Driftwood is beautiful to look at but often it's soft and falls apart easily due to its exposure to water. Closer to home, one of the most common wood rot problems faced by homeowners is found at the front door. The door threshold, the kick plate below the door and the door jambs wrapping an exterior door. That's why it's important to inspect your front door every year and repair rotted wood doors as quickly as possible … or maybe it's time to order a new door, one that won't need so much maintenance.
What makes the front door so vulnerable to wood rot?
Wood rot occurs when there is a high level of water and a food source (wood). Many front doors are made from wood and trimmed with wood. If you don't paint this wood frequently enough and/or caulk gaps where water can sneak in between two pieces of wood, there's an opportunity for wood rot to start and expand over time.
Where does the water come from to cause wood rot problems requiring you to repair rotted wood door bottom?
The rot is caused by too much water splashing up from the landing immediately below the door, hitting the kick plate, threshold and trim. When the water doesn't dry right away or finds its way into cracks, wood rot starts.
Building codes require exterior doors to have a landing for safety. This landing is typically 8 inches below the door threshold, which creates the opportunity for rain water to splash up and hit the house. The problem is compounded by water running off the roof, so more water hits the landing and potentially splashes back against the door and house.
How to Repair Rotted Wood Door Bottom
Front doors are more vulnerable as they're seldom used and most home owners don't notice problems right away. The Portsmouth, NH homeowner of the front door shown to the right, found wood rot when she started to touch up the paint on the trim. She realized the problem was more serious that a quick paint job and called my handyman company.
This owner was being conscientious in painting the trim around her doors and windows. Her house was only 5 years old. Unfortunately the problem was due to improper flashing during construction of the house, made worse by the first homeowner not focusing on home maintenance until the situation required repairing the door and surrounding trim.
Many people forget that exterior paint's first priority is to protect your home from water damage. When the wood isn't sealed (caulking and paint) properly, the wood absorbs water and this moisture enables fungi to live. The fungi breaks down the wood fibers and decomposition occurs. The challenge is most or all of this damage is hidden from eye sight for quite some time. The moisture can travel up the kick plate under the door to reach the threshold. It can spread to the vertical wood trim and door jambs sitting on top of … and touching the threshold.
When my handyman company made repairs to the front door, we found extensive wood rot so here's how we worked with our client to resolve existing problems, and prevent the same thing from happening again.
- Identified wood alternatives like composite materials like Azek.
- Homeowner decided to use Azek, so we measured and ordered the necessary materials from Selectwood in Portsmouth NH.
- Removed the siding and sheathing below the siding and replaced all damaged wood.
- Removed the column with wood rot, and rebuilt one using Azek.
- Ordered and installed a new Therma-Tru front door from Harvey Building Products in Portsmouth, NH. including the threshold. When placing the order, we explained the problem and they recommended a special wood rot resistant feature.
- Replaced the kick plate below the new front door.
Wood Rot and Sliding Patio Doors
Before you think you've got things under control at your front door, you might have a few more exterior doors that might need attention and repair rotted wood door bottom. How about your side door, although they're often made of fiberglass which won't rot (but the trim around it will).
Sliding patio doors made from wood can have water problems (upper right photo below) similar to front doors when it comes to splash back from the deck or patio outside these doors.
Wood rot problem with patio doors are more often due to the ledger board not being installed properly. The ledger board is used to attach a deck to the house. It needs to be flashed to keep water from getting behind the board where water can collect and create an environment for fungi to thrive. This moisture can travel up the siding and sheathing on the house above and/or below the deck surface, and may take years for the rot to be visible.
The photo above illustrates the tip of the iceberg. My handyman company spent a week at this customer's home because the house was 20 years old and the problem had existed that long. Here are the repairs we needed to make:
- Reinforced wall studs which were almost non-existent due to wood rot.
- Replaced 8 to 12 feet of the exterior wall behind the sliding patio door – the insulation, plywood sheathing and siding surrounding the problem you see above.
- Rebuilt the rough opening for the sliding patio door.
- Replaced the sliding patio door.
- Replaced rotted deck boards.
The home owner had just retired and was shocked at the extent of the damage. He had owned the house for twenty years and never knew he had a problem. He uncovered it while reviewing the repairs needed before putting the house up for sale. Where he originally thought he could get the house ready to put on the market by himself, this one project turned into 6 days for one of my most skilled technicians to handle the repairs.
