Thursday, June 12, 2014

Backdoor Man

Things fall apart.

Case in point: the frame of the back door to Chateau Stevie was looking a bit naff a couple of weeks ago, so I poked it and had the almost orgasmic experience of having part of the house disintegrate under my mouse-like touch. A good six inches of the wood frame at the top left was rotten, punked and completely in need of replacing.

This induced a minor panic in me. I'm no longer the young go-getter who wielded the mighty Tiger Saw and ripped apart the old back door frame and who installed the pre-hung Stanley door in its place. In fact, the prospect of trying to put in a new frame had me well scared.

My carpal tunnel issue is now a constant problem and just holding things like tools in my hand is a challenge. Also, the last few jobs I've done have gone pear-shaped alarmingly quickly, requiring days to drive in a screw or replace a faucet washer as ancillary jobs spontaneously bubble out of the quantum vacuum to complicate the task at hand.

But when the panic had subsided, I recalled that the door frame is in two parts; the actual frame that houses the door, and the so-called "brick-mold" that is fastened to the frame and is the part that gets snugged-up against the wall of the house. I might be in luck, I thought.

I removed the storm door (which is basically mounted in an aluminum frame screwed to the brick-mold) and got busy with Finesse, my claw hammer. In less than an hour I had the rotten wood removed and could see that although the frame was beginning to show signs of damp damage, it was salvageable with a lick o' paint.

Finding brick-mold was a saga though. Home Despot only had plastic brick-mold, which has the advantage that it cannot go rotten but requires the same sort of glue as one uses on PVC pipe to stick together and a different glue to hang it all on the door frame. I asked whether the glued-on brick-mold would support the weight of the storm-door and received no assurances from the in-house expert that this would be the case.

Paint me purple and call me Susan but I have more faith in screws and nails in these circumstances than space-age glues, and the wood had lasted about 20 years with only one paint job after all. I saw no reason to move into experimental materials, nor to add whatever they call the morbid fear that the expensive and heavy storm door1 will come off in someone's hand, or worse drop off in the night during a storm to my list of worries and phobias2. Luckily I finally tracked down good old-fashioned wood brick-mold at Blowes, Home Despot's chief competitor.

Then there was the problem of finding a decent way of edging the siding.

Chateau Stevie is clad in stylish3 aluminum siding of a particularly nauseating color that I'd change in an instant if I had the money, and siding like this requires channel section to make the edges look nice which had been mangled when I pulled off the brick-mold. When I installed the door it had been stuck to the brick-mold with 25-year silicone sealer4 and it had torn when I tried to part it from the wood.

The problem is that no-one makes the stuff in the brown to match the rest of the trim, and I don't possess a bending brake5 to form my own from coil stock, which they sell in ten inch widths painted brown on one side and white on the other. I had a go, using my extensive collection of Black & Decker model 225 Workmates, a rubber mallet and a long piece of Melamine as an improvised6 bending brake, but it didn't end well and Mrs Stevie yelled at me about not hammering at midnight.

Eventually I discovered some pre-made channel section that would work well, but it was white not brown. I sighed, and accepted that the universe was once again working solidly against me, and went with white in the hope it wouldn't be so noticeable against the white fame of the back door, and it wasn't, really.

Getting the new brick-mold to fit where the old one came off was a challenge as the usual anti-handyman demons had infested the job-site and the brick-mold "wanted" to fit to a 1/2 inch smaller door frame, which would induce problems in re-fitting the storm door. I suspect the siding had shifted. By force of will (and hands and at one point a foot too) and some carefully selected class three Words of Power I managed to get the blasted thing back on in the same position the old piece had occupied.

Once the wood was cut to size and nailed in place with an almost perfect miter (these never work right in real life) I was ready to paint.

Or nearly. Turns out the door-frame footing had extensive rot too and I wasn't in a position to replace it. I took a chisel and dug out the rotten wood, revealing two large triangular divots, one each end and about four inches long and about an inch deep, running to the edges of the footing. I needed a quick and easy fix for this, and luckily I had one to hand.

First I cleaned out the divots and made sure there was no bad wood in there. Then I built dams out of duct tape on the ends of the footing so that I had a large triangular hole rather than a slot. Then I dug out my Alumilite casting resin.

This stuff is a two part, 50-50 mix resin with a three-minute set-up time. The only issue would be that the resin has a lower surface tension than water and will find any gaps in whatever container it is poured into. There were certain to be small gaps between the tape and the wood as I couldn't burnish it along its entire length (some of which was under the house). I ran a bead of five minute epoxy resin along the wood-tape boundary. That is thicker than treacle and did the job nicely. Then it was a matter of mixing up small batches of resin, around 20 ml or so, and pouring it into the cavities.

One unforeseen issue with this is that the Alumilite is partly thermosetting (needs temperature to set hard) and the setting process is also exothermic (gives off heat). The relatively large masses of resin allowed heat to build up to very high levels. This was good in that the resin set up very, very quickly. But it also got so hot that it caused water to boil out of the wood, and that left the top surface looking like the inside of an Aero candy bar, all bubbly. But once it was sanded it looked good and worked just as I had intended. Once it was painted it looked as good as new.

The frame got two coats of outdoor primer, and two thick coats of outdoor eggshell white, and it looked great. There were some issues with the back door doormat being covered in resin drips and paint drips but as I said to Mrs Stevie: Pfft!

Last weekend I finally tracked down the screws I needed to re-hang the storm door and on Sunday I got that done, just in time for the storm on Monday.

  1. When the glass is installed
  2. Chief of these is Sinogastrophobia, a morbid fear of under-ordering in Chinese restaurants
  3. In 1945
  4. For once that wasn't marketing hyperbole
  5. A machine that puts sharp folds in sheet metal
  6. And completely naff

No comments: