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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I need to replace an exterior door on an apartment building I own and the price to get a fiberglass one is crazy expensive. As it is an exposed southern exposure I’m wary of a solid wood door and those aren’t very insulated anyway. My question is can I make the rails and styles out of several layers of ply laminated together and using the layers to create bridal joints at the corners. Then cover both sides with a thinner ply layer on the whole door for a paint surface and foam insulation inside for the body. I’d also add a insulated glass panel.

I feel like it would be very structurally sound and somewhat easy to create given the simplicity of it. I’m installing into an existing jamb as to me that seems like a higher skill bar to create.

First post here so curious as to the responses.
 

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I suppose you could use marine ply.

No offense intended but I think you’re on a fools errand trying to build a door, especially out of plywood. There are plenty of used doors Craigslist, Facebook market place or look for a local building material salvage like Habitat ReStore. Get one with a jamb, that makes installing much easier.

I would think a metal door is very good option for an apartment, durable, very secure and reasonably priced, as doors go.
 

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Hi, I need to replace an exterior door on an apartment building I own and the price to get a fiberglass one is crazy expensive. As it is an exposed southern exposure I’m wary of a solid wood door and those aren’t very insulated anyway. My question is can I make the rails and styles out of several layers of ply laminated together and using the layers to create bridal joints at the corners. Then cover both sides with a thinner ply layer on the whole door for a paint surface and foam insulation inside for the body. I’d also add a insulated glass panel.

I feel like it would be very structurally sound and somewhat easy to create given the simplicity of it. I’m installing into an existing jamb as to me that seems like a higher skill bar to create.

First post here so curious as to the responses.
Forget plywood. I have a friend that builds high end custom doors for churches and schools for architects and designers.
He builds them to last.
He will not build a door using solid wood stiles for those applications because they will eventually warp and crack.
His stiles and rails are laminated Maple shorts using West Systems epoxy and the glue. Then he skins them with whatever wood the customer desires at around 1/4" thickness.
Making a door like those is no task for a beginners and requires a large glue up table and many clamps.
The closest I have come to making a door like that is this one:
 
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The wood technology that goes into an exterior door that will stay flat and straight despite being exposed long term to different conditions of moisture and temperature on its two sides is easily underestimated.
And, as woodnthings says, the laminating procedure for a flush skin door requires more clamping capacity than most casual wood workers have.

The sides stiles you would build up by face gluing plywood would have very little screw holding strength in their edges. A few hard slams or one good gust of wind could pull the door leaf right off its hinges. The cycle slam test required for building code acceptance of a light duty residential door system is 30,000 cycles. An apartment building with a common entrance becomes a commercial occupancy, and the requirement goes to 100,000 cycles as I recall. This is a very serious code issue in a means of egress door.
 

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I finally found the website for my friends door construction methods:
It shows the inner laminated core then the skins applied on the faces and the ends.
 

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All my 36" entrance doors are steel except one, the 42" wide Oak raised panel front door my friend made. They all came with wood jams and are insulated with separate steel skins on either side. They weren't that expensive back then from Home Depot, about $150.00 or so.
 

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Forget plywood. I have a friend that builds high end custom doors for churches and schools for architects and designers.
He builds them to last.
He will not build a door using solid wood stiles for those applications because they will eventually warp and crack.
His stiles and rails are laminated Maple shorts using West Systems epoxy and the glue. Then he skins them with whatever wood the customer desires at around 1/4" thickness.
Making a door like those is no task for a beginners and requires a large glue up table and many clamps.
The closest I have come to making a door like that is this one:
Hi, I need to replace an exterior door on an apartment building I own and the price to get a fiberglass one is crazy expensive. As it is an exposed southern exposure I’m wary of a solid wood door and those aren’t very insulated anyway. My question is can I make the rails and styles out of several layers of ply laminated together and using the layers to create bridal joints at the corners. Then cover both sides with a thinner ply layer on the whole door for a paint surface and foam insulation inside for the body. I’d also add a insulated glass panel.

I feel like it would be very structurally sound and somewhat easy to create given the simplicity of it. I’m installing into an existing jamb as to me that seems like a higher skill bar to create.

First post here so curious as to the responses.
No go on plywood doors, they will not remain flat or stable and will likely delaminate. However you can save on the amount of high quality wood needed to make a door by stave coring. Stave coring is when you glue up random strips of wood to make a butcher block type core. I usually use West System Epoxy as the other commenter stated. Then I laminate both sides of the core using my veneer of choice, I usually use a 1/4" thick veneer. So for an 1-5/8 entry door you would need 1-1/8" stave core laminated with 1/4" (x2) veneers. I use the same process for interior doors. The only time I make solid doors are very stable woods such as straight grained Honduran mahogany or vertical grain Douglas Fir. Even my paint grade yellow poplar doors are stave cored.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hi all, completely forgot I had posted this question so belated thanks for all of the replies.

@GeorgeC @Steve Neul @woodnthings @DrRobert I’m being quoted upwards of $5000 for a fiberglass or aluminum and glass shop-style door. This is on the front of a building and a non-standard size. The opening is limestone and brick and the existing jamb looks to be all of 1-1/2” thick. Buying something at a big box store won’t work unfortunately. Also from aesthetics perspective a typical 4 or 6 panel metal door just won’t work. I did go to the local reuse stores and the risk there is not knowing how much of an existing door I can trim off. Most of the vintage doors I’ve found also aren’t insulated. (It’s also likely what The previous owner did - or their handy person - did because of the extremely poor fit of the existing door.)

@JohnGi @B Coll thank you for the technical responses. I’ve seen some YouTube videos of laminated ply doors and I know they can be very strong but the temperature and edge strength points are well-taken. My door is south-facing and gets hit head on with sun all day long. The laminated maple is an interesting idea and generally in the same overall direction I was thinking. More work to laminate all of the maple but the cost of clamps is much less than buying a door and I’ll always be able to use more clamps.

thanks guys for the helpful responses - much to think about

jay
 
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