Wooden exterior doors Maintenance

I have written this in response to the number of enquiries I receive from home owners who say’ the door is only x yrs old and its falling apart’ and I take a look at a door tired before its time, rotten at the base with joints coming apart.

Wooden exterior doors must be adequately protected from both rain and direct sunlight other wise they will either warp, swell, rot or become ‘ill fitting’ the veneer on composite doors can split and peel particularly around the joints between the stile and rails, unless adequate protection is applied. A coat of undercoat and a final coat of gloss is not adequate protection. Nor are just a couple of coats of stain or varnish. If you are going to paint your door do it properly, I recommend that you use oil based paints not acrylic if you are not sure read the section on the tin that refers to clean up if it states that brushes can be washed out in water its acrylic if they need to be washed out in white spirit or turpentine then its oil based. Do not mix the two some say you can paint oil over acrylic why risk it?

In order to protect your door one must prepare all faces including the top and bottom along with all the cut outs, so the locks, any handles and hinges to the door need to be unscrewed and taken off, with a primer I use a marine product giving 3 coats with the first coat being thinned with thinners by 20% or so, the aim is not to apply a coat of primer so thick as to cover timber, primer should be applied sparingly enough as to only just hide the timber by the third coat. You may need to sand down after the third coat with a 120 or 180 grit paper the number 120 or 180 will be on the back of the paper, that refers to the number of particles per square inch the higher the number the finer the grit. I suggest two options because some paints may clog the 180.

The door can now be rehung and the locks refitted. It is not a good idea to leave a door in its primed state for weeks before embarking on the next stage, over coat time of primers should be kept to a minimum but it must however be not only dry but hardened off so no more than a week or so and you should be alright.

Next the undercoat, two coats, not forgetting the bottom and top of the door, to make life easier a swan necked brush is best for getting under the door and using a small mirror you can make sure that you cover all of underneath. In between coats rub down with 120/180 grit paper. There is no need to undercoat the lock housings or behind the hinges. Don’t leave the door for too long with undercoats on before final coats, over coat times should be kept to a minimum of no more than a week, undercoats can absorb moisture over time.

The final coat can be gloss, satin or matt that’s your choice but if the above has been adhered to then you too can have a door that looks as good as the front door to 10 Downing st. bear in mind though that particular door is not wood but a bomb blast particulate, probably plate steel of some kind.

With the final coat you may find that only one coat is required that is often the case because all the preparation has been done but if a further coat is required wait a while for it to harden off, a week or so, and a final rub down with a 180 grit before applying the second final.

If you paint your door in the sequence above it will last many years you will need to revisit this project in 5 yrs perhaps to check the integrity of the paint work but all the hard work and effort would have paid off and it may be a case of a touch up only.

When it comes to staining the same applies regarding the lock housings and behind the hinges for the first three coats, thin coats only, and build up with each coat having a rub down with 120/180 grit, between sanding and applying the next coat also lightly rub down the door with a rag dampened with white spirit if its oil based or dampened with water if its acrylic, this is to remove the dust that may linger in the background and show through to the next coat but do make sure that it has evaporated or dried before applying the next coat. The same goes for varnish I avoid polyurethane varnish if you break the skin of this varnish with a sharp knock water can get behind, and over a short period of time it can start to peel. The final number of coats depends on how true you want the final shade to be but at least 4 and what I do is a further coat after a period of say 6 months which seems to finish off the job nicely.

Varnish can really set off a main entrance door but you need to consider using a satin rather than a gloss, gloss varnish has the habit of showing every defect left from applying the stuff and unless you are employing a seriously good painter satin would be the finish of choice. There is a marine product I use from time to time that is a two part varnish system the first being a oil that sits in the wood and the second part being the varnish that sits on top the idea being that water cannot get into the wood because of the barrier presented by the oil and the varnish is the skin. It works well but is time consuming.

There is a correct method of applying paint ,stain or varnish to a door whether its an internal door or an external one please refer to the diagram the numbers show the logical sequence of application 1, being the mouldings 2, the panels 3, the centre verticals (muntins) 4, the cross rails 5, the stiles and 6, the edges.

