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Thread: Building a Door

  1. #1

    Building a Door

    My daughter has an old wooden door at the back of her house. This is the outside door, not the main door. It is beat beyond just stripping and painting so I thought it would be 'fun' to build her a new one. To me it just looks like a cabinet door which I've made many of. Thicker (1-1/4) and bigger (85" x 32") but the joinery looks to be regular tongue and groove. There's two raised panels which I can make as well. Probably make it out of poplar and paint it. The opening at the top is for a 6 panel window which we are keeping and restoring. I plan to rout off the inside lip of the groove in that opening so we can set the window in there and then lock in with butterflies or similar.

    Advise? Tips? Talk me out of it?

    Scott WeltyIMG_6021.jpg

  2. #2
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    If maple isn't a significant amount more cost, it would be a better wood to make the door out of. I would advise painting the panels completely before assembly so the edges are protected from absorbing water.
    Lee Schierer
    Captain USNR(Ret)

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  3. #3
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    The construction may look like "regular tongue and groove" but it's most likely more complicated than that. Inside you'll likely find at least two large and long dowels in each stile/rail joint or a fairly deep mortise and tenon. Both are certainly within the capability of anyone who's built a bunch of cabinet doors, but you should pick one and incorporate it into the construction process. I'd agree that poplar is not a great choice for an exterior door as it will easily dent. It also has poor rot resistance but that's not a big concern if you build it to shed water, paint all the panels before glue up, and the paint is well maintained. Still, Douglas fir or even eastern white pine would be better choices. l

    John

  4. #4
    I've built a couple of interior doors. One challenge that might not be obvious (or maybe it is) is getting a flat, true surface over the 85" length. Even a gradual bend will cause problems with the door not shutting, latching, or sealing correctly. Not a big deal if you've got a decent jointer, or skill with a hand plane, but something to think about.

  5. #5
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  6. #6
    It may be 1 1/4 thick but interior doors are usually 1 3/8 and the standard for exterior doors is 1 3/4. If the jamb is set for 1 1/4 then that would dictate unless you want to change it.

    Dowel joints are the weakest I would consider. I prefer to use mortise and tenon and now that I have a domino XL I would do it with loose tenons. But you can put the dowels in after assembly with spline joints. You can even use really big screws.

    Another simple technique without a lot of tools is to build the doors in layers. Two half inch layers sandwiching a 1/4 layer would make a 1 1/4 inch door, for instance. Multiple pieces tend to stay straighter than one piece. The glue joints are also quite large this way so it will be strong. If you do this, I would make it a bit oversize and trim to final dimensions.

  7. #7
    Thanks to all! -
    Jim - I'm pretty sure this is 1-1/4 as its' actually an old screen door where you can put in the screen or put in the windows. The door inside this is certainly way thicker.

    I like the idea of making the members in layers. We'll see. . .

    Scott

  8. #8
    I say no on the poplar. It's about the worst choice possible for exterior work.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Welty View Post
    My daughter has an old wooden door at the back of her house. This is the outside door, not the main door. It is beat beyond just stripping and painting so I thought it would be 'fun' to build her a new one. To me it just looks like a cabinet door which I've made many of. Thicker (1-1/4) and bigger (85" x 32") but the joinery looks to be regular tongue and groove. There's two raised panels which I can make as well. Probably make it out of poplar and paint it. The opening at the top is for a 6 panel window which we are keeping and restoring. I plan to rout off the inside lip of the groove in that opening so we can set the window in there and then lock in with butterflies or similar.

    Advise? Tips? Talk me out of it?

    Scott WeltyIMG_6021.jpg
    Scott

    That is the exterior door for a two door entry set. it would have been either a screen door, or a storm door, or both. I can't see the detail of the upper section to see if it had removable panels for the seasons. I've rebuilt quite a few of these for old homes.
    John is correct, the door is not just long T&G joints. It will be T&G with 1/2" dowels, that are 5 to 6 inches long. Once removed, they will probably have some amount of dry rot to them, and need to be replaced.
    The glue will more than likely be hide glue unless it has been repaired in the past.Simple steaming of joints and light tapping will break up the joints, but you have to be careful and go slow.
    Unless the panels are damaged, reuse them. They will already be fitted, and will be a better material than available poplar. That panel is also not just for decoration. It's going to extend pretty deep into the rails and stiles,and fit tight to keep that door in plane when vertical. It also will be Qsawn for stability.
    Most of the material will more than likely be a tight grained spruce, or pine. Rails and stiles will be Qsawn to Riff sawn.
    I think you should rebuild it for no other purpose than to teach yourself how to build an exterior door properly.
    Unless you still have the actual hardware set, you'll need to go the salvage route and find a source for period hardware. That lock mortise is definitely not something you'll find parts for at a big box store.
    I've rebuilt doors a lot worse than that one! That one is in really good shape for it's age, and it has a very nice appearance. Make removable window sections for the seasons and you'll have a door to admire for another century.
    Last edited by Mike Cutler; 04-17-2021 at 9:27 AM.
    "The first thing you need to know, will likely be the last thing you learn." (Unknown)

  10. #10
    One more question: Where to get nice, straight grained Douglas Fir near Chicago? I assume the construction lumber you find at Home Depot, etc. is not what I'm looking for.

    Thanks again!
    Scott

  11. #11
    I never see douglas fir around here. Home centers have Southern Yellow Pine in structural members, particularly 2x12s, that would work well if reduced in thickness. SYP is pretty rot resistant and not bad to work with. I also recently bought some Cypress close to me that was inexpensive. It would be good for an exterior project, not sure about strength. I used it for drawer backs and sides in a dresser and it worked well for that. An issue with construction lumber is moisture content. It may be as high as 20% which will shrink more than wood sold for furniture which would normally be significantly under 10%. I got the cypress at the hardwood dealer I like. I went there to get some more cherry but I asked what he had that was inexpensive and would work for drawer sides and backs. He had poplar but the cypress was thinner so less planning required. You might try just asking your hardwood supplier what he has that would work well for an exterior door. Mine even has some imported wood now. Hard to know what they have without asking.

  12. #12
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    I'd avoid box stores altogether, construction lumber isn't a good choice for doors as much of it will move all over the place causing warping and a door that won't shut correctly. Call around and ask hardwood retailers for kiln-dried S4S 8/4 clear Eastern White Pine, Cedar, Spanish Cedar, White Oak, etc. You'll want to look for boards wide enough that will yield vertical grain heartwood material for at least the stiles.

    The trouble with exterior doors is that they're often exposed to significantly different climate conditions on each side so selecting a stable material is critical.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Welty View Post
    One more question: Where to get nice, straight grained Douglas Fir near Chicago? I assume the construction lumber you find at Home Depot, etc. is not what I'm looking for.

    Thanks again!
    Scott
    Johnson's Workbench in South Bend would have that. Or Hard Maple, QS White Oak, Cypress or Ipe. I'd call the South Bend store before driving out, they may have to get stock from their main mill in Michigan. Good folks.
    earl

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