Making Custom Storm Doors Fit

Lessons learned as a craftsman recovers from a dimensional mis-step on a custom wood storm door project. June 8, 2008

Am I an idiot? Okay, let me answer that question with a yes, because I trusted dimensions provided by an architect. Here's the situation. I am building wood storm doors for a historic preservation job. The doors are to match the primary doors which are all 9 or 12 light. The print is very detailed and provides dimensions for all members of the doors. I provided shop drawings for the doors with the same measurements and details of the profiles and joinery, etc. These shops were approved, and I built the doors. I went to the site to verify the openings and discovered the doors were all at least an inch too short and 1/2" too wide. I hadn't crosscut the doors yet, so I coped a 1" piece and added it between the stiles at the top of the doors. Primed them up, no big deal. I go to install these 8 doors, and they will fit the openings with minor trimming, but the horizontal muntins and center rail are 1" lower than the primary door behind it. That is because of the sloped threshold obviously. I put them in the truck and took them back to the shop. The door specs do not specifically state the muntins line up, but I know they should. (Never mind the fact the existing storms, which are staying, are the same way.) The architect wants me to saw off the top, and add to the bottom to correct the alignment, and do it by extending the stiles too, not just adding a piece across full width. Since my shop drawings were accepted and approved, should I have to eat this extra? I know I'm in the wrong for not taking my own measurements, but I wouldn't have been measuring for that anyway. Okay, let me have it...

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor G:
No, you're not an idiot, but it seems that you got a little ahead of yourself. How did you do shop drawings without a site visit, and since you did, why did you start production without checking the measurements (field verification)? I don't know how long you've been in the trade but you've learned the first lesson - measure twice, cut once! I hate to tell you, but it's been my experience in 29 years in the trade that it's your fault for not noting field measurements on the shop drawings. Also as craftsmen, it's our obligation to the owner as well as the architect to visualize potential situations such as the one you incurred. Commit the situation to memory and never do it again.

From contributor A:
The dimensions on drawings provided by anyone other than yourself typically have little if any relevance to the final project built and installed. That is the point of doing shop drawings. The shops are exact representations of the final product. If you knew that you were matching some existing work, wouldn't you want to see them in person before you started?

From the original questioner:
I did see the existing doors, several times. I did check to see if the dimensions for the parts were accurate and they were. I just dropped the ball on the opening size and how the slope of the threshold would change the alignment of the muntins. Lesson learned. I've been in the business long enough to know better.

From contributor T:
Regarding sawing off the top, and adding to the bottom to correct the alignment... and do it by extending the stiles too, not just adding a piece across full width.

This has got me wondering how long the bottom of this door system is going to last! That's no way to "fix" a door. You'd be a lot better off leaving it as it is...

From contributor D:
There is no way to extend the stiles at the bottom that would pass anyone's standards of craft. Besides the issue of craft, this is definitely in the combat zone as far as weather, water, etc. This would indicate new stiles, and therefore most likely new doors.

The only legitimate fix would be to "shoe" the door. This is common with very old doors and is a good, legit fix for damaged or reused doors. The shoe is usually plowed to receive the full thickness of the door, the full length, notched to fit around stops, etc. Sometimes it looks better as a bead on the bottom, with a reveal between it and the door. Epoxy this on and clamp with nails. This has the technical advantage of getting the end grain out of the water and sealing the bottom of the sash, and the shoe will take the wear, tear, and rot.

The trick is to sell your customer on this as a premium rather than a get-over. I truly think it is a premium, it just is not often done. And it will be a hard sell if the customer already is aware of the problem.

From contributor L:
Would a nice, full width, brass kick plate help solve this problem?

From the original questioner:
The architect realized that extending the stiles would be very weak after I pointed it out, and he looked at a door I put a full length piece on the bottom of and he agreed to it. Doors are all hung now with proper alignment of the muntins. Now to repair the one they want me to rescue!

From contributor C:
Perhaps the most valuable lesson of all is that any time we put a product in production, we either need field verified dimensions or a "Hold to Dimension" signed agreement with your client. Either way, proper project management never has a shortcut. Did your shop's drawings show the rough opening required to fit these doors?