Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Like Looking Back At Your Yearbook Pictures...Cringe

What would possess someone to throw away their 100 year old door and replace it with this?

Maybe in one of their Parkdale crackdowns, the original door was mistakenly rammed in by a swat team, unaware of the “Roncesvalles Village” rebranding campaign. And due to mega-city budget cuts the city was forced to replace it with a cast off from one of their recently closed Don Mills offices.

Or maybe after a freak storm sent a large tree limb through the original door the previous owner felt a medieval drawbridge-looking door would stand up better against future encounters with fallen branches.

Or more than likely a previous owner, who was long on lazy and short on taste, just plain got sick of having to paint the original door, and instead decided to “improve his home” or “update” with the cheapest door he could find at the now defunct Beaver Lumber.

Whatever his reasons, it was his door at the time and his prerogative to do with it as he wished. From time to time, we all succumb to the trends and fads of the day. I know I cringe when I look back at my old year book photos (Did anyone else think those pleated, tapered pants, hemmed too high were wicked or what?). Anyhow when I first saw our house with that door, I felt sorry for it. And I was eager to restore some dignity to the front of this century old survivor, but finding an appropriate door in the right size would not be easy.

I carried those door measurements everywhere I went, ready to whip them out just in case I found the perfect match. I scoured Craigslist, Kijiji, and every architectural salvage store from Waterloo to Cobourg, and I saw lots of beautiful doors, and lots of beautiful architectural pieces, but they just weren’t right. I was on a mission to find the right door, but it was also an excuse for me to spend hours browsing and imagining new uses for the great old pieces that I would see at these salvage shops. For those on the look out for architectural salvage I’ve provided a list of places at the bottom. While most of these shops deal in antiquities, they are quite up to date when it comes to technology. Most have websites and will gladly send pictures and measurements by email.

It took a couple of months of regular visits and email correspondences to the shops, but I did finally find a solid wood door at the Door Store in Toronto. It was the right size, age, look and did not have too many large holes and mortises from the previous hardware. When I found the door it was painted white and had no glass. I spent a week stripping the many layers of old paint off. As I stripped, I saw that the door had been painted white, brown, and green and originally it had a faux bois finish, to make the douglas fir look like English Oak. Once I finally had the door stripped on both sides, I patched the mail slot and mortises with dutchmen (wood patches) made of pine. I filled the imperfections, sanded and painted the door a glossy black and ordered a replacement pane of insulated glass.

I bought some putty and glazier points, and some thin moulding and installed the insulated pane. For the hardware, I returned to The Door Store and found some snazzy brass knobs and a lock set that completed the door nicely. My brother and I spent the best part of a weekend, hanging, adjusting, planing and drilling the new door and hardware into the old jamb.

Here’s what our door looks like now:

If you’re considering using a salvaged door, here are some things to think about:

- Make sure your door opening is pretty square, if the opening is really racked you may as well pull off the door casings and replace the door frame too.

- When you’re looking for a door, it doesn’t have to be a perfect fit, but do try to find one slightly wider and definitely taller than your opening. It’s much easier and more stable to cut, shave or plane excess wood off of the door, than it is to fir out the sides of the door to make it fill the hole.

- Old doors have a definite inside and a definite outside. So the only way to change the way the door swings is to flip the hinges and the door knobs, rather than flipping the door inside out. Since you’ll probably have to fill the old holes and lock mortises anyhow, I actually would look for a door that swings opposite to my installation (i.e. new hinges would go on the side where the door knobs used to be, and the door knob would go on the side where the hinges used to be). This way you can be sure your new hardware will be installed into fresh wood.

For those of you who plan to replace an original front door with something made of an unholy combination of steel, glass, fiberglass and/or foam:

- Please don’t throw your original door in the land fill. Ideally find somewhere in your house to store it like a basement, attic, or garage loft. If you do save it, the next owner will be less likely to wish bad things upon you.

- If you don’t have somewhere you can store the door, please contact one of the stores listed below to see if they would be interested in it. Restore provides tax credits for items donated and the other stores may be willing to buy the door from you.

Architectural Salvage Shops Around the G.T.A.:

The Door Store - 1260 Castlefield Avenue, Toronto (416)863.1590
Restore North York - 1120 Caledonia Rd, Toronto (416) 783-0686
Restore East York - 29 Bermondsey Rd, Toronto (416) 755-8023
Restore Etobicoke - 7 Queen Elizabeth Blvd, Toronto (416) 259-9220
Post and Beam - 2869 Dundas Street West, Toronto (416) 913-4243
Smash - 2880 Dundas Street West, Toronto (416) 762-3113
Addison's Inc - 41 Wabash Ave, Toronto (416) 539-0612
The Salvage Shop - 1492 Kingston Rd, Toronto (416) 469-2557
Legacy Vintage Building Materials - 540 Division Street, Cobourg, Ontario (905) 373-0796
Artefacts - 46 Isabella St, St Jacobs, Ontario (519) 664-3760
Builder's Bazaar - 180 Burnhamthorpe Rd, Oakville, Ontario (905) 257-9070
Lucan Architectural Antique Market - 277 Main Street North, Lucan, Ontario (519) 227-0407
The Timeless Materials Co - 305 Northfield Dr. East, Waterloo, Ontario (519) 883-8683
Ballycanoe and Co – 150 Rockfield Rd, Mallorytown, Ontario (613) 659.3874

Total cost of a new custom wood door would have been well over $2000, not including the hardware. The cost of the salvaged door was around $600 and some elbow grease, snazzy hardware was extra.


Maggie said...

Great post. Great door! We want to do the same thing for our place. good tips.

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