Repairing water damaged doors

turbo3October 3, 2013

I have about 5 prehung doors (primed white) that got wet during a recent basement flood. The were only in water for a few hours but that was enough to result in damage.

The doors have a solid wood core but have a mdf veneer about 1/8" as can be seen on the bottom of door

It's the veneer that bubbled when it got wet. The water only affected the bottom 1-4" inch of the door and the frames (pine) seem to be good, so I was hoping to repair vs buy new. The cost to buy new is about $1100, so hopefully it can be repaired for less. I was thinking I could use a plunge router to remove the mdf veneer and replace with mdf, then fill, sand, paint. I don't have carpentry experience so I don't know if this is possible and would like to know from carpenters out there if this can be done. BTW, I'm planning to do the work myself since if I paid to have done I'm guessing it'd be more than repair cost. Thanks!

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Have a look at replacement door slabs at your local big box or builders surplus store, I think slabs like yours are well under $100 and replacement is very straightforward.

You can make the repair you describe, but it will be a lot of work for a questionable result, especially if it's not the sort of thing you are used to doing. Do you have a good way to clamp the new veneer in place while the glue sets?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 2:27PM
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I agree with rw, hollow core slabs should be $55-60 and solid about $900-100. Get a butt gauge, and a cheap bore kit (or rent a better one) and do it your self. Probably a little more money than the repair method but a hell of a lot easier as what you may attempt may not work to well.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 6:30PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. These are not hollow core so they're quite a bit more expensive at about ~140 per door slab . The cheapest quote I have so far is $1100 and that's pre-hung (only $20 extra per door, so worth not cutting the mortise IMO). It just seems like a huge waste if I had to trash them just because part of the veneer is damaged

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 10:56PM
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Locally a 30" (likely interior size) luan solid core slab is $52.

If you happen to have a Menards nearby, $107 for a prehung, primed, flush, 30", solid door.

Because this is a basement (often with lower headroom) is there any chance the doors will need to be under cut and solve your problem?

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 2:50PM
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Is that wood veneer or the kind with a masonite overlay? They're doing that now for solid doors. The use cull lumber for the core (it is literally solid knot-wood from stem to stern, covered with compressed paper) Yukk.
If masonite "veneer" not worth trying to fix.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 4:43PM
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If I had to use the doors,I would use a "planner" router bit to remove surface of damaged veneer to the origional thickness on a single side of a single door. I would cover the routed area with coats of sandable sealer , sand smooth and paint that side of door. Hopfuly,every thing went as planed and door passes inspection. If the surface was obivously to porous and/or rough after routing,I would drop the bit to take off additional veneer and use wood filler instead of sandable sealer,sand,prime and paint. If that failed,I would attempt to find veneer slightly thinner or same as origional to replace damaged area,fill gap,sand,prime and paint. A sled must be fabricated to hold the router while planning. I fear the veneer may be too soft for the first 2 proceedures and the gap on last proceedure might be a bear to hide. Maintaining a level surface through block sanding is the only hope for sucess.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 7:47PM
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File a homeowner's insurance claim?

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 4:51PM
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bobsmyuncle wrote on
Sun, Oct 6, 13 at 16:51

File a homeowner's insurance claim?
Few if any H.O. insurance policies cover building materials stored on site.
Something that should be checked on by anyone with a woodworking shop at home if they store much material.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 12:35AM
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@ mike_kaiser these are craftsman style (shaker) doors

They are solid wood but has this mdf veneer (I guess for a smooth/zero grain finish).

The doors are actually not for the basement -- they were just being stored there.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 12:06AM
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@sombreuil_mongrel it was sold as solid wood, and by looking at the bottom of the door where I sanded, it does appear to have a pine core. They are very heavy. I have no idea what the veneer is but was guessing mdf since it swelled like cardboard.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 12:10AM
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@klem1 great ideas. I'm thinking option #3. I'd like to take them to a wood shop to get planed and I could handle the rest. Any idea on how to find a wood shop that might do this, hopefully for less than cost of replacement.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 12:14AM
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@bobsmyuncle Wish I could but I don't have flood insurance and if I did it's unlikely they would cover the doors anyway

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 12:16AM
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BTW, I had some Jeld-wen moulded doors (solid core of particle board) in the basement that also got wet -- oddly they seem to be just fine. And these are cheap doors!

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 12:20AM
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You might find a nearby cabinet shop inyellow pages,ditto for a woodworker's supply store where you ask for refferales for customers who shop at the store. ( The sales people know the skill level of repeat customers). These stores have free workshops to alow vendors to demonstrate thier wares,attend one and ask around.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 12:41AM
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Sometimes you need to think smaller and more precision-ish.

When the mdf on my closet doors warped, I laid the doors on the floor and used an x-acto knife, straight edge (and many blades later) to remove the bad still wet part. I replaced the 2 inch +/- bottom with 1/16" balsa wood and glue. These supplies came from the woodworking section of the craft store (AC Moore); wood putty was used to fill the cracks and tapper the thickness. When they were painted nobody could tell the difference.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 10:13AM
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@splagna that's a good idea. The mdf skin on my doors is not a standard thickness; it's somewhere between a 1/16" and 1/8", so this technique won't work.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 10:07AM
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I took a utility knife to the door skin and started cutting. It's basically pressed paper, and flakes up but requires lots of scraping. It is solid wood under the skin, so I'm thinking it could be sanded off Woudl a belt sander be effective here?
How likely is it I can get a lumber mill or wood shop to provide a veneer at a specific thickness? Thanks

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 12:02PM
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Door skin isn't normaly made in 1/8th increments,more like 32nds so yours is likly a common thickness. A belt sander would remove material very fast BUT, with presision slightly better than an axe in the hands of most woodworkers. The surface must not have hills and valleys when skin is glued. I know you can't buy specialized tools for this but that might be what it requires. A body file used to level bondo just might be the ticket. If you mentioned belt sander because you already have one,if you are carful you may be able to remove 75% then go to hand sanding. The paper should be backed up with blocks as you move through the grits,final grit the coarsest that doesn't leave a bunch of wiskers. When you think the surface is level and 98% of skin is off,lightly mist the surface with quick drying paint like krylon or laquer in a contrasting color. Don't coat the surface,just a mist that looks like overspray. Use final grit backed with a 2x4 51/2" or 9" long to sand the paint mist off to reveal low areas. 75%+ of surface paint free is glue ready. That's only one method but hopfuly gives you ideas of your own using tools on hand or that can be borrowed.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 1:34PM
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