Home repair advice needed: weather-damaged (but structurally-sound) front door

My mom’s house has a big, flat (no trim, moulding or grooves) wooden front door. It seems to consist of a somewhat-solid core, sandwiched between two layers of very thin plywood or veneer. The whole thing is painted white.

Structurally, the door is fine. The interior side is okay too. The problem is the exterior side of the door; there the veneer is cracked, splitting and peeling in a number of large areas. It has already been repaired a few times in the past decade or so (by installing a kickplate, and using bondo patch putty) with mixed success.

I’m afraid that if I try another go-round of scraping, gouging, puttying, sanding and painting, I will only have to do it again in a couple of years.

So it seems to me (…though I am certainly open to other ideas…) that the best way to squeeze another 5 to 10 years out of the door would be to essentially “wallpaper” the entire front of it – cracks, blisters and all – with a thin sheet of weatherproof something. This covering need not extend from edge to edge – that would mean I’d have to deepen the doorframe; it could be smaller than the front face of the door by, say, an inch all around.

Is this remedy advisable? If so, what covering do I use, and how do I affix it to the door?

My first instinct was a thin sheet of fiberglass or vinyl, framed with plastic-composite moulding. (Home Depot sells 4x8 sheets of FRP – fiber reinforced plastic. Is that any good?) But would using a non-wood covering present expansion/contraction issues? The door gets a fair amount of direct sunlight, plus normal NYC weather.

My next thought was a thin sheet of wood which would probably expand and contract at the same rate as the rest of the door. But wouldn’t I need a special kind of plywood/paneling that is suitable for exterior use?

Thanks in advance for all your help!

You may also consider a salvage company that specializes in building, uh, bits. I’ve seen such places on This Old House. If the door is a standard size, you may be to get a suitable replacement without having to go through all that work.

Mr. Blue Sky, thanks for reminding me about the size. It IS an odd-ball size, making the option of simply replacing the door a fairly expensive proposition.

An acquaintance of mine sanded, varnished, and then boat waxed her wooden front door.

Just a thought.

We had the same problem…we replaced the door and painted it with hull paint – the stuff they paint boats with. That was about 8 years ago and there is no sign of wear at all. Best investment we ever made, home improvement-wise.

Well, I think the lamination is not an unreasonable option, given that you don’t want to replace the door entirely. You’ll probably want to use contact cement to afix the new veneer. This will reduce the clamping requirements and time to dry requirements.

You’ll have to make sure that the existing surface is sanded clean of old paint. You’ll have to trim the new veneer cleanly to fit exactly to the dimensions of the existing doorframe. With a thin enough veneer, you can use an exacto knife. Otherwise, the easiest way would be to use a router with a flush trim bit.

I’d think that a wood veneer would look best, but I’m assuming you’re going to paint it, so it doesn’t really matter that much. If you don’t paint it, with a good couple of coats of Spar Varnish, you’d probably be safe from the elements, but you’d have to redo it every few years to keep it looking right.

BTW, it’s not impossible that you might be able to find sheets of self-adhesive wood veneer. One source for non-adhesive veneers is Constantines (www.constantines.com), but I’m sure you can find many more on the web.