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Rotten Patio Door - Buy Replacement, or Build?

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  • Rotten Patio Door - Buy Replacement, or Build?

    I'd like to call on the collective experience of this forum. I've been reading for quite a while and have found this forum very interesting.

    I have an alum. clad wood-framed glass in-swing patio door that is rotten. The rot is confined to the lower rail and the bottom 6" or so of the lower end of both stiles of the side of the door unit that opens. Both rails & stiles are 4 1'2" wide x 1 3/4" thick. There is no rot present in the non-opening side of the 6' wide door unit, nor is there any leakage around the outside of the unit. The 1 1/4" thick glass unit is intact and has not lost its seal.

    The replacement door unit (a Marvin slider) we've picked out carries a hefty $1700 price tag. It's a nice door. I'm a cabinetmaking / furniture building wannabe who currently has enough money saved to buy a tablesaw (TS 3612 I think). Do I spend the $1700 for the new door, or spend most of the $1700 on a router, planer, drill press and jointer, and then build a replacement door? In your experience is the fabrication of this wood frame beyond the capabilities of a beginning woodworker? This door is exposed to the elements on the N side of the house - it needs to be good. I'm sure I'll never be mistaken for James Krenov, or Norm for that matter, but I'm not entirely unhandy with tools either.

    Thanks in advance for the benefit of your experience. Sorry for the long post, but wanted to provide an accurate picture of the situation.

    Thanks again.

  • #2
    The first thing you have to do is ask yourself a few questions.
    Do you have the patients to learn how to do the project at hand, and others that warrent the money outlaid for the machinery and tools?
    Is this the only project you want to make the investmet of machinery and tools for?
    Is Woodworking something you want to invest time and money into?
    Is your family willing to support you in your efforts to better your skills in woodworking, and the things that you can do with the machinery, tools and time that you will invest?
    Will you, and your family apprciate the things that you repair or create?
    Or do they desire the time with you more than the time spent in the shop for material things that you can produce with your hands and tools?

    Personally, I can not see laying out money for something to be replaced if I can buy the tools and materials and do it myself. Once that is accomplished, all other projects are a savings, and it will be better than I can purchase quality wise. And the pride that comes with such accomplishments.
    My wife enjoys seeing what I can do, and appreciates it sometimes more than myself.

    I enjoy woodworking, repairing and creating things. However, you may find it as work, or a sidetrack from life itself.

    Woodworking is a passion, a depth of which only one can realize by experiencing it.

    To ask us if you should take the plunge to inveset in machinery and tools, or buy a new door, is not fair to you, or your family. That has to be determined within the family itself.

    With careful planning and research, it is not beyond a beginner to accomplish such tasks as repairing the door. It will be a learning experience, and a great deal of work. But a good foot in the door to what you can do. And when it is accomplished, a sense of pride will glow in your smile that holds utter respect from those experiencing the view of your accomplishment.

    Woodworking, as described by my wife, is an addiction. A desire to push yourself to your limits in thought and ability, and a commitment to achieve your goals. And the commitment to supply money for the tools to do what you need to do. Which she generously conforms to.

    Are you prepared for such an addiction? And commitment? Your "Door" will be just the beginning. You will have the machinery, but will it see use after the "Door"?

    Only you can make the decission if "Jumping In" to woodworking is right for you.

    Just the ideals of a crazy addicted woodworker that invested in machinery and tools 20 years later than he should have.
    John E. Adams<br /><a href=\"\" target=\"_blank\"></a>


    • #3
      MO' Will try to give you a "brief" answer! I know $1,700 is a lot of money and very tempting, for all the tools it could buy, but I think you picked a very difficult task for a first major project.

      As to cost----you will need to invest in high grade wood---you don't want something that will bend/twist/warp. Then, you need to figure out the type of glass (double insulated, etc.) then do you want divided lights, true lights, etc. Then hardware, peaking and tweaking, etc. Can you hear the cashregister ringing? Then, after all that, you still have a wooden door---which, "could" someday, have the same problem.

