PROPER CARE FOR
WOODEN DOORS & WINDOWS
'Nothing lasts forever', but some things should last a lifetime. Like a well built wood window that
gets some maintenance every few years.
(A) Paint or Stain Finish
It is our sincere hope that a window or door supplied by Lothlorien Woodworking will be the last one
you ever buy for that location in your building. Parts may fail in time, but we design to allow for
easy replacement of these parts. The sections below will explain how various components should be
maintained, and what kind of lifetime you can expect from them. We have limited our discussion to the
design details we use here at Lothlorien Woodworking.
All exterior surfaces of wood should be protected by 3 coats of paint or 2 coats of stain, at a minimum.
Wood which is left unfinished will colour to grey or black, will develop deep cracks from weather checking,
and will change shape through the seasons, causing seals to break, nails to pull, and allowing water
and sunlight where they shouldn't be. Three coats of high quality paint is maintenance-free for 5 to
7 years; our current process of choice is alkyd primer plus 2 coats of semi-gloss latex on the exterior.
Interior finish is largely a question of aesthetics but there should be a finish of paint, urethane or
stain to protect the surface and to slow the movement of seasonal moisture into and out of the wood.
Why only 2 coats of stain? A pigmented semi-transparent oil-based stain should be re-applied every 3 to
4 years because it gives less protection to wood than paint does and it wears off more quickly. So,
instead of darkening the surface excessively at the start with 3 coats of stain, use 2 coats and re-apply
a top coat more frequently. Very little or no surface preparation is required for the re-staining.
It has been said that the best protection for an exterior wood surface is a high gloss white paint.
High gloss to allow easy water drain-off, white to prevent over-heating in direct sun exposure, and
latex rather than alkyd for better colour retention, adhesion, and moisture permeability.
NOTE: Pay particular attention to the 'glazing stops', small wood mouldings which hold the sealed
thermal glass unit in place and which are nailed to the exterior frame or sash. The bottom glazing
stop shouldn't be allowed to lose its finish or its silicone seal against the glass surface.
Nearly all of our products are glazed with sealed thermal units; 2 sheets of glass, with an edge seal
and dry air or argon gas in between. The ugly truth (which nobody likes to talk about too much) is that
the seal won't last forever. 20 years is generally considered to be an average 'lifetime' before seal
failure is observed by occasional moisture clouding between the glass panes. With argon-filled units,
there is currently no test procedure for determining the gas content of the space. A 'failed unit' however,
is not a write-off unless it is visually objectionable. It is still effective as a thermally insulating barrier.
On outswinging windows, the crank gear should be lubricated every 2 years with a bit of grease on
the end of a screwdriver.
On doors with non-ball-bearing hinges, a shot of spray lubricant and wiping with a paper towel
every couple of years will help. A hinge is calling for help when it squeals and has stains of
metal dust near the joints.
Weatherstrip is the material which bridges the gap between adjacent wood surfaces, allows relative
movement between them, and keeps out air, water and noise. Amazing stuff! Weatherstripping products
(we use about 10 different ones) should NOT be painted. Only a couple of situations exist where
maintenance or replacement may be necessary, and this is a simple procedure.
The bottom seal on a door takes the worst beating of all, especially if the door frame moves a bit
in its opening and the latch side of the door gets too close to the sill. There should be 1/8" to 3/16"
of space under our doors, sealed with a product called 'timberseal'. It is easily replaced if damaged,
but the reason for the damage should be fixed first. Doors themselves don't sag, but door frames
(or "door jambs") are flexible and rely entirely on their shimming and attachment to the rough
opening to maintain their shape relative to the door. If the hinge side of the door frame settles
even 1/16" there's a problem.
The outswinging window has 2 lines of weatherstripping - the exterior one is a vinyl leaf called
'polyflex', mounted in the edge of the sash. This weatherstrip is routinely exposed to sunlight
and will eventually lose its flexibility like any vinyl material. If it needs replacing, new
polyflex is simply pressed into a groove machined in the edge of the sash.
In Summary . . .
Keep 'em painted and they'll last longer than their owners.