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Another Wooden Storm Door

It’s been three years since I wrote about the last wooden storm door I built. When that article was published on TiC, many readers expressed concerns about my decision to use pocket screws to fasten the boards together. The question was: would the wooden storm door last through New England’s changing seasons?

I am happy to report that the door is standing strong and operating smoothly—its hinges continue to keep the door in line and its hardware continues to keep the door closed, which helps protect its beautiful wooden front! Many readers were also concerned about expansion and contraction. The whole door expanded and contracted as a unit within an eighth of an inch, which I accounted for in the door’s reveal.

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Since that project, a young couple looking to rebuild their original historical wooden storm door contacted me. They were having a hard time trying to find someone who could do the work. About a year ago, they did a Google search on “wooden storm doors,” and they came across my old TiC article! The owners were so pleased to see that door was a perfect match to theirs and they were doubly happy that I was a local.

The previous owners of the house had owned it for about twenty years, and they had decided (without the permission from the Historical Society) to cut two small holes for windows and one large hole for a doggie door. It was beaded with each board being tongue and grooved, and a Z pattern for support on the back side. Its hardware was worn and deteriorated over many years of exposure.

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(Note: Click any image to enlarge)

After agreeing on my proposal, and after we received approval from the Historical Society, we signed a contract and I left their home with the existing storm door, which I would reproduce at my location (saving me gas/travel expenses and time).

My agreement with the Historical Society was to build the door to match the original, before the holes were cut. The new door would have no windows or openings, and it would be painted red.

Constructing the New Door

The first step was to make sure we received all the appropriate stock.

We went through all the boards, picking out the good sides to make sure we’d create the best possible appearance. IMG_0293-1
IMG_0292-1 I chose red cedar for its durability and appearance—it mills up nicely and is very stable. The cedar I used was clear 5/4 x 8, which came milled. Having ordered it milled saved me time and I was able to just get started on building it.

I needed to know the exact width the door would have to be. Of course, having the original door in my possession gave me all the correct measurements, allowing me to make this door fit perfectly. All the boards I ordered were about a half-inch wider than needed, which provided room for adjustments.

I started by laying all my boards on the worktable to figure out how it would look. Both edges of the door would be square so I made sure not to profile those edges ahead of time.

I started by inserting a rabbeting bit into my trim router and went to work on figuring out the setting. Using a trim gauge helped me set the depth needed to make the tongue for one side of my boards. IMG_0299-1
IMG_0306-1 I then clamped each board one at a time to my work table, and ran the router using its bearing as a guide.
After completing all the tongues, I was ready to cut the boards to width. I could cut all of them first, but I found it easier, faster, and definitely more accurate doing it this way. I set the width and ran them all through my table saw. IMG_0311-1

I didn’t have the correct router bit onsite so I used my table saw to cut all the grooves. It took a bit longer but it got the job done.

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I knew each board would expand and contract on its own, so I set the depth of each groove an eighth of an inch deeper to allow for room. I then needed to know where to locate the groove on each board, so I laid the tongue side against the grooved side and traced out for the tongue.

Then it was just a matter of lining those marks to the blade on my table saw. It took about three passes for each board, beginning with the first pass, followed by the remaining two passes. After completing all the grooves, I pre-assembled all the boards together to see how they would fit. IMG_0336-1

To match the existing door, I needed to make a bead in the middle of the board, so I found the center of each board and measured over both directions for the correct distance needed. I then went over to my table saw, set the depth, lined up the blade with each line, and ran a test piece.

Making the bead on the tongue edge was just a matter of matching the width of the middle bead, which required just one pass. After being satisfied with the test piece, I ran each piece through one at a time for a total of three passes per board. IMG_0368-1

Again, I pre-assembled all the boards together to make sure it was a perfect match. Once I was happy, I sanded over the edges of the cuts to produce the beads, and then I gave all the boards a coat of a good latex primer to seal their sides and ends.