      As to what I'd do---buy the door and pick a less daunting first project---I've been doing this work for years and years----this wouldn't be my idea of a fun or easy project.


      • #4
        Agree with Dave.

        While buying the tools may be tempting, it is often difficult to get good results on the first project you try with a bunch of new tools. This is especially true if you are getting new, and not just replacements. Often, the need to get the project done that you bought the tools for will cause you to hastily set things up, or skip corners just to get the job done. It is far better to learn on a new setup when you have little at stake other than some wood that could wind up as kindling.

        As with Dave, my suggestion would be to replace the door, then save, buy new tools, practice, THEN start making things for the house.


        • #5
          MO, I get the sense by your post that you wanted to reuse parts of the old door(IE. the glass and hardware)So basically you want to replace the defective wood,essentialy "rebuild" the door.Is this a correct assumption?

          While this would be a good learning expierence, keep in mind that while you are doing this, you will have NO door, you will have to dissasmble the old door to get the glass out and test fit and so on.

          Just a thought, I could be totally off base here but it is something to consider.

          [ 02-12-2003, 09:02 AM: Message edited by: Ken Deckelman ]


          • #6
            I'm with you. I would want to fix the door and end up with all those neat tools for other things. But keep in mind that repairing something is harder than building a new one, since you have all the issues of how to take it apart without destroying it, how the old fits with the new, matching every moulding and joint, etc. And doors are not simple, and need to be strong and precise.

            Consider this possibility... As a beginner, might you succeed, but what if the results aren't perfect? What if the door sticks a little, or leaks the North winter air and needs extra weatherstripping, or the patch points stand out like a sore thumb? Would your family still be happy with the door and proud that you did it (like a parent is always proud of their kid's pictures)? Would they be glad that you were so happy working with your new tools every weekend? And in a year or two, as you gain experience with simpler projects, would they have the confidence to support you when you said you wanted to buy another $100 in materials to do the door again? I'm not predicting this bad outcome, but if they would support this possibility, then go for it.

            There is a price for using this forum. You have to let us know what you decide to do and how it comes out!


            • #7
              I don't know if MO' was planning on trying to repair the door---I may have jumped to the conclusion---NOT!! ----since he stated that the rot had wicked up 6" in the stiles----a little more than Bondo could handle. Pulling the door apart would be almost impossible---then you'd have to match the M&T joints, and on and on!

              BTW----be sure to do your homework on doors. We just had front and patio doors replaced. A great deal has changed in materials. Front is fiberglass and patio is vinyl. The fiberglass can be stained/varnished to look pretty darned close to natural. From our shopping, the $1,700 figure isn't unusual, but depending on tastes, you can get one much lower! My wife was the driving force in our decissions----she insisted on buying a door from the little store where her friend got hers. The vinyl door cost $1,300---then got mad when I saw an almost identical one (identical down to the hardware) at HD for $700.


              • #8
                Thanks for your thoughts everyone. Sorry I didn't provide quite enough detail in my first post. The original plan was to pop the hinge pins out, remove the rotten door, reuse the current glass unit / hardware and replace all the wooden parts of this half of the door.

                However, you've convinced me that this might not be the best way to jump into this hobby/pasttime/addiction of woodworking. Three of my friends are experienced woodworkers (decades each) and I got three opinions from them: don't do it, maybe, and yes. You all have tipped the scales in favor of buying the door and the TS 3612 (a different pot of money) and starting with something a little less ambitious.

                Just for the sake of discussion, what would your choice of wood be for a door project like this? Based on dimensional stability, durability, and local availability (we're lousy with oak in MO) I was leaning toward quarter or rift sawn white oak or possibly walnut. The walnut may seem a little crazy but it works so nicely and is pretty darn rot resistant. Any thoughts?

                Again, thanks so much for your input. Buying a door is probably the smarter way to go.