Ash for Exterior Doors

Woodworkers share observations on the workability and durability of Ash wood used to make entry doors. July 27, 2008

With the cost of white ash relatively low has anyone built entry doors from this species? (Density (dry weight) = 38-45 lbs/cu. ft., hardness (side grain) = medium, specific gravity 0.52 0.62). I know that ash was used for water skis, hockey sticks, boats, chairs, and baseball bats for years and is fairly stable. Does anyone have some doors that have been installed for several years?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor T:
I'm not sure why you haven't gotten a response on this one. It looks like almost all custom door producers offer an "ash" material option.

From contributor C:
I think you will find that the biggest obstacle will be weather staining, and keeping a finish in tact if it’s in any sort of heavy weather or southern exposure. There are also two very distinct ash types typically found. The northern grown lumber is much denser and more "on spec". Ash from the south - Alabama grown, southern Ga. is many times inconsistent and lighter and softer. Carefully select your planks, soak a decent amount of hardening oil (boiled linseed oil or tung oil or Sikkens, or Waterlox Marine) into the grain for a sealer layer and then finish with more coats for superior UV protection, varnish or other compatible finish.

From contributor P:
I'm currently in the process of restoring a century-old ash door for a customer; the job also entails creating an entire entry, with operable sidelight, to house the freshened door.

As a material to work with, I'm not a big fan - it's grain shifts around along the length of the board, and tears out badly sometimes, especially near knots or other interruptions. Sharp knives are a must.

I'd personally not promote its use to a customer for a door that will see direct sun or rain exposure: not worth the risk, long-term - for a similar grain and color, white oak is much more weather resistant, and not really much more money. And, it machines beautifully.

From contributor Z:
I've used ash outdoors but under cover, similar to an entrance door exposure. It shows mildew after about six months of refreshing the penetrating oil finish, and gets pretty bad after a year. Maybe a more durable finish would help, but then UV will be your enemy. White oak could probably be allowed to weather.

From contributor L:
We built a double door entry with white ash about 10 years ago. The ash doors were under cover. We finished them with spar varnish but have had real problems with black mildew. I agree that white oak would be a better choice.

From contributor R:
I like white ash but would stick to white oak or mahogany for exterior doors. There is enough work in and entry that the few dollars more for materials isn't worth the risks to use ash. Finish on a wood door that is exposed to sun or rain is always a problem in our climate.