Exterior door in wood and glass - speaking advice/suggestions

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Forum topic by BHolcombe posted 09-19-2012 02:39 PM 1189 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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180 posts in 2072 days

09-19-2012 02:39 PM


I’m dreaming up a project for my home, I’d like to build an exterior door in a modern style using wood and glass. I have a couple of goals in mind, such as low energy usage so I’d like to use triple pane glass.

My research has directed me toward Stave type rails and stiles, I’m considering these in white oak. I live in a townhouse, so the exterior must be painted white, which I believe to be a good thing. This door will be in direct sunlight for hours per day. The housing assoc. dictates what you can do to the exterior of your home, so no negotiation on that front.

Is stave type construction best with this type of door? I understand ths is subjective, but do appreciate experienced opinions.

What type of joinery is preferred when using stave construction? If it were solid wood I would likely do through tenons, however my inclination in this is to use long floating tenons.

Has anyone here built a passive house style door frame?

Any recommendations on high quality hardware?

Thank you!

8 replies so far

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3132 days

#1 posted 09-19-2012 02:53 PM

a1jim has an exterior door project that I referenced when I built my (large, thick, interior) door. It uses 3/8” allthread running through the rails from stile to stile in addition to the mortise & tenon joinery. I’ve seen postings of other door makers that use the same idea. On mine I integrated T nuts into the stile with the door handle, so no plugs were needed on that visible edge.

My incomplete blog on my door construction.

But my front door is a wood grained fiberglass unit. Looks like wood, but is weatherproof even after the finish fails. My homeowner association requires stain/finish which does not hold up well to the hard sun my door gets. The 2 wood doors I had before didn’t last too long.

-- Greg D.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4929 posts in 3956 days

#2 posted 09-19-2012 03:15 PM

Sunlight and wood doors are just a headache waitin’ to happen. Did it once, but not twice.
Just my opinion.


View BHolcombe's profile


180 posts in 2072 days

#3 posted 09-19-2012 03:20 PM

Greg, those doors are gorgeous! I’m not terribly repulsed by dowels. I find them a bit out of place on modern furnishings, but so are through tenons. I was recently admiring an original nakashima credenza and he made use of 1/2” dowels in a lot of very visible places. It got me thinking that maybe I’m ignoring a technique that can be used successfully if done sparingly. No one wants a peice with dowels all over it, but can a few look nice?

Sorry for my ramble, are you using through tenons, loose tenons, blind tenons or other tenons?

View BHolcombe's profile


180 posts in 2072 days

#4 posted 09-19-2012 03:34 PM

I won’t proceed if this is an exercise in futility, but I also do not want to punt on 1st down. I’ve seen many wood doors used with success, in order to minimize seasonal change I plan to keep the stiles no wider than 7” and the rails no wider than 9” White exterior paint on the exterior and waterlox on the interior. I will specify quarter sawn white oak for the veneers.

With these considerations am I still wasting my time?

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 2471 days

#5 posted 09-19-2012 03:39 PM

Here is a good pdf reference article for making doors.

Stave doors are perfectly fine for outdoors, specially since you are going to paint it white. Use and oil based paint (not latex), oil base has excellent resistance against outdoors since they include UV inhibitors.

Good luck with your project.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3132 days

#6 posted 09-19-2012 04:12 PM

JGM0658’s pdf looks like a great reference.

Not sure where the dowels idea came from, although they are a standard method (see the pdf for example). My “dowels” were threaded steel rods running the full width of the door; 6 total.

I would also expect that quality paint is going to offer much better weather protection than the finishes I had used on my doors. But occasional maintenance will be essential. For fiberglass doors maintenance is mostly a cosmetic thing.

Building a door is going to be a lot of “fun”. If that’s what you want, have at it. Working with big, thick parts is a bit of a challenge. Final assembly was a big challenge for me, but my situation was exacerbated by it being a 9 panel, 48” wide door rather than a conventional 6 panel door. I did have to fill in some gaps for joints that didn’t come together perfect because I didn’t plan my clamping well enough. Also in my case I did not have prior experience with many of the basic processes, which added to the fun as well as the challenge.

On finishing the interior side I suggest you look into grain filler (I’d check out Charles Neil’s website). Something that will fill in the open pores. I didn’t, and while I’m happy enough with the results I think the extra step would have been well worth it.

-- Greg D.

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180 posts in 2072 days

#7 posted 09-19-2012 08:19 PM

Thanks Jgm for the PDF, that is very informative.

Greg, thanks for the tips. In all consideration most of the things we build can be built by another for us. Why do we do it, if not for the enjoyment of having done so? Maintainence is ok with me, I sort of expect it on anything that sees direct sunlight daily.

I take on a lot of these style of projects because I feel that the lessons learned are transferrable to the furniture building that I more regularly engage in.

View BHolcombe's profile


180 posts in 2072 days

#8 posted 09-19-2012 08:21 PM

Grain filer is a great idea, I will put it to use on this project. I’ve spent too many hours wiping on waterlox for filling in grain to do it again that way.

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