Subscribe to RSS Feed
Subscribe to TIC

My New Shop: Cutting & Plugging Fiberglass Doors

Up until a few years ago, nearly all the exterior entry doors I installed were made of wood. Every time I finished an install I packed up my tools and left the job knowing the door wouldn’t last long—especially if it was on the south side of a home. I always do everything I can to protect the doors—I seal the tops and bottoms with three coats before hanging them. But no matter how well the painters finish the door afterwards, the homeowners rarely maintain the finish; within a year, the bottom rail begins to separate from the stiles, and…well, that’s all she wrote.

When fiberglass doors first hit the market, I hated them. Paint wouldn’t stick to them, the skins developed a chalky glaze no matter how they were finished, and they moved around a lot when the temperature changed.

A Note from the Publisher:

WARNING: POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST!

Many people have asked about my new home and shop, so we’re publishing a new series of From the Road articles. You’ll notice I’m using a lot of Katz Roadshow-sponsored materials. We choose our sponsors carefully, from among the best manufacturers in the industry, and that’s why I chose to use their products on my own home, too, some of which were donated.

.

But boy, fiberglass doors come a long way. Today the wood grain patterns available on fiberglass doors—from mahogany to fir to cherry—are every bit as attractive as a solid wood door. Fiberglass doors are insulated and provide a thermal break. The Plastpro door I used has all composite stiles and rails—no wood components—so it will never fail.

These days, I wouldn’t dream of installing a wood door, especially on a problematic opening.

Even on my own shop—where everything is wood—I opted for a fiberglass door for the south side rear entrance to the bathroom. I picked an entry door with a Douglas fir grain and distressed it some while applying the stain.

_MG_1274-1

(Note: Click image to enlarge)

But first I had to cut it down 1 ½ in. so the height would match the windows and patio doors. Plastpro has a “Trimmable” line of doors that can be cut to fit custom openings (1 in. off the stiles; 1/2 in. off the top, and 1 1/2 in. off the bottom!). But the door I ordered was not in the Trimmable line.

Watch this video and learn why cutting down a fiberglass door is a lot different than cutting a wood door!

Comments/Discussion

19 Responses to “My New Shop: Cutting & Plugging Fiberglass Doors”

  1. charles

    Nice work with the router guide, but I don’t understand why you say FG “moved around a lot when the temperature changed.” AFAIK, FG still has the same coefficient of thermal movement today as back then, and it’s a lot better than steel or wood.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Charles,
      You’re right! Fiberglass is fiberglass. But for the life of me, AFAIK, they used to move a lot more than they do now and maybe that had nothing to do with the fiberglass skin but with the core?
      Gary

      Reply
  2. Frank

    Nice work. Well done with your descriptions Gary. And I’m digging the hat.

    Reply
  3. Frank

    I re-read the article. Any issues with “chip out” when cutting the fiberglass? Any special concerns when working with fiberglass in this case?

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Frank,
      No special concerns when cutting fiberglass–not anymore than cross-grain wood. The finish will chip off easier than wood, but you can ‘ease’ the edges of the cuts afterward and the cutline nearly disappears. The finish does not ‘stick’ to fiberglass the same way it bonds to wood.
      Gary

      Reply
  4. t0d

    Your videos are nice and informative. However I find that you hawking every product your using is very disturbing. Stay with the trade facts.. We know your using a Festool and other products. keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      tOd,
      I’m feelin’ what you’re sayin. I knew my exuberance was over the top (and you’ll see more of it in videos I’ve already shot and edited). I’ll work harder at controlling my enthusiasm in the future–yes, enthusiasm. There are so many things I can do today that I couldn’t do years ago. Partly because I’ve screwed up so many thing and learned from those lessons, and partly because I’ve spent so much time researching and learning how to do stuff better. But I’m also able to do stuff today that I couldn’t to–at least not so easily–years ago. And that’s because we have products available today that we didn’t have before, and I do get over excited about that stuff.
      Gary

      Reply
  5. Paul

    Is it just me or did Gary mention each product brand name 3 times? We get it Gary. Give us the links, mention the products and make sure you are search optimized for those products then stick to the technique and the important details.
    You are starting to really cheapen your brand. Think Bob vs. Norm.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Paul,
      I promise I’ll think more in the future about Norm than Bob!
      Gary

      Reply
  6. J. Alvis

    Not sure if you guys get it, but all those products are the sponsors that make this information and site free.

    Really enjoyed the video. Thanks Gary.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Thank you J.
      All those sponsors also make it possible for thousands of carpenters to attend Roadshows all over the U.S. ….for free, including breakfast and lunch! :)

      But I have to admit, though I don’t have to plug the sponsors or products in every sentence, I do feel a strong tendency to do something. I guess that’s pretty human.
      Gary
      Gary

      Reply
  7. Ted Zabel

    This brings back memories, Many years ago, my first job out of high school was working at Morgan Door in Oshkosh. They made both hollow core and solid core doors. I was on the patch crew, periodically we had to repair a bad stile or rail, all out of real wood of coarse. We used a current router of the time, a small Porter Cable and routed the old stile or rail free hand using ones fingers as guides to prevent damage to the skin. We took our time and went to the proper depth in small increments. It doesn’t seem that long ago but that was 1963, fifty years ago. It was a good first job working with many types of wood in the days of more hand work and fewer mechanized tools.