Painted door guide

If you can, consider staining the door from start to finish lying flat the end result is superior as wetting –the pooling of stain that can lead to darker patches- is avoided, but the message of this blog is about protection rather than fine finishes in stains.

Bespoke Oak Door

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Bespoke Oak Door made from American White Oak with Oak TGV panels. The images show the manufacture and assembly of the door through to the door fitted in its final resting place. The door needed to be made because the dimensions required were not an off the shelf size, i used through mortice and tennon joints and pegged these through the stiles with 12mm Oak dowels to make sure that it remains stable due to the location of the property where the door was fitted -on a water front property facing south west- so its going to get a battering from the elements. The exterior of the door and the edges have been finished prior to fitting with 3 coats of marine grade primer its an aluminium based paint where microscopic particles of aluminum ‘knot’ together to give a tough barrier the customer will finish the door with marine grade undercoat and gloss. The interior of the door can be polished or waxed to show the grain.

oak door made in Southampton
Oak door
oak door made in southampton
Oak door, inside


Changing Your Internal or External Doors

Changing your interior doors will have an immediate impact on the ambiance of your home. Hallways or landings may well be more door than wall for example, where there can be up to six doors in a relatively close space. If you have a dull or darkened hallway, changing the doors will transform this space.
The main entrance door, that is your front door, will be your first line of defence against the outside world. Your door’s style and choice can say to the world “welcome” as well as “we are secure”. A quote from ‘The Poetics of Space’ by Gaston Bachelard conveys this perfectly: ‘With their furniture of lock and key, handle and hinge, letterbox and knocker, doors open to communicate and embrace, close to protect and hide’.

Back doors, according to recent statistics, are the first choice of attack by would-be intruders, if access to the back garden can be obtained, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be via a side gate either; a neighbour’s back garden that adjoins onto the target is often used. Burglars prefer this as the back garden is often hidden and out of sight. Having robust security on the main entrance door and compromising on the back door is a false economy. ]

So where do you start? Let’s say you wish to replace your internal doors. You may have an idea of what you would like. You’ve even been along to a supplier and taken a look. Briefly, start with measuring what you have – the width and the height and the thickness. There is no such thing as a standard door size; there are common sizes, however. These are 27”,30”, 32” and 33”. Most doors are probably 78” high or thereabouts, apart from the 32” which commonly is 80” high. Bathrooms and kitchens commonly have 27” doors, whereas 30” are common to living rooms and bedrooms. Because the majority of the housing stock in this country is pre 1971 (pre metric), the door industry still adopts the imperial measurements when it comes to supply. However, many suppliers adopt imperial sizing for width and height but metric for thickness, so you could end up having a conversation where you order a 2’6” x 35mm door, 35mm being the thickness of most internal doors.

If your doors are not 35mm but 40mm thick, this usually means that you have metric doors. These are commonly 626, 726, or 826mm wide and 2040mm high, although other sizes are available. An exception to this rule would be imperial width fire doors that come in the sizes stated previously, but which are 40mm thick. On the other hand, a few years ago internal fire doors became available in a 35mm format.

At this stage, bear in mind that the actual door you are replacing maybe under-sized. An example is a nominally 30” door which now is actually 29.5” by 77”. This is not unusual. Most doors need to be shot-in (cut to size when fitted). That’s where it starts to become apparent that you need a carpenter.

If you live in a pre-1930s property, you may have a 28” door that is 72” high and maybe only a 1” thick. To date I know of no supplier that has these sizes off the shelf, so a handmade version of what you need may be your only option; this is something I can advise you about.

Often I hear householders say that they would like to keep the door but it’s a bit tatty. They are usually referring to previous locks that have been fitted and subsequently removed again, leaving holes. In most cases I can sort this kind of problem out by letting-in (fixing an insert) using reclaimed timbers to match.

