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Jan 05
2009

The French Conspiracy - Rotten Doors


Posted by C. Mason Hearn in repairs
 

Mason:

I have a pair of wood French Doors on the exterior of my 25-year-old house, that have rotted over a number of years.  The bottoms of the doors are deteriorating, as well as the wood frame and moldings around the door.

I see that these are pretty expensive to replace; is there any way to repair this mess?  They are not leaking, but it looks awful!

Bill S.  Richmond, VA

 

Dear Bill:

Take heart that your situation is not at all unusual.  I see this problem on a regular basis.  If the French are conspiring to destroy a piece of the American housing stock, at least they are supporting the handyman / repair trade.

Whether or not the doors and related components may be repaired depends on the severity of the decay.  If the deterioration is minimal, or merely a surface condition, there are restoration products which might remedy the immediate problem.  The first step is cleaning / removing the softened wood and application of a consolidant, which effectively "petrifies" and stabilizes the remaining decayed wood; then a two-part epoxy patch is built-up, similar to Bondo, often used for auto body repair.  Our favorite is a package by Abatron; see http://www.abatron.com/cms/buildingandrestorationproducts/woodrestorationmaintenance/woodrestorationkit.html

I would caution that extensive damage in these conditions is often indicative of wood use in an application that may be too-exposed to weather.  I assume there is minimal overhang to protect this door, and rain may be bouncing off a deck or patio just below the door sill.  Once repairs are made, maintaining a good paint job is your first continuing line of defense against this.

Otherwise, it would be prudent to crawl under your house and check the wood framing concealed below the door.  In severe cases, this rot might extend to the structure, which could invite structural failure and/or termite infestation.

Repairs are typically the "green" approach to remedy such issues, although you may find that, in the long run, a replacement might be in order.  If you do decide to replace the entire unit, explore a prefinished aluminum clad door, with a decay-resistant frame and PVC exterior moldings.  Installation of proper flashings and a sill drainage pan will also help to ensure the longevity of your French doors.

Mason






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