    Reply
  8. Tim Raleigh

    Gary:
    Thanks for this. I enjoy your enthusiasm.
    Was there any reason you chose the OF 2200 over say the 1400 to route with? That 2200 is a beast to hold sideways even with the template.

    Reply
  9. gary irwin

    Hi Gary,
    Nice work. I’ve done the same thing on a steel door but in addition to taping the surface I cut through a 1×4 sandwich to avoid rippling the thin steel. I also had to move the adjustable sill up .I smoothed the steel slightly with a mill file and the doors looked like they were delivered right off the shelf.The foam at the bottom of my doors pulled out easily in one piece.
    Gary

    Reply
  10. Peter Jones

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for the informative video. We don’t have any woodworking / carpentry / cabinet making etc., TV programs here in South Africa, so I for one don’t mind the commercial aspect of the products you use, rather I enjoy the technique and the information gleaned.

    I am a DIYer who likes to putter around both in my workshop and my house and I have yet to come across any of the articles on THISisCarpentry that have failed to educate me. While our building techniques, style and materials are by and large dissimilar to North America as a whole that does not stop me from learning something new that possibly one day might just be the solution to an opportunity that needs attention.

    Regards,

    Peter Jones
    South Africa

    Reply
  11. Rann Reynolds

    Very informative. My only complaint is it should have been done last April, when I decided to something similar to some bi-fold doors. Once I cut them down 2 inches I discovered there was nothing left to reset the mounting hardware. Had to re-do cutting 1 inch off the top and bottom. Next time, I will follow your method.

    Reply
  12. David Sochar

    Gary – Say it isn’t so! Fiberglas?!? As one that has both made a living out of making wood doors and one that has admired and followed your work since you first published, I gotta say I am shaking my head. I agree that homeowners don’t maintain, and that the doors don’t have any or enough overhang, but there are good strategies to overcome all that.

    As one that has had thousands of exterior doors out in the weather for as long as 40 years, I can say that if things are done well, the doors will last easily longer than any of us. We glue the shoulders, seal the panel ends, use full mortise and tenon joints; and a hundred other things. I do not know of one Acorn door that has ever been replaced, and only had one warranty claim in all those doors. We have shipped all over the US, but most are in Indiana, not exactly a friendly climate.

    You have to remember that we are still on a long bender where the big door manufacturers have spent far more on cost accounting than they do on knowledgeable woodworkers and new machines. The Big Door Companies have spent fortunes cutting each other’s – and their own – throats by making a product so cheap (they call it ‘competitive’) in initial cost, it barely survives to do the job it is supposedly made to do. Europe is well ahead of us in this with advanced designs, weatherstripping and even finishes that help keep wood doors prominent and the first choice.

    The poor quality of most American wood doors is why you and homeowners and others have had problems with wood doors. That, and the absence of positive marketing by woodworkers, while the fiberglass and metal door guys repeat their mantra “warp, rot, split, crack!” Maybe I could donate a door?

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      David,
      I know, I know. Fiberglass!
      But what you’ve said about the “Big Door Companies” is true.
      Nearly all the wood doors we install are veneered–like most manufactured doors these days. And they just don’t hold up like old-growth solid-wood door did. You’re probably right, if we worked with more custom-door companies, we might not be so reluctant to use wood doors, but most of our customers pick their doors from catalogs or off a rack.
      We had to do something to get out from under all the liability–many doors weren’t lasting even a year, and the finishes certainly weren’t–even when they were applied by good painters. If a door is installed on the south side of a home, or anywhere on a hillside house or a beach home, the finish starts to fail in less than a year, yet no homeowner would think they have to refinish their door every year. As labor-and-material suppliers, we couldn’t afford the hassles.

      Gary

      Reply
  13. Robby

    I was a bit tickled to find this video. As we do this modification on a daily basis, it was fun to see Gary tackling a job on our services menu.

    I agree with David on most points, but not all. It has also been my experience that a properly constructed and maintained wood door will last more than a lifetime. Sadly the fact is, here in Northern California most people won’t spend the money on a door built right for longevity nor are they able to provide the maintenance to defend against those elements that cause the deterioration due to the products legal to use to protect wood outside today are hardly worth the can they are sold in.

    The ever increasing bureaucratic environmental restrictions continually deteriorating the quality of the finishes we are allowed to use here and today have forced us to steer customers in the direction of fiberglass as it takes a lot of risk out of the equation. As a shop that builds, finishes, and installs, we take all the responsibility on the products we provide. I’m sorry to say it, but the days are near when real wood products become a luxury only the richest will be able to afford. It saddens me to know that government regulation is party to limitation of the use of the finest, safest, and most beautiful material for which to build the homes in which we live. Wood.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Please note: Your first comment will be held for moderation/review by our staff before it appears. After you have one comment approved, all of your subsequent comments will appear immediately. Read our comment policy for more information.

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.