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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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....
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