Read the rest of our series on water damage and wood rot repairs …
- Water & Wood Rot Repairs – Roof
- Water & Wood Rot Repairs – Siding
- Water & Wood Rot Repairs – Windows
- Water & Wood Rot Repairs – Doors … this article
- Water & Wood Rot Repairs – Decks
- Water & Wood Rot Repairs – Exterior Trim
- Plus insight into how much these repairs might cost, Repair Rotted Window Sill & Estimating Repair Costs
I have expensive sliding patio doors by a well known company. They will only re-manufacture replacement doors that they call panels. The cost is double what I paid 19 Years ago. They are solid wood doors with aluminum cladding.
They started swelling after some rain and became hard to slide. Within a short time they would stick and began jumping off the track. One set (of 2 sets) seems to be worse. Small pieces of brown wood seem to be crumbling and falling out from under the door.
My Son thinks trying to repair them is impossible and I should buy inexpensive vinyl doors and replace both sets. I just love these doors and really hate loosing them. I am a senior lady living on a fixed income, so financing is my only option. I even approached several agency’s for assistance but was turned down.
Can you repair a broken heart ❤️🩹 over broken doors?
Lynne, The short answer is … your son is right. You can replace the existing panels but the cost will be prohibitive given your budget. The brown wood that is falling off the doors tells me there’s substantial wood rot and eventually the door will stop operating at all and/or disintegrate.
As long as you buy a quality vinyl door from a reputable brand (I’d avoid the box stores), buy a low end model because the cost to install will be high as there is likely wood rot on the frame so that too will have to be replaced … and no, I sold my handyman business 10 years ago so I can’t help with the install.
Do you have or know a handyman service in Atlanta, GA that could help identify and fix the wood rot problem in my house?
I can’t refer you to anyone as I’ve never lived in Atlanta. You have many ways to find a handyman. There are the referral networks like Angie’s List that advertise member contractors including handyman. Other people use social media to ask their friends for recommendations and as always, word-of-mouth from someone you now & trust is best.
Afraid I can’t recommend anyone in Atlanta. I’m not a huge fan of HomeAdvisor, Angie or Porch. What I would recommend is a visit to your local Ace Hardware store. They know their contractors, their personalities and their technical knowledge & experience based on how often they buy there & what help they do/don’t need.
After failing to reapply varnish for months, my front door has suffered much from some wood rot after a couple of typhoons. It’s interesting for long-neglected wood rots like this, even the wall beside the door would need fixing. I will keep this in mind once I find a door installation contractor.
Alice, Wood rot is mostly hidden as you’ve discovered it keeps moving and can literally take down a house. I remember one homeowner fixing up their house for sale 20 years after purchase & we found entire wall studs completely missing due to wood rot. Please take care of your problems as soon as possible to keep your family safe.
Brian K Winkler
Tina, The problems you are explaining are all to common. These problems are attributed to water but all due to builder quality materials. There are door companies that finger joint composite materials 18″ up from the bottom of the jamb legs. this material will not rot, even if completely saturated in water. A step up would be full wood fully rot resistant jambs and brick molding. I would still clad the jambs and trim in aluminum for that maintenance free look.
azek trimwork is nice on doors, but the jambs are still made out of wood and are proben to rot unless your following the examples i mentioned above.
Brian, When we replaced the door, I actually did upgrade to the rot resistant version with the 18 inches of composite at the bottom of the door jambs, just like you described. It should really be the default unless you live where there’s little to no rain, and homeowners have no idea … but it keeps the handyman businesses busy. I’m also familiar with wrapping fascia with coil stock but don’t think I’d want to do that around doors, and certainly not with a high end home like this one.
This post was very nicely written, and it also contains many useful facts. I enjoyed your distinguished way of writing this post.
Double Glazing Warwick
The front entry door of the house often makes the first impression on guests. The best way to make an unforgettable good impression is with wood front doors.
door threshold replacement
it is make me sad when wood rot starts… just think to take care the wood is better..
Sliding Patio Door
I’ll back again for sure, thanks for great article 😀
Sliding patio doors are very popular going out to a deck. The only alternative that provides similar views is the French door but then you’ve got to accommodate the door swing.