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Exterior door materials....5/1
Ok so I've been thinking about replacing the front door of my house for several years now and I think I've put it off long enough. I've built plenty of interior doors, but this will be my first exterior. The door is semi-exposed to the weather. Meaning there is a 4' overhang to protect from rain etc. but no screen door and gets full sun in the morning. I'm thinking either Spanish cedar or SA mahogany to make the laminated stiles. My question is what is a good material for the skins? The door is going to be painted so normally on interior work I'd use soft maple, not sure if this is the right choice for exterior though? I could use the same material as the core, but obviously more work to fill the grain for a nice paint job. So what are you guys using for painted doors? And keep in mind since I'm doing this one for myself I'm not looking for the cheapest material, but a good quality material that will last.
We use a lot of Sugar Pine for painted exterior doors. A bit more stable than the Ponderosa we see, and still wide and long. We do not fuss with laminating stiles, but have never had a problem with a Pine exterior door warping or getting squirrely. If a Pine door is painted dark and gets full sun, sap can bleed out. It won't drip, but will leave little bumps all over. It is not supposed to do this if dried properly, but it still does it. It is not a problem for me, but may be for a customer. You may get good Eastern White Pine where you are, and it is supposed to be a good door wood.
We used to use Cypress for exterior painted, but it would develop seasoning cracks after install, and I don't like to get those kinds of calls. One door warped big time, but we caught it before we shipped. One stile was all reaction wood, but didn't react until it was in the door.
I do not like Maple for exterior. As for laminating, I'll do it if I need to for thickness or good faces, but I don't do it for 'stability'.
Thanks Dave, was hoping you'd chime in! I'm so used to working hardwoods I hadn't put too much thought into using a softwood like pine. Probably what the original door is made out of though and it's lasted this long. Either pine or maybe Fir, lot of that around this way as well.
I use Spanish Cedar for most of my exterior doors. Buy it in the rough, let it sit for a few weeks and pick out the naturally straight pcs for the stiles.
Pine doors(eastern, ponderosa, sugar) in New England rot.
Leo is in CT, I was in CT, BH Davis is in CT. We do not use pine outside.By the time you slather(technical term) 1 coat of primer and 2 top coats of house paint. You will see no grain in SA mah or spanish cedar.
Those pines are rated for interior millwork.. Old growth Eastern White Pine was on par with cedar in terms of rot resistance. But they cut that all down 100 years ago.
I agree with Adam. I live in northern Michigan and make lots of high end exterior doors. While I have, and still do make a few doors out of solid stock for my clients that like period appropriate millwork, I always recommend to do a butcher block style core with 1/8" skins laminated on both faces. Every thing is epoxied, and after the door is complete, I thin epoxy down with acetone and give it a wash coat before primer and paint to act as both a preservitive and a skin hardener. In my climate, we have harsh winters and hot humid summers. I also only use genuine mahogany for both skins and core stock as it is relatively hard. I think most people would agree that it is a waste of time to put a nice paint job on softwood as it dents so easy. Furthermore, once the paint layer is compromised, water is able to get into the door but not out, causing rot, warpage, further paint failure, etc. If $ is no object, this is the way to build an exterior paint grade door.
We see a lot of our pattern grade Honduras get painted, and it is always my first choice. Rift W Oak is becoming my second choice, but is heavy and requires laminating stiles, or skinning them (1/8") for thickness and appearance. Pine cores would help overcome the weight.
A Pine door is light and easy. As for exposure, we don't recommend (or warrant) any door in an exposed situation. We still epoxy the bottom of the door, double coating the stile end grain after it is fit and hung. Same with panels, before assembly. The panels are tightly fit and there is zero gap tolerance on the cope and stick joinery. All copes are fully glued, the entire length. I like 2 or 3 panels for a 36" wide door, to keep down the movement. I don't warrant a single panel width in that situation unless it is stable core built.
If it has some protection, and is properly painted, it will outlast us all. True, the material is not what it once was, but it is still good for mid range painted protected work, in my opinion. We have had no problems except one from the sap pips, and I reminded her that we talked about that prior to her making the selection.
I have been making exterior doors for 30 years. Enough time has gone by for me to see things I built last, or turn to compost.
Traditional door materials and designs were supposed to be painted with lead paint.
Modern plastic (Acrylic, etc.) paint doesn't work as well. Instead of relying on a toxic metal coating (lead), we now have to use more rot resistant materials, maintain the finish better, and protect the doors from sun, mold, fungus, temperature differential between inner and outer surfaces, and water.
Gutters, porch roofs, higher and pitched thresholds, annual paint touch up, and the use of mahogany are all required to keep a door looking the way customers expect a door to look.
We tend to use either Sapele Mahogany, Vertical Grain Fir, or Eastern White Pine for our exterior grade doors. What is chosen usually depends on the architect, what the customer wants to spend, or if it is a commercial or residential project. We prefer Sapele - the grain is nice, easy to machine and it holds up well to the elements.
We are currently building some paint grade doors and using Extira on the raised panels.
"Rift W Oak is becoming my second choice, but ... requires ... skinning them (1/8") for thickness and appearance."
How thick a door are you talking about? As I'm typing this I saw the truck drive in that's delivering me some 10/4.