Repairing an Old Wood Door

Tips on replacing the bottom portion of a Cypress exterior door, with structurally strong joinery and a passable visual blend. November 2, 2010

I'm trying to cut out and replace the bottom section of a wood exterior door. I have half lights and don't want to replace the entire stile and mess with all the glass. I've already removed the bottom rail and got the raised panels out. I plan to come up about 10 inches and cut the stiles and attach new sections with a tongue and groove joint. The door is, from what I can tell, pine. If I use Spanish cedar for the new sections, will I run into problems with the woods reacting differently to fluctuations in weather (in south Louisiana)? I want to make sure the seam won't show up in the future!

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor A:
The bigger issue may be the grain of the wood. Expansion/contraction should not be a big deal with such small pieces. If I was down in the Bayou, I would look for a nice piece of cypress. If it's an old door, it may be made of cypress, which was typical in the South. Cypress and the pines look very similar. Cypress is very rot resistant, making it a good choice for exterior doors.

From contributor Z:
No matter what you do, the seam will show up eventually. Also, a tongue and groove joint will not be strong enough, especially if the bottom hinge is attached to the new section of stile. The best thing that you can do, if you want to salvage that door, would be to take it apart completely, remake new stiles and bottom rail, and reassemble.

From contributor J:
I'm assuming you're going to paint this door? If so (and assuming I'm understanding what you're trying to do), one option that may be a good compromise is to rip about half the width of your stiles off while keeping the core of the door intact. Then glue new wood all the way down the full length of the stiles to build back to original width. Now you'll have a significant amount of long grain glue joint for the rest of the wood you need to fill in at the bottom. You'll have a much stronger repair and a much better chance of having it last. As said previously, even with a tongue and groove, end grain to end grain is a very weak joint that's not likely to last. With a good paint job, even if the seams show a little over time, it will still be pretty minimal.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for your help! I planned on replacing below the lowest hinge to not have any stress on the new section. It very well might be cypress. I'll take a section to the lumberyard and see what they say.

From the original questioner:
I just sanded down one of the panels and it's definitely cypress! That makes it easier.

From contributor D:
Another option is to skin the stile after the plug is glued in, then reface it with 1/4" thick veneer. I repair many old doors, and this method leaves the repair nearly undetectable if you use the same species and shade of veneer as the rest of the door. It is easy to skin a stile with a CNC machine, but you can pin down a jig and use a template cutting bit in a hand router with a large base.

From contributor B:
Another way that will work is to cut the two existing stiles into tenons, or long tongues, then make the repair pieces into open mortises that slip over the tongues. Depending on what you have available tool wise, try to make the depth at least 3" up to 6" if you can. Then Gorilla Glue it (wear gloves) and a couple of 3/8" x 1 1/4" dowels will hold quite well. Spanish cedar isn't that great to use, though it will last a long time. Try to use the same species as the door is made of.