IMG_0342-1 I then secured three boards to my table and set the door on them.
I ran a board parallel to each side of the door securing them to the three boards, leaving about a half-inch space. I inserted shims to make the door fit tight and square. I cut the door to its height, leaving about an inch on each end so I could easily scribe it to the opening. IMG_0343-1
I also left the door about an inch wider so I could fine-tune it to the existing opening during the install. IMG_0348-1

I installed boards to the back side of the door in a Z pattern in order to keep the door from sagging in its opening. It would also help keep all the boards as flat as possible.

IMG_0353-1 Using the same size material as the door, I cut two pieces for the top and bottom. I set them back about an inch from the edge so they wouldn’t interfere with the existing opening. I then laid a board diagonally across both boards and traced my angles.
After cutting and pre-fitting all the boards together, they were ready to be primed. IMG_0373-1
IMG_0374-1 Once the boards were dry, I pre-drilled the holes, secured the boards with stainless steel screws, and then applied its final coat of primer.

Finally, I gave the door two topcoats of red latex paint.

Installation

When I prepared the existing opening, I made sure that the new trim was installed square and that the threshold was level, which would make fitting the door much easier.

Of course, the door would still require some fine tuning for a precise fit. I figured that it would be a bit tricky, but it turned out to be a breeze with accurate measurements and the right tools.

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I made a level and plumb line across the center of the opening and marked each center on the jambs and threshold. Measuring from the center line up and down, and side to side for each corner, helped me determine where to locate my measurements on the door. I then located the center line on the door and transferred those measurements to the door. Deducting 3/16 of an inch from the top and sides, and 1/4 of an inch from the bottom, helped the door operate smoothly.

Using my track saw along those marks gave me clean and accurate cuts, which helped make for a perfect fit. IMG_0396-1

I then primed and painted all the cut ends.

IMG_0436-1 Before I installed any hardware, I laid out all the parts and checked them with the stock sheet to make sure no parts were missing. Things usually go pretty smoothly when you have all the parts!
I placed the strap hinges on the door to see where they would look best. I settled on five inches from the top and bottom edges. IMG_0403-1
IMG_0406-1 I used a spacer block to help keep the strap hinges at 90 degrees. I pre-drilled all the holes, making sure not to go all the way through, and I set all the screws.
I set the door into the opening and shimmed it to its correct position to get the correct location of the hinges. Then I marked the jamb and used a template along with a router to make my mortises, which made for fast and accurate work. IMG_0408-1

After securing the hinges to the jamb, I hung the door and checked the fit…it was perfect!

It can be tricky to install hardware even if you follow all the steps in the instructions.

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I always say, “Read, read, and re-read the instructions before and during installation!” Trust me. I located the template onto the door and set them apart from each other in order to keep the storm door’s handle and main door’s lockset from interfering with one another.

I pre-punched all the holes with a nail and removed the template, and then I drilled all the holes with the appropriate size drill bits. IMG_0430-1
IMG_0452-1 I fastened all the pieces together and adjusted the latch and catch to close perfectly.

Finally, I measured and installed the doorknocker to the center of the door, which made this job complete.

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After cleaning up, I called out to the homeowners to let them know I was done. They were so pleased with how it turned out, and so was the Historical Society after their final inspection. IMG_0479-1

Comments/Discussion

28 Responses to “Another Wooden Storm Door”

  1. Dve Ray

    Very nice job, with blow by blow and pictures as to how you accomplished the job. Thank you, I have learned from your site.

    Reply
  2. John Kuszpa

    Great article! I am a little confused about the bead? Especially in the center of the boards. I am unsure how you accomplished this on a Tablesaw? Could you have made kerfs to mimic a bead?

    Reply
    • Emanuel

      Thanks John. Yes, I did make kerfs. I didn’t have a router bit or molding cutter to produce that profile so I found it just as easy to use my table saw with a single blade. First, I found the center and measured over 1/4 of an inch in both directions and made those marks.(this gave me a 1/2 inch ,which will become a 1/4 inch bead after making kerfs on each side) Next, having the blade up 1/8 of an inch, I lined up the blade on the inside of one of the marks and ran all the boards through . I repeated the process for the other mark the same way. After that, I sanded over the edges to reveal my beads. It took a couple of extra steps but it got the job done. Sometimes you have to be creative and use what you have in different situations.

      Reply
  3. Scott

    Good, clear article.

