was also trimmed flush with the frame at the same time.

    IMG_7439.jpg
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  5. #5
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    That was when the fun began. I sized this thing to be pretty close to tight in the opening. It was too tight in the opening. So I removed one layer of the existing trim on one side and up-top. That solved the tightness problem and a few shims took up the little bit of extra space. Since the frame on the street side was open, it was very easy to screw in place and "level" side to side, up and down and front to back.

    IMG_7441.jpg

    A little insulation...something that doesn't exist with the door that's being replaced which is cracked and in horrible condition...

    IMG_7442.jpg

    The MDO outer skin was then installed using screws around the window opening and some modest nails around the perimeter that sunk flush with the sheet goods. Yes, glue was also used.

    IMG_7443.jpg

    Tomorrow, I'll complete trimming this out (some scribing is required) and get some primer and one coat of the bronze paint on it. At that point, the rest of the work will wait until the window glass arrives. The opening will be covered and the original door remains in place for security.

    This new faux door is set out farther than the original door in the 18" thick stone wall, but will still retain the look from the road. When I finish out the inside, I may or may not take advantage of that in some way...time will tell.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 05-16-2020 at 8:53 PM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  6. #6
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    Thanks Jim, lucky you. Great structure. Of course they come with their own set of challenges, but sure is nice it wasn’t just torn down and replaced. Good call on the door. I think it really is the best aesthetic solution. Nice job.

  7. #7
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    That stone structure likely has an interesting history, Phil. While there's no hard assurance/providence that it's true, we are told by a local historical organization that a good many of the limestone structures in our area were part of a huge estate deeded by William Penn to a family named Paxton, after Penn absconded with the land from the native Americans. (one local tribe still lives on the mountain up behind us...they own a local security company) All of these structures were built by the same mason based on "tells" in the size/proportion and style of stone laying. The largest of those structures is a home on a very large property that's currently for sale for about $10M. Our little stone structure element was likely a residence for farm workers because it actually has a basement. Clearly from the lintel over the door I'm working with, there was a double door, too. The downstairs is two rooms that were originally open to each other other than split by a stairway and the upstairs was a single room, although it's divided into two with thin 3/4" thick tongue and groove walls on either side of the stairway currently. There is evidence under our kitchen in a crawl space (part of a 1950s era construction based on balloon framing with amazing heart pine full 2x4 studs) of a small kitchen that was part of or added to the original stone structure. There are four time "generations" in the total structure of our home...1750s (presumed), 1950s, early 1980s (great room with barn beams) and 2008. (2200 sq ft addition we put on)

    The previous owners did find Revolution era coins and buttons from time to time when gardening around this stone structure.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 05-17-2020 at 10:21 AM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #8
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    Well, alrighty now...productive day on this project. Trim installed and painted.

    I had to do a little scribing on the vertical trim relative to the stone work, particularly on the right side. I did the marking and made the initial cuts in the shop and then took a rasp with me to fine tune the fit...slow and careful so I didn't overshoot. Once that was accomplished, I sealed the ends of the vertical trim boards and the horizontal bottom piece with epoxy to prevent moisture wicking from the concrete threshold.

    IMG_7455.jpg

    The outer trim went in easily with all that pre-fitting

    IMG_7456.jpg

    The next job was to create the trim border for the window. That assembly needed to be sized so that there is a rim that makes it smaller than the rough opening since it will contain the glass in the faux door. The bottom rail was relieved with a chamfer bit so that it wouldn't hold water and the corners were squared using hand tools. Yup...I do use them!

    IMG_7457.jpg IMG_7459.jpg

    The frame was assembled using glue and pocket screws. Since my auxiliary bench is holding up "some stuff"...I just placed the insert I made for pocket screw drilling on the outrigger of my slider and drilled a few holes, and retired to the bench to put it all together.

    IMG_7461.jpg IMG_7460.jpg

    Oh, look...it actually fits. I guess I will mention that this is probably the "most level door" in the house other than in the 2008 addition.

    IMG_7462.jpg

    And then it was time to slather on some paint. I'm EXTREMELY pleased at how this looks now that it's painted...it literally looks almost identical to the original door, especially after I tacked some narrow vertical strips of wood to the faces before applying the paint. Those shadow lines really pop.

    IMG_7463.jpg

    At this point, this project is on hold for further work until the glass is received. When that arrives, I'll pop it in from the inside and seal it up which finishes all of the external work. And then the fun begins making the inside make sense.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  9. #9
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    Beautiful home
    Some Blue Tools
    Some Yellow Tools
    And a Pet Grizzly
    ShapeokoXL
    Blue and White 50 Watt

  10. #10
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    That looks great, Jim. I can now see where it was once a double wide door. The mason did a super job closing it up to a single door.

    Thanks for the history. From what very little I know of PA history, the Paxton boys didn’t do the Native Indians any favors either.

  11. #11
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    Thanks, Clark.

