Exterior Door Engineering

I've been making quite a few exterior doors recently and am wondering about the design and its ability to weather the elements over time. On three different jobs the owner has wanted frame and panel doors, the panels consisting of individual planks with a chamfer of 45d on each edge. So what you end up with is a panel that has a series of grooves running down it. The rails and stiles are made up of stave-core veneered with the respective wood (Spanish/Royal cedar or Douglas Fir). In any event, the panel floats inside the frame, and where the groove from the panel runs into the rail there's a triangular opening the will allow water to collect in the groove of the bottom rail. Even if there was no groove in the panel, water would still seep into the rail at the seem, since it's not been sealed or anything. IAE, I asked if we were putting weep holes in the bottom rail. What about the triangular openings - are we going to plug them? No. Doors get installed, a few weeks later they're being hosed off and water flows down the groove, collects in the bottom rail, and flows out the other side into the house.
Fast forward to this past week. I finish up some BIG barn doors of Spanish Cedar. (Is Royal cedar any different? This stuff isn't quite as aromatic as some SC I've worked with). Same design, same issue. This time the doors are to be painted (rather than oiled like the Doug Fir), so we go ahead and caulk the seams and the triangular openings where the panel enters the groove of the rail. They then get primed, and will be painted on site.
For the painted doors I'm guessing the caulk will hold up "fairly" well, but it will most likely fail within 4 or 5 years I'd guess. Is there a better way to do this? My idea would be to seal the grooves of the rails and stiles with epoxy. Then drill small weep holes in the bottom rail. Bevel the the exterior edge of the bottom rail so water flows away. Even slope the groove in the bottom rail so water flows towards the weep holes on the outside. I'm going to Barnes and Noble to do some research, but was wondering if anyone has any ideas. Thanks.
JP
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Jay Pique wrote:

SNIP
I think it is opinion time here. Until just recently I was installing 5-6 doors a month, I was am just now starting to see the return of this old classic style. I am so used to rail/stile/panel that I had to reread a couple of times.
I would without doubt seal the bottome and side of the panels where the planks sit. Under now circumstances is water in the internal structure of a wood door a good thing. I know we all worry about wood expansion in our rail/stile construction, but you will have more guaranteed expansion than you want if you allow the groove in the rail to fill with water. Just think about it... water on an unprotected end grain (the plank) and then sitting in a well of water until it evaporates. Not good. We leave enough room for the panels (or whatever kind of insert) to move in the frame when differences in temperature and humidity fluctuate, not being soaked in water.
I seal the weatherside of the door completely and close the holes with clear sealer after the first coat of clear finish. If you seal after your first coat of finish, the sealer will not turn your wood different color than you sealer/stain/dye. I do not put any sealer on except in the holes themselves. I have not seen those little 1/4" triangles do any harm to the doors I have installed or those that I have gone to work on.
I have seen doors left as you describe without sealing those little holes meet a very early demise. They react much the same a door that has a poor fitting panel in a frame - they take in water and hold it. The more water, the more swelling and expansion, then shrinkage when drying.
On the inside of the door, I just finish it as normal. If it is painted, I caulk. If it is clear finish, I don't.
Robert
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Jay Pique wrote:

Absolutely the worst thing you can do is to try to caulk or otherwise seal the bottom groove or position where the bevel enters. All you'll end up doing is preventing the trapped moisture that does get in from having a ready path for exit and evaporation to dry out again and thus keep it eternally wet resulting in even earlier failure. As you note, it _will_ fail, and once it does, it's guaranteed recipe for early failure.
What you might consider would be a stopped chamfer so the bottom edge into the frame capture groove is smooth to minimize that entry point. The other classic way for an exterior door is an applied mould on the exterior edge rather than the ploughed groove as well as the weep holes in the bottom rail.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks for the replies fellas.
What I think I've learned is this...
Seal the inside of the plough in the rails and stiles. Seal the edges of the panel. For painted doors go ahead and caulk the inside to prevent moisture from migrating in, but leave the outside uncaulked so any moisture that does accumulate has a way to evaporate outside. If possible use stopped chamfers on the panel to avoid the triangular openings allowing water to run down and puddle in the bottom rail. Weep holes in the bottom rail would allow water to drain from the plough. (My question here is if they can exit the face of the rail, or "must" go all the way out the bottom edge. Visually it'd be better to exit the bottom edge, but on 4 of the doors the bottom rails were over 12" wide...that's a difficult boring operation.) A bevel on the outside edge of the bottom rail would help water drain off and away from, rather then into the plough of the rail....provided the client agrees to the look of it that way.
At the end of the day I think I'd really focus on sealing the panel edges and the plough well, and shooting for a nice tight fit of the panel into the plough...excepting the triangular openings of course. Stopped chamfers if possible/allowed by client and I'd like to think weep holes would help, but I wonder how quickly that clog and become ineffective. No perfect answers so far....
Thanks again. JP
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Jay Pique wrote:

[snip]
You could have a look a this weeks New Yankee Workshop episode:
http://www.newyankee.com/getproduct3.cgi?0702
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.