    I use a molding head on my table saw to do beading, as well as other molding profiles. The heads come with a variety of cutters, so you will be able to do a number of different profiles. It will greatly expand your capabilities, and pay for itself the first time you use it.

    Pick up a used Craftsman one on ebay (Sears has discontinued them), or get one from Corob Cutters http://corobcutters.com/ . Corob also manufactures cutters for old Craftsman heads.

    The head fits my DW744. I’d check with Corob to make sure your DW745 has the arbor length.

    Reply
    • Emanuel

      Thanks for the helpful info. Just went through their website. I’ll be ordering from them soon.

      Thanks

      Reply
    • David Tuttle

      Hi Scott,
      thanks too for the website. I have an old Sears head, and cutters but I’ve got some restoration work coming up and need some profiles, good not to have to pay for custom.

      Reply
  4. Chris Hedges

    Nice looking door. I’m curious as to why you cut the tongue first?

    Reply
    • Emanuel

      Thanks Chris, No reason. I could of cut them after and it would of made no difference.

      Reply
  5. David Tuttle

    Thanks Emanuel for another great article. On the endgrain are you doing anything else to seal above and beyond primer?

    Reply
    • Emanuel

      Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed the article. No, I applied two coats of primer and two top coats. Having the space between the door and jamb and threshold will help any water dry out. In the future, I will give the top of the door a slight pitch to help any water run off, as for the bottom, maybe a kerf along the front edge with also a slight pitch, just as a window sill has. Thanks again.

      Reply
  6. Bob Scott

    Manny,

    Looks good. I have a couple questions;

    What was the cost on this project?
    Did you also rebuild the door surround? I love that frieze
    What town was the job? I’m assuming North Shore?

    Thanks,
    Bob

    Reply
    • Emanuel

      Thanks Bob. Yes, the job was in the North Shore. I also did rebuild the whole door surround. I did an article on it for The Journal of Light Construction in the November 2013 issue. As for the cost, lets just say I made a couple of days good pay.

      Reply
  7. Sonny Wiehe

    Emanuel,

    Nice to see you getting repeat custom door work from your first published job. Great looking door here! For whatever reason, I see you have changed two critical details from the first door to the second which weren’t mentioned. Whatever the reason, the doors are getting better.

    Here’s the reasons why I feel the second door is better:
    1. Tongue and groove joinery is better (IMO) than the lap joint of 1st door because T&G joinery allows for “in plane” edge restraint.

    2. The “z” bar horizontal rails were fastened through to the middle of each face plank board with (instead of 4 screws at the edge of each board as on the 1st door) which introduces much less potential for checking and premature failure as face planking expands and contracts with changes in moisture content.

    Here are some questionable (did you expect any less ;) aspects of this build:

    1. If you wanted an 1/8” gap (good thinking) between the apex of the tongue and the bottom of the mating grove to allow for expansion and contraction of each board, then why wouldn’t you hold the same gap at the shoulders of the rabbets of the same joint? Since you wedged the entire unit together before fastening horizontal “z” bars, you have effectively butted the boards together (much like the 1st door with pocket screws) at these shoulders and “maxed out” the expansion capability of each board (not-so-good thinking)—particularly while it is fresh from the mill and most likely at its lowest moisture content. If (and when) it eventually expands with the introduction of increased RH and/or bulk water, the door will expand with more absolute change in door width instead of absorbing that difference between each board with that 1/8” gap you tried to build into your design. A good seal coat will mitigate this problem just like the 1st door; but all seals eventually fail if they are not properly applied and maintained.

    2. While you put two screws in the middle of each horizontal of the “z” bar, you regressed to attaching to the edges of the vertical planks through the diagonal. Why? Seems contradictory to allowing for the principle of wood expansion and contraction and incongruent with treatment of horizontals on the very same door.

    Lastly, if you look at the original pink door, most of the paint failure (and future rot) is at the top and bottom of the main panel and top and bottom of cut out perimeters. Obviously this is from end grain wicking of bulk water. I don’t see any details (beyond a latex primer and finish coat) employed to avoid this issue on your first (or second) door. Three years of weather on a well maintained door is nothing in terms of longevity. I would suggest at least the application of Smith’s clear penetrating epoxy sealer for those areas; or better yet a copper flashing cap detail at the top of the door (like they make for exposed shutters) and a bronze drip edge along bottom face of the door with perhaps a slight back cut of the entire depth (and width) of door to break the surface tension of bulk rain water (see sketch).

