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Premium Wood Doors

Gregg Hoyer walks us through various types of premium wood doors and dissects the components that make up each one, offering us an in-depth look at how each will perform in the real world.


The look of wood doors and the design flexibility of wood doors is unmatched, but people worry about durability and maintenance.  All high-end exterior products need to be maintained – cars, or boats, or exterior door systems.  It’s really not that hard though.  Today what we’re going to be talking about is durability of exterior wood doors.

Compromises to wood door construction over the past 20 to 30 years have really affected the durability of wood doors.  Now this is what we call a standard construction wood door.  It is the worst performing wood door in terms of durability and for warranty.  Why is that?  It’s a nice looking product and looks like it’s solid wood, but it’s not.  Really what it is, is it’s a number of blocks glued together, covered with a veneer.  Whether it’s the stile or the rail, we can see all these different parts, which are solid, but it’s not solid lumber, and the product is glued together only at the dowel pins.  Now what happens is these parts and pieces take on moisture at different rates, it starts to open up and swell, more moisture can get in causing veneer delamination, stile and rail separation, and eventually rot.  This product should only be used in a fully protected doorway or as an interior application.

Now new construction methods have really come along recently and that’s shown in this much better door, the Simpson Performance Door.  And here we have a sample that shows what’s different about this product.  The bottom rail, the most vulnerable part of this door, is solid lumber.  There’s no core, there’s no finger joints – solid lumber, and the stile and rails are glued together at the dowel pins, but also the entire coped area.  Now this painted area represents glue at the entire cope.  Instead of just being glued at the dowel pins, this whole surface area is covered with glue on the Performance Door.  It does two things, it makes a very, very tough joint, but the glue also gets into the open end grain of this solid lumber bottom rail and it helps seal that up.  The Simpson Performance Door also has a composite block on the bottom of the stile.  Now the stile is not solid lumber, it’s got core in it, but this block of composite material stops any water from being able to get into the stile.  This makes for a much tougher door and it allows Simpson to offer an extended warranty for this door on partially protected exposures.  Simpson also make a version of this – it’s paintable on the exterior for the unprotected doorway.

The best, most durable wood door products are our premium wood door products, and they’re different because they’re made out of solid lumber.  Now this is not a new construction technique.  Solid lumber doors were made hundreds of years ago and some of them are still around today.  Now on my little sample here I’m showing two different species.  We wouldn’t make a door that way.  What’s important to notice is there’s no veneers, there’s no edge strips, there’s no core.  It is solid lumber, but we do take two boards and face glue them or face laminate them together.  Why?  It keeps the door rigid.  It keeps the door stable and it resists warping and bowing.  In the Simpson Metropolitan Solid Lumber Door, the stile and rail joints are held together with dowel pins but also glued at the cope, just like the Performance Door.

The Nantucket Door, however, steps it up a notch.  The stile and rail joint shows these face pins.  Now these face pins are real.  There’s a massive mortise and tenon cut in the stiles and rails, the cope is glued, there’s glue around the mortise and tenon, and these pins go right through the door, right through the tenon to hold that joint together forvever.  These premium solid lumber doors offer an extended warranty for the very, very worst exposure – the unprotected doorway.

Wood doors look really similar and we know that there are different construction techniques, and those different construction techniques dictate what exposure type you can or can’t use those doors in.  It’s important to understand warranties to know what’s covered.  But it’s also important to remember, buy the very best quality product that’s the most durable for the best return on investment.  You don’t want to do this twice.

Exterior Door, Wood Door
Updated on March 7, 2019

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