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.
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.|
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.|
|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.|
|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.|
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.
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.
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.|
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.
|I then secured three boards to my table and set the door on them.|
|I also left the door about an inch wider so I could fine-tune it to the existing opening during the install.|
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.
|After cutting and pre-fitting all the boards together, they were ready to be primed.|
|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.
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.
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.|
I then primed and painted all the cut ends.
|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.|
|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.|
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.
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.|
|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.
|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.|