A Return To All Its Old Glory – The Front Door…

Our front door is old and original to the house. We know this because our house is old, our neighbor’s house was built at the same time, and our neighbor has the same front door.

I had not planned any sort of restoration or redo on the door. I assumed it would stay as is. I didn’t even think of protecting it during our renovation. One of our contractor’s guys suggested that we remove the door during the project – to protect it from damage. That seemed like a good idea. They removed it and installed a slab construction door for the duration of the project. The old door was placed in the garage.

Front Door...

Tad and our contractor started to talk about getting a new front door. As I walked by the old door the first few days, I realized how sad and downtrodden it really was. I began to resign myself to the fact that, maybe, the old door was done for. As the days passed, I would stare at it for a few seconds as I walked by.  I was kind of bummed about giving up on the old thing. I thought about the guy that hand crafted it over 100 years ago. I appreciated the quality of the materials. I appreciated that it was over 100 hundred years old – and still technically doing it’s job. I thought about how we had just sort of taken all that for granted over the years. I started to really take in all the previously overlooked details. Suddenly, I decided the door needed to be saved for all eternity! I decided the door could and should be restored. Our contractor thought I was crazy – and declined to take it on. Tad was skeptical, but offered some suggestions. I didn’t want to give up on it. The poor thing had been through some rough times over the years, but the details were intact, and it was still beautiful – in my opinion.

fullsizeoutput_1151

I made this my project! I became slightly obsessed. Both Tad and our contractor put a time limit on my getting the door restored. They both stated that it couldn’t delay the project timeline. At the time, I kind of thought they put a deadline down hoping that I couldn’t get it done – so we would be forced to get a new door. That only made me more obsessed with getting it done. The old door was staying!

Here is the abbreviated story of the door – as I know it…

Some previous owner had dogs that scratched the wood and the window. A repair had been attempted at some point. That repair was, obviously, less than optimal.

fullsizeoutput_1152

We had a break in, at some point, where the inside panel was forced in. We repaired it by just nailing the center panel back in place.

fullsizeoutput_1153

We suspect that the hardware was replaced a number of times over the last century. We replaced it with an egg knob sometime during the last decade or two. As well, Tad had done a bowtie repair on the knob area.

fullsizeoutput_1155

Some of the veneer at the bottom was splintering off.

fullsizeoutput_114f

There was a piece of trim around the window that was missing.

fullsizeoutput_1154

Over the last few years, there seemed to be a lot of expansion and contraction of the door, making it somewhat difficult to close or open depending on the seasons and/or humidity in the air. Come to find out, upon closer inspection, it was coming apart at the seams…

fullsizeoutput_1150

The finish was flat and inadequate. The door was dull and stained in some places. Simply put, it was not pretty.

In need of door restoration...

I had my hands full. I knew I couldn’t do this on my own as it was way too extensive given it needed more than a little refinishing. I started the search for someone to restore the old door. I contacted 5 or 6 people. I either got no response or they didn’t want to take it on given the repairs that were needed. I was getting nervous. Tad, then, pulled out a name from his phone. It was a company that had done some old window restoration at his work. At first this company, too, wasn’t sure about taking on my project, but they agreed to at least come look at it. I was 2 weeks into my deadline at this point. I had to get this going!

Initially, I think the guy wasn’t sure I was serious about this restoration. Despite his reservations with me and/or the project, he seemed excited. I could tell that he had a passion for his craft. He showed me picture of old doors that they had restored. He told me about our door. He said that it was likely chestnut or mahogany – probably from a southeastern forest that was completely obliterated in the early 1900s due to logging for building materials. Fortunately, he said that there is recent work to re-establish the chestnut forest in our country.  This information made me want to save the door even more!

He pointed out that the details on the door were pressed into the wood rather than carved – and, of course, all done with hand tools rather than machines. Pretty amazing to think about the skill and hard work that went into this door a hundred years ago!

fullsizeoutput_117b

I practically begged the guy to take on the project. They kind of reluctantly agreed – stating that they would have to put their “best guy” on the project. In the end, I think the initial reluctance was because the majority of people wouldn’t spend the extra money or effort on a door that could be replaced for 25% of the restoration cost of this door. They didn’t realize they were dealing with a crazy person at the time. I desperately wanted to save something from the old house. I wanted to show that new isn’t always better than old (in people and things). Plus, I had to prove that I could win the deadline competition (yes, I viewed it as a competition at the time). Finally, I felt an obligation to save a little part of what used to be a forest that was eliminated back in the early 1900s :(

They would take the door completely apart, remove the past/failing repairs, replace the veneer as needed, replace the trim around the window, put it all back together, and finish it properly – all within 4-6 weeks.

They delivered as promised!

Before restoration…

fullsizeoutput_118a

After – completely restored and note how the details pop!

fullsizeoutput_1191

The other side – before restoration…

fullsizeoutput_118b

The other side – after restoration – beautiful, warm, rich, velvety, and well sealed!

fullsizeoutput_1190

This company employees true craftsmen. They took pride in their work. They treated this project like it was going into their own home! It was refreshing!

Updates were provided via text during the process. I loved that!

The veneer was replaced as needed.

fullsizeoutput_118e
fullsizeoutput_118d

The window trim was recreated and replaced.

fullsizeoutput_118c

I even got to stop by the shop and approve the stain color/finish – in the finishing room.

fullsizeoutput_118f

The place was huge with tons of amazing restoration going on with old beautiful windows and doors. It was encouraging to see how many other projects/people are restoring old stuff! It was totally fun!

Shortly following the field trip, the newly restored door was safely delivered back to our garage. It was successfully rebuilt, re-veneered, restored, redone, and refinished. It was re-energized! The deadline was met. It was ready for installation.

fullsizeoutput_115e

Then, the contractor decided the old door jamb needed to be completely rebuilt. I couldn’t argue with that. A new (custom) door jamb was ordered.

fullsizeoutput_1156

A few weeks later, the front door was in place! Some finish work was needed – a return visit for some fine tuning of door fit, some work to beef up the exterior trim so the security door could be rehung, filling of nail holes, firming up of the threshold with foam, caulking everywhere, paint on the exterior, and oil on the inside.

fullsizeoutput_1178

fullsizeoutput_1184

fullsizeoutput_1186

fullsizeoutput_1185

The door restoration guy also suggested that nicer door hardware would be icing on the cake (my words, not his). We considered the whole gamut of style and functional options. Basic knob and deadbolt versus all out ornate periodic specific handle set, and basic lock with separate deadbolt versus mortise locksets. We settled on a something in between. A simple design with a little bit of egg and dart detail that complements the egg and dart pressed wood detail on the door.

fullsizeoutput_1189

I am happy we took the door restoration guy’s suggestion. It definitely adds that little something. It completes the whole look and feel.  It highlights the details of the door even more!

Egg & Dart Door Hardware...

I love that the door is beautiful. I love that it should last at least another 100 years. Tad loves that it functions properly. It is strong, solid and straight. It opens and closes as it should. It stays in place when open (rather than drifting back to the closed position as it used to). The front door has been returned to all its old glory!

fullsizeoutput_1179

fullsizeoutput_1187

fullsizeoutput_117a

fullsizeoutput_117b

fullsizeoutput_1183

Totally worth it!

Lesson learned – old things (doors and people) are amazing!