Saturday, January 21, 2006

Door 2 : Phase 1

Yesterday I started on the second of three kitchen doors. This door happens to be an original door to the house and I’m putting it back in to it’s original spot. However, there is a problem. Naturally there is a problem, because there is always a problem.

This will be the door to the back stairs which have an egress in the kitchen. At some point back in the teens or 20s they removed a small area of the scullery, which adjoins the kitchen, and opened it up to the back porch. They did this to add more exterior doors. So now, this door that was originally an interior door for the back stairs became a forth exterior door to the house.

It didn’t stop there, though. Later, someone drilled it for a deadbolt, and then eventually they drove some screws through the door and in to the jamb, thereby permanently “locking” the door. It also looks like someone kicked it in at one point. I think it was screwed shut after it was kicked in. No doubt this was done by one of the upstanding citizens who lived here during it’s opium-den days during the mid 1990s. It is hard to believe that someone would let such classy and distinguished house fall so low.

What this boiled down to is I have some patch work to do. Surprisingly, most of the door is in very good shape. Not too many dings, the original hinges still work fine, although they have a little more paint than they need, and the screw holes for the hinges on both the door and the jamb are still good. The only real damage is around the lockset. Here is what I’m starting with.

The red lines indicate where the tenon goes from the stile and through the rail. My first thought was to remove all the damaged wood and just replace it. I could cut out a big square where all the damage is and replace it with new wood. That would remove all of that tenon, though. I’m not sure if that would cause problems down the road. The mortise and tenon are what hold the door together after all. I don’t think removing one of the 4 tenons on that side would cause the door to fall apart, but it could lead to sagging in the future. Instead I decided to replace only to wood that was missing. I cleaned up the edges a bit and then cut new wood to match the missing pieces. I then filled remaining seams with putty. Below are pictures that show where I’m at.

I thought about not even putting a door at the bottom of the stairs. It is not something I will be closing a lot. There are really two reasons why I’m putting it there. First, it will help to keep heat in the kitchen during the winter. The enclosed back stairwell acts like a chimney to draw any heat right out of the kitchen. The real reason, though, is because I think its cool.

When I was about 7 or 8 my family went to visit my Uncle Bob in Virginia. He had a big old house that I remember almost nothing about. One of the few things I do remember is the door that closed off the back stairs in the kitchen. The fact that there were 2 stairwells in the house blew my mind - I always lived in a single story home – but that the fact that the stairs had a door I just thought was too cool. I’ll never forget how my older cousin slammed the door shut on me and a younger cousin and wouldn’t let us in the kitchen. At the time, it felt like I was trapped. I distinctly remember a feeling of being trapped in that stairwell. Why we didn’t just go back upstairs and come down the front stairs is a question you will have to ask the 8 year old Greg.


Jayleigh said...

You must be an absoulte wizard with wood to fix a door in that state of disrepair.

I'll be bookmarking your blog... this is interesting stuff.

I too remember the door at the foot of the staircase at my grandma's home. I loved it.

Shawn said...

We've got a door with almost an identical problem, except that it's an interior bedroom door and isn't painted - it's just shellacked, so we've been planning on just replacing it, but as you can imagine, finding a matching door hasn't been easy.

My door problems aside - that looks great and should be unnoticeable when it's done and painted. Great job!

Patricia W said...

What brand of putty are you using? I bought a bunch of old doors and finally said screw it to repairing them and have decided to buy new solid oak doors (at a hefty price). Part of this decision is because I don't want to paint them and the repair would show. But anyway, if I did decide to fix a couple of them I just wanted to know what you used as putty.

The doors are going to look great.

Greg said...

I use Minwax High Performance wood filler. It is a 2 part epoxy (base & catalyst). I’ve been happy with it for indoor use but if you live in a climate with a thaw-freeze cycle you might want to go with something better for outdoor use.

Patricia W said...

Thanks Greg. Every little bit of info. garnered from other housebloggers is a help.

Olivia said...

I am trying to refinish the front door of my 100-ish year old rowhouse and the handle/skeleton key combo looks a lot like yours. How did you get it off? I don't have the skeleton key or know if he lock is functionally, so hopefully that isn't the problem. I got the front back and side plates off and nothing else will come off. Also, what type of wood filler would you recommend for an exterior door? Thanks!