Functional Door Restoration

Church Doors Resurrected


The bottom of the stiles and bottom rails on these doors had been degrading for quite some time. About a year prior to us working on them, a “repair” was attempted by chopping off the bottom rail and part of the stiles of each door with a sawzall.  Solid chunks of wood were cut to fit, then screwed on as replacements. Just one year after this abuse had been inflicted on them, they were in critical condition. Before throwing them out, though, the church building committee contacted us to ask if there was anything we could do to restore them.

As the photos below demonstrate, we rebuilt the bottom of both doors by first restoring the stiles. We routed out the core of the bottom of the original stiles to create a mortise into which we inserted scarf repair bottoms of the stiles into which a tenon had been carved. (We cut the bottoms of the rails on an angle and cut a corresponding angle in the scarf repair pieces to provide the maximum sized gluing edge.  This angle also produces the most secure structural joint.) The original stiles and scarf repairs were then glued in place using an appropriate, exterior grade wood glue.  We then cut new mortises in the bottoms of these restored stiles, into which we fitted new rails we had fabricated, complete with tenons on either side. In short, we restored these doors to their original, tried-and-true, mortise-and-tenon structure  As the final picture on the bottom right shows, the doors were restored to structural soundness.  Then we stripped, bleached, stained and refinished the doors to achieve the restored condition shown above. Because we paid attention to finding replacement wood with grain structure similar to the original wood, and because we patinated the new wood to make it look old, the repairs are virtually invisible! (Here is what the priest had to say about the restored doors.)

Still not convinced old doors can be restored? Here’s a residential door that most people would think was too far gone. Not us, though! Having restored one or two old doors before this one, we knew what was possible.