Wooden porch door renno
I’ve set aside a couple of furniture projects mid-stream to help out a family friend (widow of one of my best friends) with a problem she has with a wooden, exterior porch door circa 1948. “Helping a friend out.”
The short story is that over time, the door sagged. It looked to me to be a relatively straight-forward frame and panel “storm” or porch door. Undoubtedly of very high quality when it was made (as is the rest of the home.) She paid a shop to strip the paint with my “suggestion” to her that if the stripping process caused the joints to come apart, not to worry. I was sorta hoping the darned thing would come apart at the strippers… I think making the replacement parts that are needed would’ve been a touch easier for me. But, the ever-careful refinishing guy managed to do a fair job without so much as any of the joints getting any worse than they were.
The bad joints/wood are, of course the bottom rail. The stiles seem to be rot-free and relatively solid.
After I removed the window panel (an ingenious mechanism by the way,) I pulled a metal plate that some former owner of the place had used to scab the bottom rail to the outboard stile. I was then able to pull apart the bottom stile/rail joint by hand just a bit to see what I had in front of me and to form a plan of attack. The top rail joints are pretty solid so of course I’d rather not mess with them.
From the bottom of the door up, are the bottom rail, a raised panel and a middle rail (above which the window or screen panel rests). What I wasn’t expecting were three rather beefy dowels that run from the stiles into the ends of the two rails. They’re through the entire rail on the inboard (hinge) side, but blind on the outboard side of the door. So, on the inboard side, I know the dowels (probably 1/2 inch doweling) are at least 6 inches long. The outboard side dowels are going to be something short of that likely.
On the inboard side, all 3 of the dowels in each rail are intact and the wood I can reach with a knife seems like it’s solid. But of course, they’re not glued in tightly as I was able to open the joints up a bit.
The outboard side is a different story. Two of the dowels on the bottom rail are rotted clean through and the third is very loose. The dowels on the middle rail, well, they look to be in about the same condition as the inboard dowels. Serviceable if I can get some glue in there.
What I think I’d like to do is to find a way to remove the bottom rail completely and mill up a replacement rail. Then joint that rail into the stiles. Of course, while I’m at it, I’ll probably try to pull the raised panel if for no other reason than to see what I can do to better seat / glue the middle rail.
My thoughts right now are to either a) drill out the dowels, then pull the bottom rail out, or b) saw the dowels at the joint and then pull the bottom rail. I think either of those would work for getting the thing apart. However, I’m not sold on repairing the joint with dowels… but, then again that may be best.
Drilling the dowels out may be necessary anyway, but that’s a big ol’ hole in a door that’s not much over 5/4 thick. And deep. And I’d have to do it with a hand held drill – no way of getting the stiles to the drill press in a reasonable manner.
I guess to, there’s option c)… realize I’m in over my head and tell the lady it’s beyond me. Frankly, if it were me, there’s a pretty well respected door manufacturer right here in town that will do custom doors, but of course that’s dear work as it should be.
Any and all thoughts or observations are appreciated.
Less is better. First you did not state why you think the door is sagging. Is it a squareness issue with all corners or just the two at the bottom. If all the corners are not square then all the joints should come apart. If you can get the joints open far enough you can cut the dowels with a saw blade. Once you have the bottom rails off you can drill out the dowels. Just drill out a little bit at a time so you don't do damage to the solid wood. If all the joints are loose you should deconstruct the entire door remove the dowels and replace.
The door sags at this point, I believe because, I believe the dowels are shot on the outboard side of the bottom rail. That said, the top looks to be square. It appears, and I’ll have to try the upper corners, the top is square. I will say it’s likely the bottom of the door has been trimmed out of square a bit sometime in the past to counter a slowly falling porch floor. However the split in the bottom rail is certainly contributing to the sagging. Thanks for your response!
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