When it comes to styles, the choice seems never-ending, but bear in mind the function of the room when making your decision. If it’s a bedroom, then maybe the hollow 6 or 4 panel doors are fine, but you may wish to consider a ‘safe and sound’ (filled-in) format as this gives a certain amount of acoustic protection and feels more solid. A kitchen door may need to be part-glazed or maybe a fire door. Living room doors should be ‘safe and sound’ to keep the noise from the TV out of the rest of the house. You may be pushing the boat out and considering oak veneer or hardwood internal doors. These can look fantastic against sympathetic décor, but bear in mind that commonly these have only a 6mm lipping (the edge), so if more than 5mm needs to come off the sides they may require a suitable veneer. Whatever your requests or ideas, I am happy to advise you on suitability.

If you want to change your main entrance door or back door, consider please the old adage: quality endures long after price has been forgotten. It usually costs no more in labour to fit a quality door than an inferior door. Look out for ‘M&T’ on the label which stands for mortice and tennon; this is the method of construction that is both traditional and strong. Cheaper doors are doweled and will not last. A quality hardwood door, properly painted or stained and periodically maintained, will last for many years. Main entrance and back doors are usually 32” or 33”, and always 44mm thick. Again, older properties may have narrower or wider doors, the 3ft Regency or Victorian being examples.

Should you go for solid or veneered hardwood? Most hardwood doors are veneered. They are engineered with particulate stiles and rails, and the panels are often plywood with a veneer overlay. This is a perfectly acceptable method of construction. You could choose solid hardwood but I can see no clear advantage. Softwood for a back door is often the choice people make, but it will need a bit more in the way of maintenance. A typical back door design is the half glazed and half panel design. Beware – the panel may be only 6mm plywood: one kick and they’re in! Remember, intruders prefer privacy as they go about their business and that 6mm panel is no defence. I always remove this type of panel and fit a replacement 18mm one glued and fastened in place.

With regards security, the main entrance should have a dead-locking night latch, so that if some one breaks the glass they cannot operate the latch without a key, and an insurance-rated mortice lock. These should be fitted as far apart as is practical to spread the locking points, and if it’s an outward opening door, there should be hinge bolts as well. I went to a customer once who had been broken into; they had an outward opening front door fitted with 3 locks, but the intruder had simply removed the hinge pins and the door had literally fallen out! They had no hinge bolts.

Similarly for the back door, there should be at least an insurance-rated mortice sash lock and a top and bottom surface mounted bolt, but ideally a mortice sash and a mortice dead lock. All this security is great, but remember “it aint no good if you don’t use it”.

I am able to visit and advise you on any aspect of door maintenance, repair or replacement and am happy to supply and fit, or fit only.

Replacement Doors in Southampton

These replacement doors are six panel grained doors with contemporary handles. This style of door is known as a moulded door and comes in a variety of styles: six, four, or two panelled, grained or smooth.

New doors installed in Southampton

You can also get arched-top doors in all sizes from 1ft 8″ to 3ft, in both metric and imperial sizes. I can also supply many other styles of doors, in hardwood and soft wood, interior and exterior, with many glazing and security options. I’ve got a thing about doors (I guess someone has to) and will often take time to stop and marvel at a hand made door when out and about, and appreciate the workmanship and design that has gone into it and its functionality.

New door

I have studied doors that are well over 300 years old and are still being used as a main entrance door. Simple maths tells me that if it is only used twice a day that’s an incredible 434,400 times that it has been used. The beauty is that the basic principle of door construction has not changed that much: mortise and tenoned with twin tenons on the centre rail, with the better ones being wedged tenons. There are some examples of fine doors in Southampton, particularly around the older parts of the City Centre, Polygon, and Highfield.

New French Doors in Southampton

This is my latest carpentry project: a couple of french doors in Hemlock wood with laminated clear glass, thus enabling more light to enter into the room.

old french doors southampton
Old French doors
wooden french doors southampton
New French doors

Unique, stunning, individual – these doors are handmade, designed for everyday use, and create a unique feature to your property (no two are the same). They are made in a variety of hardwoods.