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What to do about old doors with split panels?

Posted by dilettante (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 12, 12 at 14:54

My house was built about 1870 and has 4-panel rail-and-stile pine doors. The panels are raised, not flat, and have a 2 over 2 configuration (rather than 4 horizontal panels). Many of the doors have at least one panel that is split because the PO didn't know how to paint doors with floating panels.

I'd like to replace the worst of them at least, but I can't find anyone who makes doors that would be a close enough match, and so far, I haven't had any luck finding matching salvaged doors. I'm sure similar antique doors must exist, but the architectural salvage places I've gone to don't have their inventory on computer and weren't very helpful. I've looked at several door catalogs, but the proportions of their typical 4-panel doors are different. Mine have longer top panels that extend a couple of inches below the doorknob, so the cross-rail is lower. Most new doors have the cross-rail at the doorknob height. Also, the raised panels on mine are not very pronounced.

My questions are:

1. Is it possible to repair them, or at least make them look better, and if so, how? I've stripped a couple of them, but the panels don't move at all, so I can't glue the panels closed. (Probably too much gunk left in the crevices, but there's no way to remove it.) A friend suggested filling the cracks with silicone, which would at least be flexible. Is that a good idea? Does it matter what kind of primer and paint I use?

2. Does anyone know of a vendor that makes reasonably-priced wood doors that might match (or at least be close)?


P.S. I'm in the Boston area, in case anyone knows some local resources.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What to do about old doors with split panels?

My 1858 house has similar doors (but with flat panels) & I don't think there's an interior door in the house that doesn't have at least 1 cracked panel. My experience is that there's no effective way to repair them, excluding replacement, but IMO, it's perfectly acceptable after 150+ years of hard use. I don't even notice them anymore.

RE: What to do about old doors with split panels?

Strip them, disassemble them, repair the panels with glue, re-assemble. Being 1870, it's likely that they are still made the old way-- pegged mortise and tenon, in which case it's easy enough to knock the pins out and use a mallet to take the doors apart. If the moldings are applied (nailed on as opposed to worked into the edges of the frame) then be extra careful in removing them.

RE: What to do about old doors with split panels?

^^^ what he said!!!!

RE: What to do about old doors with split panels?

Antiquesilver, it's not that they bother me so much, but I'm becoming concerned that when I eventually need to sell my house with all its imperfections, those split panels will be just another nail in the coffin.

Sombreuil_mongrel and millworkman, easy enough for you! I'm no woodworker. How would I go about finding someone who could do that?

RE: What to do about old doors with split panels?

Dilettante, I'm not a woodworker, either - that's why I wouldn't attempt taking doors apart if they appear to be structurally sound. I'll do a lot of other things but I can just imagine something like tenons turning to dust or breaking off. If you hire someone, make sure they are skilled enough for the task.

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