Many of the closets in our house have floor-to-ceiling bypass sliding doors. The closets were built that way to save money during construction. The doors have some benefits and some drawbacks. One benefit is that it’s easy to add a functional second bar for hanging things if you’re tall like me. One huge drawback is that you can’t replace the doors. Nobody sells doors that are 94” (239 cm) tall. Standard doors are 80” tall.
When one of the doors in the master bedroom broke, I decided to build a replacement. OK, that’s an artificially short sequence. I should tell you that the door broke over a year ago. I wrestled with the broken door all winter, planning to deal with it in the summer. Unfortunately, dealing with it didn’t include the options you might think it should.
For example, fixing the door was not an option. Not really. The track dates back to the 50s, and the replacement roller thingies you can buy today don’t roll well in those 60-year-old tracks. Replacing the track and the hardware would be an option but the original doors are hollow core slabs, so there is no guarantee that I would find solid wood where the new roller thingies need to be attached. The other option is build a wall section to lower the opening so an 80” door would fit. That means drywall, sanding and painting and that’s more work happening in the room than we wanted.
Since I’ve been building Mission style furniture for the bedroom, I decided to build Mission style doors. If you’re interested in how these doors are made, the process is described in detail in the photos. If you’re not interested in the details, I’ll try to keep the summary brief:
Like many doors, these doors rely on frame and panel construction. This yields a strong door that is not subject to warping or swelling with changes in temperature and humidity. The solid wood rails (horizontal) and stiles (vertical) are relatively narrow so they don’t expand much. The panels float in grooves between the rails and stiles, so if they expand and contract, it doesn’t matter.
The strength of the door comes from large mortise and tenon joints at the intersection of each rail and stile. A ½” thick, 3” wide by 3” deep mortise is cut into the stile and a corresponding 3” x 3” x ½” thick tenon is formed on each end of each rail. In addition to the mechanical strength of a tenon sitting in a mortise, there’s over 20 square inches of surface area for glue at each of the eight joints.
Note: The photos reveal that I made use of several special tools to make this job easier. I make no excuses for using these tools because I paid my dues. I have chopped large mortises and cut tenons by hand.
Mission style doors often include a split tall panel and a series of shorter panels in the top section. Still, a typical Mission style door is only 80” tall. I’ve also seen Mission doors that have a series of wide horizontal panels, so I thought I would be safe combining the two elements into an oversized door. The proportions are roughly aligned with the Golden Ratio. The lower panel and the upper panel are tied to that ratio and the two of them combined are close to that ratio when compared to the long center section.
At some point, we hope to strip the wallpaper and paint this room a more pleasing color. We haven’t attempted that because, in two previous rooms, we discovered that the current wallpaper was hung over a previous layer of wallpaper that had been painted once or twice. That job has to wait until the room can sit empty for an extended period. In the meantime, these doors are helping to brighten the appearance.
This post is part of the wonderful Thursday Doors series started by Norm Frampton. You can join us on any Thursday (actually, Norm lets you post as late as Saturday morning). There are a lot of photos today. I wanted to include some tools and technique as well as the progress shots.