Wooden Door Troubleshooting: Warping, Cracks & Common Problems

Last updated on February 24th, 2021 at 09:27 am

Wooden doors are not only beautiful and strong, but each one is as unique as a snowflake. No one door will ever be exactly the same as another, and perhaps it’s for this very reason that they have spent literally hundreds of years as the favoured means of entry for homes and places of business all around the world. The one area where a wooden door might falter in comparison to a metal or plastic door, however, is in its necessity for upkeep. Unfortunately, due to the very nature of the material, over time wooden doors can warp and bow, crack, swell and expand, leaving them unfit for purpose. As long as you keep an eye on them, however, they should last, well, as long as you do! Here we’ll examine a few of the more common questions and queries about wooden door problems.

wooden door

Why Do Wooden Doors Warp or Bow?

Over time, you might notice that your door begins to warp or bow slightly, allowing air, and heat to escape or enter your home, not to mention creepy crawlies! This is all to do with moisture, which is one of the most challenging things to combat against entirely. In areas that are particularly wet or humid, you’ll obviously have more issues than in dry and/or tepid areas, but that’s not to say you will be completely safe from a warped wooden door.

Prevention – A warped front door isn’t an appealing thought, but there are a few steps you can take to prevent wood door warping. The best way to prevent against moisture getting into your doors and warping them is to apply a decent finish to them on both sides. You’ll also want to apply at least two coats to both the top and bottom portions of the door, as these are the most exposed areas. Further preventative measures can also be taken once the doors are installed. You could polish them every few months, apply a polyurethane sealant, and even install a cover over your door if you are that worried about moisture.

Repair – In many cases, if you’ve noticed that your front door has warped early, the fix should be relatively simple. Simply remove the affected door from its hinges and use sandpaper to get rid of the top layer of paint and/or varnish at the top and bottom of the door so you can assess the level of damage. If your door isn’t too badly warped, simply place it on a pair of sawhorses above the ground and place weighted objects on the affected areas. Leave them for 24 hours and check to see if the problem has been fixed. If your door is badly warped, wet some heavy towels or large blankets and lay them across the warped area with the weights. Each day, re-wet the towels and add a little more weight onto the door until it is completely straight. Then leave it to dry, apply a couple coats of varnish and you should be all good!

Why Do Wooden Doors Expand And Swell?

As with warping and bowing, another possible result of moisture getting into you wooden doors could be door expansion or swelling, which are less aesthetically damaging than warping, but arguably more structurally damaging. Wood is porous you see, especially if it’s not protected properly, and that means that they will generally contract in dry air and expand in humidity. This is why you’ll probably notice that your front door and bathroom door have the tightest fits in your home. You should still pay attention to wooden doors elsewhere in your home though, especially if you happen to live in a particularly humid area or a particularly cold area.

Prevention – The most simple, superficial way to prevent door swelling is to limit the amount of moisture reaching the door. You can do this by simply opening a window while you shower in the bathroom or cook in the kitchen, or by using a dehumidifier and removing obstacles such as rugs or mats. If you fancy getting a little more aggressive you could remove the door and apply an extra coat of varnish.

Repair – You could try planing the door, removing the areas that rub against the carpet or the door frame, always remember to refinish it before re-hanging though. If this sounds a little bit like a bandage solution, however, you could always hire a professional. Or replace it with a fibreglass option, but you just know that won’t look as good!

wooden entrance doors

Why Do Wooden Doors Stick in Winter?

If your door has only just been hung, this could simply be the finish sticking against the doorframe. If this is the case, you obviously haven’t allowed it enough time to dry! Otherwise, it will most likely be down to our old friend moisture once again. It could, however, be that your door has a little hint of seasonal affective disorder. If you notice that your wooden door works absolutely fine in the summer, but sticks in the winter, this could be because the shift in temperature has had a dramatic effect on your door and/or its frame. This is especially true if you live in an area with warm summers and cold winters. In winter, water simply won’t evaporate as fast as in summer and there will generally be a lot more rainfall. So, the cellulose in the wood expands due to the added water content and swells until it doesn’t fit the door frame. Conversely, the frame itself could actually be shrinking in the winter more than the door does because the frame obviously isn’t protected as well as the door. If you think this is the case, consider adding a protective layer to your door frame and by next winter you should notice an improvement.

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Why Do Wood Doors Crack?

When your wooden door gets cold and dry, it can shrink which may cause the wood to crack. During cold and dry weather, moisture reduction and shrinking of the wood fibres could cause your wooden doors and their frame to shrink, which could result in hairline cracks in wood doors, especially in painted joints and separations in the panels of your doors. This will be especially true in freshly painted doors. So when you start to feel that winter chill, you might want to start thinking about taking preventative measures to keep your door crack-free. Cracks, however, are actually incredibly easy to cover up.

Prevention – Prevention is tricky here, but if you follow all of the steps covered above, you should at least give yourself a fighting chance!

cracked door

Repair –  If you want to repaint your door to cover the cracks, make sure you do it during the coldest and driest months of the year when the wood has shrunk as much as it’s going to and the separations are at their largest. This is generally in late February or early March. If you paint  around this time, when the weather gets warm again and the door expands, the touched up paint will get tucked away, but when the door shrinks again, that paint will still be there, so you shouldn’t have to do this again. Use a small razor blade to shave away the old paint and then use sandpaper to gently sand the area you’ve cleared. Next, whip out your paintbrush and paint the door! If your cracks are larger, you could use wood putty, or a combination of glue or sawdust to plug the gap before painting. You could also try using baking soda.

How To Clean Wooden Doors

You’ll probably have figured out by this point that moisture is, by a country mile, the biggest threat to the health of your wooden doors. As such, you’ll want to be careful when cleaning them. The parts of the door that tend to get the most abuse are the areas around the doorknob and the bottom of the door, which can pick up scuff marks from shoes etc. It sometimes takes a solvent to clean off greasy fingerprints and scuff marks, but it’s important to avoid anything that can damage the finish. A weak soap solution is usually all you need, though you can also use mineral spirits for tougher stains. Just remember not to use too much water!

Wooden doors are, in general, very temperamental, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth it! Indeed, the craftsmanship, sturdiness and beauty of wooden doors means they are still the go-to choice for millions of homeowners all across the world in regions of varying climates and cultures. Just remember to look after them and keep them protected and they will continue to do likewise for you!

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