    Thanks, Phil. And you are correct...the local natives of the various Lenape groups were greatly affected by "new world settlers". Interestingly, there are many parks, schools and roads named for them, but few of the peoples remain. On the masonry, yea, it's thankfully subtle, but the combination of the wide header (which is a tree trunk that was hand hewn "squarish" and the faint mortar lines do show what the original opening was like back in the day. What the actual door configuration was is certainly a mystery, however.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  12. #12
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    Stonework

    Looks great jim.if only those stones could talk.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by jim sauterer View Post
    Looks great jim.if only those stones could talk.
    Yea, really...."Oh, my..." would likely be something we'd be saying a lot! LOL
    -----

    I was going to put a pause on this project until the new insulated glass arrived, but this morning I cleaned out the area around the inside and took a chance that perhaps I could make the window from the old door temporarily work. I was correct in that assessment... after trimming it on two sides, I was able to get a very snug press fit which means I can get started with "doing the thing" on the inside. I can see why that old door was such a mess. Whomever built it just laminated 3 layers of 3/4" tongue and groove material ... with the joints lined up even. What a mess. I'll comment later on today's actual activities.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  14. #14
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    As noted in my previous post, I found that I could use the window from the original door temporarily while waiting for the new glass to arrive, so I proceeded with the interior work for this project yesterday. It was again a very productive work session. One point...while this certainly isn't a "fine woodworking" type project like a piece of furniture, the same attention to measuring and fitting is required to get a nice looking end result. This is especially true for fitting things into an existing structure that's not, um...square and level. Trim carpentry is an art not unlike what we all do in our shops, sometimes with more challenges due to the environment. Surprisingly, most of the components I had to cut for finishing out the interior were actually rectangles in the end which clearly cut down the time required to complete the task.

    After ripping the original door apart, I measured the existing window component and determined I needed to take of about .375" from two sides to make it fit snugly into the rough opening in the new "door". That was a simple task after making sure there was no metal (nails) near the edges.

    IMG_7467.jpg

    A little banging with a hammer and it was in there and not going anywhere on its own...there wasn't even any need to screw in scrap to hold it in place.

    IMG_7468.jpg

    At that point, a whole bunch of measurements were taken to determine the side for the filler components to trim out the and hide the nasty old door frame, etc. I used a scrap board to provide a reference edge as I did this process because the outer trim wasn't exactly parallel to the wall. The outer edges were "thicker", as it were, and the existing trim was not going to be removed due to the danger of damaging the plaster. A thin cap will be used as will be shown in the end. I truly lucked out here in that top and both sides measured out at 6.5". (yea, I actually worked in Imperial for this project, despite my preference for metric these days ) That meant those three components didn't need any angles cut to keep the projecting edges "flush" with the outside edges of the existing trim.

    IMG_7469.jpg

    I installed these components with screws as close to the "door" as possible as the edge of the panels against the door helped keep them at ~90º from the "door" while the outer, projecting edge floated away from the uneven structure under it. The trim that caps it later keeps it that way.

    IMG_7470.jpg

    With the top piece in, the one at the bottom had to be done next since the side pieces fit between them. The bottom was more of a challenge because this piece was covering a piece of sloping concrete and a rim joist that's in "not so great" condition. IE...level isn't in the vocabulary of what's under this panel. After cutting it to side so it fit the space, it took a bit of time to determine the best combination of shims to make this piece level to the world (although not level to the existing structure) so it could be fastened to that rim joist with a few finishing nails.

    IMG_7471.jpg

    Sides were next and there was only a .0625" difference in height. They went in snugly and were also secured as close to the "door" as possible with screws for the same reason as was mentioned for the top panel. The top and side panels were created with the remaining off-cuts of the MDO that was used for the outside door skin and the bottom panel was a piece of leftover plywood from some shelving project done long ago.

    IMG_7472.jpg

    Here's where things are at this point...

    IMG_7473.jpg
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  15. #15
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    As mentioned, the original trim was not going to get removed and replaced because there is great danger in damaging the plaster walls. The internals installed in the previous post were done such that there was an even 4.125" between the outside of the existing trim and the inside edge of the new material lining the doorway. I ran out to the local independent lumber yard and obtained a couple of 1x6 boards (as clear as possible) and brought them to the shop to make the caps that would span this space to trim out the project. These boards were cut to approximate length and then re-sawn so they could be thicknessed to .25" for the caps. They are thin so that the overall thickness of the trim doesn't materially exceed the rest of the trim in the room. In fact, the other doorway toward the back of the structure is trimmed in 1" material so this doorway would now match that one with the caps.

    IMG_7475.jpg

    Once that trim was installed, a tapered piece was needed to flush out the bottom panel to the front of the new trim before a threshold could be made to complete the work. Fritz & Franz helped with that....5" thick on the left tapering to .25" on the right. While I mentioned that everything was pretty even previously, there was some minor deviation on the left side trim vs the new "door". It's an old structure. So the tapered piece adjusts for that.

    IMG_7477.jpg IMG_7478.jpg IMG_7479.jpg

    I've fashioned a threshold but still need to do some fine fitting work on that. It also has a taper, but in thickness rather than protrusion, because of the floor. 1.25" tall on the right and 1.125" tall on the left. That said, this looks really good. While I originally thought I might need some quarter round to clean up the joints between the trim out and the "door", that is not the case. A tiny bit of caulk before painting will deal with what is essentially only a hairline crack and that's mostly at the top. Work truly does stop now until the glass arrives and I can trim out the opening once it's in place.

    IMG_E7481.jpg

    So I guess I do have to get to cleaning the shop now...after mowing the lawn. LOL
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 05-19-2020 at 9:26 AM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

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