    Heck, maybe we will get to see some more new details on the next commissioned door!

    Reply
  8. Charles Poteat

    Nice project !
    For door work these days (replacement, reproduction etc.) I use a template system of 3″ wide 1/4″ thick luan plywood strips much like templating for a custom kitchen countertop for door openings. On it I mark hinge and strike locations and any other information required. It eliminates any room for error and makes for a very efficient installation at the jobsite. This is a major plus since I work on many older homes with not necessarily square door jambs.

    Reply
    • Sonny Wiehe

      The other major plus of your templating system is that you’re not having to prime/seal critical end grain twice.

      Reply
    • Emanuel

      Thanks Charles
      I’ve also done it that way on many interior doors for older homes. It works great.
      Thanks again for reading.

      Reply
  9. David Murphy

    Interesting article. I do agree with the comment on protecting the end grain of the door. I see failure after failure of unprotected end grain on cedar and other woods. Paint just doesn’t do it. I also question the use of latex primer. Would an alkyd base primer seal better and also hold down tannin staining?

    Reply
    • Emanuel

      Thanks for reading David. I’ve been using Zinsser brand latex primers as one of my primers for the last 18 years and have had great results. I always apply 2 or 3 coats of primer followed by 2 top coats. Regular maintenance depending on weather conditions will help prevent future failures.

      Thanks
      Emanuel

      Reply
  10. Jonathan carr

    I also was at a loss how you did your bead? I read and reread and didn’t see an explanation for this, except that it was on the table saw…… Do you have a separate cutter head you install on your dewalt?

    Reply
    • Emanuel

      Hi Jonathan,
      Like I responded to John, I used a single blade on my table saw with two passes, followed by sanding the edges to produce the bead. Pretty easy and fast for not using a router bit or cutter head.
      Thanks
      Emanuel

      Reply
  11. Sarantos

    Nice work, good step by step explanation. I am old school carpenter/ painter and, agree with the other readers that much better technology and products are available to seal and protect the cedar T& G door. Check out Fine paints of Europe which are distributing from Woodstock Vermont. They have some outstanding materials from Holland which have served the European community well. The northern European countries are preserving exterior cedar for over 500 years with there unique products, maybe that can be the source materials for the next article on wood preservation. Stay calm, and carry on. Its guys like you that help us to make the hurdle from craftsman to Artist.

    Thank you for sharing your passion with us all.
    Sarantos

    Reply
    • Emanuel

      Thanks Sarantos,
      I’ll look into those products when I have some other projects involving cedar.

      Thanks for reading and those helpful products.
      Emanuel

      Reply
  12. Eric Peterson

    Nice work.

    A word of warning about strap hinges though, if you ever have to work with an authentic strap hinge and pintle set up, you never want to attach the straps first. There is so much movement in that type of hinge that you have to fit the door to the opening, install the pintles in the jamb and then fasten the straps. You need to flex them as far down as they will go before fastening. Otherwise, you hang the door and it immediately sags and binds.

    I am a preservation carpenter employed by a museum organization in New England, and I rebuild or repair these kind of doors on barns and houses a few times every year. Replacing the hardware on our buildings is not an option unless it is broken beyond repair, and even then, we are held to identical replacement, so we call a blacksmith in those cases.

    Reply
  13. Arman

    Was impressed by your first Storm door project and this is yet another great job Emmanuel!

    Just curious if you always use the Z pattern to serve its purpose or do you have any other patterns that serve similar purpose?

    Do you have your own website or perhaps a facebook page where i can see a collection of your works?

    Follower & admirer of your work from the Philippines

    -Arman

    Reply
    • Emanuel

      Thanks Arman. Glad you enjoyed this article and the first storm door one also. Sorry, I don’t have a website or a facebook page. I’m in the process of building my website.You can also find more of my articles in Fine Home Building and The Journal of Light Construction magazines.

      Thanks-Emanuel

      Reply

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