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Restoring deteriorated exterior OLD wood door- advice please!

April 19, 2012

I was wondering what my options are for replacing/patching the bottom part of my front door. Its solid wood and 120 years old, it appears the part that is most damaged is a wood veneer over the wood core? See pictures for better explanation. I will be sanding and repainting so there is no worry about matching wood.

Comments (13)

  • columbusguy1

    Epoxies and fillers can do wonders with decayed wood, provided there is enough surrounding structure to assist in the process--consolidants would firm up any soft wood, and fillers would work on missing wood.

    Since you aren't worried about staining, the only thing to consider with the veneering is that many old veneers are cut a bit thicker than modern ones, so it might take a couple layers of modern veneering.

    From what I can see of the style of door, it is well worth saving.

  • mainegrower

    Are you sure it's veneer and not just multiple layers of paint? A veneered entry door, because it's exposed to the weather constantly, would be very unusual.

  • millworkman

    Actually today pretty all wood doors interior or exterior are veneer. If your door is actually veneer it would not be 120 years old as veneers for doors only became popular and used in the last 30 years as old growth lumber became scarce and they realized that the new growth lumber did not have the strength or durability necessary for exterior doors. It also became the standard due to cost as the core could then be made of any type lumber and cut as opposed to straight vertical grain which was typically used for doors. A good solid old growth log will produce veneer for a hell of lot of doors as opposed to solid lumber (non veneered) doors.

  • oldhousegal

    I've had great results using Abatron wood epox. IT's a 2 part wood epoxy system that is very dry, but sands nicely and fills in quite well. I bought some nearly 7 years ago, and I'm amazed at how much I've used it and still have some left!

    I have used it to rebuild rotted window sills, doors, etc that were then repainted. No problems with the filled areas after a number of years. I'm pretty happy with it.

  • amt782

    I will post better pictures but I am almost positive its a thick wood (oak) veneer. We had our back door professionally refinished b/c it was in much worst shape than this one and the guy who did it said that it appeared to be a fir interior with solid oak 1/8" veneer. He said the reason doors were made this way was something about allowing the face to have matching grain direction without compromising overall durability and that it allowed for better expansion & contraction which would prevent the core from splitting over time. Either way this IS a 120 year old door and it DOES appear to have a face veneer and my question was regarding how to fix it.
    Oldhousegal and Columbusguy1, I am with you in regards to the wood epoxy! I have used it on several interior projects- does it hold up as well on exterior surfaces? I am most concerned with the fact that it is the bottom of the door which will still get wet when rain splashes up.

    Where would I find a good replacement veneer for the bottom rail? I briefly looked around big box and they didn't seem to have anything that would work- I got excited when the employee I asked seem to know what I was talking about and confidently marched down the isle I had just been in. He then picked up a roll of iron on veneer edging and handed it to me.... sigh.

  • columbusguy1

    A lumberyard is your best bet for finding veneers...they can still be found fairly easily. Big box stores are almost worthless when it comes to old house repairs, unless it's something which won't be seen, and then you can use their epoxies and plastic parts.

    I am not sure just what mainegrower and millwork are thinking--my own house built in 1908 still has its original front door, which IS veneered and stained still with its original finish. I have a porch about eight feet deep, so no rain usually gets to it--but I also have an incredibly old wood storm door. :)

  • sombreuil_mongrel

    I worked on an 1886 entry door that had 1/8" thick quartersawn oak veneer both sides over a white pine core.
    Rockler has 1/8" thick q-sawn oak "lumber":
    I found one veneer vendor in the UK. 2.5mm is just under 1/10"

    Here is a link that might be useful: 2.5mm oak veneer

  • brickeyee

    "A lumberyard is your best bet for finding veneers."

    Try one of the online vendors like Constantines.

    You may have problems finding veneer tick enough to match old work.
    Veneer is usually very thin now (1/28 inch to 1/32).

    Thick veneer is sometimes available in smaller pieces for repairs.
    If the door is painted you can use just about any veneer you want to make the repair.

    Small pieces of thin solid wood in 1/16 and 1/8 inch thickness are available at hobby shops.

    You may even be ale to find very thin plywood (often referred to a 'aircraft' plywood) and use it to replace veneer that will be painted anyway.

  • oldhousegal

    amt782 - Yes, I have used the Albatron on exterior surfaces, mainly window sills that have rotted, and on a decorative piece of exterior molding. None have shown any signs of deterioration in the past 3-5 years. I think I initially heard about that stuff on TOH, with window sill repair, so that's why I tried it.

  • antiquesilver

    I've used Abatron for repairs to prolong exterior step tread replacement. Years later, the patches had survived even though the balance of the steps had badly deteriorated. The last time I used it on an exterior door must have been 5-6 years ago & no failure has been noted.

  • beaniebakes

    I've restored rotted windowsills in an 1840 house using a different brand of two-part epoxy called CPES that I purchased online from the Rot Doctor. It's fantastic. I used 3 products: the clear penetrating sealer, a paste filler, and a gel called Layup and Laminating Resin that flows into cracks and crevices and fills spaces more easily than paste. The windowsills face north and are unprotected in a harsh upstate NY climate. After nearly 10 years, they are perfect. After curing, the wood was like concrete.

    Here is a link that might be useful: epoxy products

  • gatineauhills


    Helpful thread. Sorry, I don't have advice but have a related question. Hope it's okay if I ask it here!

    Our 1870 farmhouse came into our hands with a 4 panel stile and rail front door, with panels about 1/2" thick and linear splits as though someone had tried to kick them in. I'm sure it's not the original door... it's both crappy and too flimsy.

    It often goes down to -40C in January here, so something more solid was needed. Finally bought a very old (1860s est.) solid heart pine exterior door from an architectural salvage place. Our cabinetmaker friend says it's true and will fit fine. It has been stripped (mostly) and the old door latch and key holes patched, probably with epoxy.

    I'd like to finish stripping the door, stain it and seal it, but when I hang it, the hinge side will be on the opposite side to what it was. (I can't just turn it inside-out, because there is an obvious difference in the panelling on the inside and outside of the door, with the outside slightly more ornate). I think I will have to carefully stain the epoxy to match the wood. Is this even feasible? Any suggestions about any of these steps would be welcome.

    If it doesn't seem feasible, I'll paint it, which would be more historically appropriate, I guess, but I'd rather stain it as I like the look and think it would create good contrast with the white facade of the house and the grey porch floor and roof.


  • columbusguy1

    Gatineau, I can't say anything about whether you can stain the epoxy--but you should have no problem hanging the door with the hinges whereever you want them to be; fill in the holes on the present door frame and paint it to match the trim, then mortise the new hinge places on the opposite side--take careful measurements from the bottom of the door and transfer the marks to the jamb, then trace the hinge plate onto the jamb and use a sharp chisel to outline the area and do some horizontal cuts in the area to be removed, then carefully chisel out this waste to the depth of the hinge.

    It's actually a fairly easy job, just make sure you practice on a piece of scrap until you feel comfortable with the method. Essentially follow the same procedure for the strikeplate--take a good look at the current ones before filling them in to see what it should look like when done. :)

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