Sunlight and a Cherry Entry Door

Cherry is a problematic wood for any exterior use, because it is known to first darken, then bleach, from exposure to sunlight. April 24, 2006

I am planning to build an exterior entry door out of cherry. The doorway is generally well protected from direct sun and rain, but there is some indirect exposure to the elements. How well will cherry hold up in such an application? It seems as though cherry would do okay, with good stability and decay resistance, but I haven't seen many posts pertaining to use of cherry in an exterior application. Mostly I see doors from mahogany or oak.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor R:
Cherry exposed to any kind of sunlight tends to darken pretty rapidly. We laid a cherry floor in a high rise condo with floor to ceiling windows. One Friday night my floor finisher left his sander and cord laying on the floor and by Monday, there were distinct outlines of where the sun didn't get to the floor. As far as weather resistance, I think if you protect it with a good varnish, it should hold up pretty well.

From contributor W:
Discoloration will be a large-scale concern, even if the door is "generally well-protected from sunlight..." Indirect UV exposure (skylight) and even some unexpected sources (reflected sunlight from neighboring windows) will put cherry at risk of fast and uneven (the real problem) discoloration. I doubt that any clear finish would provide sufficient UV protection to reduce the risk of a callback from an unhappy homeowner. Cherry also has less resistance to dings and dents than oak and other harder species more commonly seen in exterior applications, especially something that will get as much use as an entry door.

From contributor B:
Paint it.

From Gene Wengert, Sawing and Drying Forum technical advisor:
Contributor R's comments are true and it is likely the bottom of the door will darken more than the top, as the top sees less light. In a few months, the door will not look like cherry due to the extreme darkening. As most exterior doors are not 100% solid wood, as they are too heavy and require superior hinges, the hardness of cherry is not as much of an issue as the overall construction technique.

From the original questioner:
Thank you for the comments. I can see the issue with the darkening - particularly at the bottom of the door. Other options would be American mahogany or walnut. How would mahogany darken in such a situation?

From contributor D:
I'll say that the cherry door will first darken, then bleach. It may stay dark at the upper rail, but the main part of the door will fade in a year or less. It will look like some discolored maple. Very light, not cherry like at all. We don't recommend cherry for exterior work as a result, unless the client is well aware of the - mostly cosmetic - look. Back when houses had porches, the cherry would age well and look better with time - except for the edge that remained behind the jamb stop.