Door Surround - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

Home Improvement: Your home’s front entrance is the first thing that greets both you and your visitors, making a statement about you, your home and what's within.

Door Surround

Door Surround



Photos by Mark Salusbury; Illustration by Len Churchill

An attractive door is just the beginning. You can make arriving at your home a true experience by coordinating lighting and trim to create a harmonious theme, which can stand gem-like alone, or impart its elements throughout your home to please the eye from room to room. This door surround project is a great start to improving the overall look of your home.
 
The features of the chosen door set the scene; look at the features you like about – its style and the placement of its elements. Next, select lighting to illuminate and also to echo the style, features, and aspect ratio of the door’s primary element.
 
In the door shown, the primary element is a glass "light" with simple art deco style wrought metal grillwork as its main feature. Lamps were chosen to repeat and complement the grillwork, turning a style into a theme. Now to head to the shop and design a frame to take the theme to the next level.

INFO: DIFFICULTY – 3/5, LENGTH/TIME – 3/5, COST – 3/5

Think like an architect

The plan is to create a pair of side columns to visually support an entablature top, in this case because the door has a lot of blank siding above it. If the door had been tightly confined above by a soffit, narrower built-up trim, similarly styled, would complete the scene. The columns and entablature assemblies are simply crafted from a panel of wood with details applied to celebrate the elements of the door and lamps.
 
The bottom line is, the best door surround for your home might be very different than the one I built, so put some thought into overall design elements before moving forward.
 
I used select grade pine; straight, flat boards without knots and pitch. But any clear, straight-grained wood that can be made weather tight works well.
 
The door jamb here is capped with a 1-1/4"-deep aluminum molding that I didn't want to disturb, so I made my columns 1" thick from 3/4"-thick panels with 1/4"-thick detail pieces applied, creating a nice +1/8" setback shadow line between molding and my trim, once installed.
 
To decide on the length and placement of the elements on my trim, I referenced the doors window and grillwork. A horizontal element defines a change in the wrought metal grill, so I transferred that elevation as where I'd anchor my design; above that line I applied my feature details and capital, and below that, a simple border. At the bottom, a base panel is applied for the design to visually rest on. I chose 7" for the column width, roughly a golden ratio of the door’s 36" width. As for height, I designed the panel to come flush with the door’s top molding for the entablature to rest on, and I left space below the column for airflow, deterring decay.
 
The entablature assembly begs to have attractive visual mass; it should honestly appear to be supporting the structure above it, even though it's just trim. Too wimpy and it just won't feel right, plus it won't create a shadow line where it rests on the columns, defining that junction. The frieze component I decided on is 1-3/8" thick to which I applied a 1-3/4"-wide bull-nose molding top (cornice) and bottom (architrave) to add visual mass and definition.
 
To soften the linear / rectangular features, a curved arch is shaped within the frieze panel and at the bottom of each column’s capital. The house has an arch feature below the peak of the porch roof above the door, and the grillwork in the door reflects that detail; I carry that feature on in my design.
 
After a few sketches to compare design options, with the final design selected and given dimensions, it's go time.

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Breakout time

Stock gets cut to rough length, one edge jointed and each piece ripped to final width plus a 1/32" for cleanup and sanding after assembly. I prepared enough stock for the column and frieze panels, plus enough so I could rip and resaw the strips for the detail elements from the same 3/4" stock as the panels. Likewise, the 3/8"-thick trim strips to border the frieze. Prior to ripping the narrow strips, I sanded the faces of all my 7" stock, both sides, with a random orbital sander and P120-grit discs, removing mill glaze and prepped for gluing and finishing later.
 
The 3/4" stock for the detail pieces were then ripped into 1-1/4" strips. I left the 7"-wide stock for the capitals and bases +15" long to avoid machining short pieces next. Now all parts were resawn in half and planed to a final 1/4" thickness.
 

Pleasing curves

The capital and base panels are cut to 7" in length, so once installed, the bottom of the capital meets the top of the vertical elements laterally, in line with the top of the door’s window for horizontal continuity. To create the capital’s arch profile, I marked the part’s centerline, plus points 1-1/4" in from each edge of the piece of stock and drew a 12" radius from point to point. I experimented earlier to find a pleasing radius by tracing around paint cans, sanding discs, trash cans ... anything circular; a 12" lathe faceplate was just right. Next the arch profile was carefully cut at the band saw and sanded to final shape at my belt sander, making sure to stay within the 1-1/4" margins.

door-surround-curves
Nice CurvesCutting and smoothing a pleasing shape for the underside of the capital is an important task. The radius has to be just right, and the operation must be done smoothly.
 
With layout lines drawn on the back panels for accurate placement of the detail elements, now's the time to cut all the detail parts to length and chamfer the ends where the parts will meet. I carefully crosscut a 10-degree bevel across the bottom of the capital, and the top edge of the short detail cross-member and base panel, plus a mating bevel at the ends of all vertical intersecting strips. Thus, where the parts butt together will be tightly overlapped and once finished, any weather-related moisture may run off and away for durability and cleanliness. Also, the top of the short vertical detail strip, central to the design, needs to be radiused to match the arch radius and its bottom edge beveled at 10 degrees.

door-surround-angled-edges
Angled Edges – In order to ensure water will run off any horizontal surfaces, rather than sit and cause problems, Salusbury machined a 10-degree angle into the horizontal surfaces of the trim. He also cut the mating trim at 10 degrees to ensure a tight fit.
 

The entablature

The entablature references all its features by centering itself above all the vertical elements of the door, moldings and soon-to-be columns below it. By summing the width of the door and moldings, the two columns plus adding a decorative 1" extension at both sides, I arrived at a finished stock length of 56" for my 36"-wide entrance door. From a 60" length of 10" wide 8/4 stock, I jointed and dressed down the 7"-wide frieze panel to 1-3/8" thickness plus two 1-3/4"-wide strips left a fat 3/8" thickness to trim the frieze top and bottom.
 
I wanted the frieze arch to become a strong visual extension of the door’s side molding, creating a soft frame above the door. Referencing the outer edges of the door moldings, I drew vertical lines 39-1/4" apart and marked points 1-3/8" in from the bottom edge. Using these points, plus the panel’s center line, I arrived at a pleasing arch profile that worked well with the width of the frieze as well as the shape of the arch in the wrought metal grill of the door below. Satisfied, I accurately recreated and smoothed the shape on some utility 3/4" plywood to create a routing jig I could reposition incrementally over my stock to rout, then sand the arch profile 3/8" deep across the face of the frieze. Next, the still-fat cornice and architrave parts were dressed down and sanded to an accurate 3/8", cut to final length of 56-3/4" and given a 3/8"-radius bull-nose profile along the soon-to-be leading edge and ends.

door-surround-arc
Even Arcs – Salusbury cut an arc in a plywood so he could smoothly rout the arc into the trim that makes up the face of the frieze.
 

Check the fit

With all column and frieze parts now cut and trimmed to final length, it's time to dry fit all components at once on the marked-out base components to make sure everything fits together accurately. Once satisfied, disassemble and orderly arrange the parts, preparing for a smooth-paced final assembly. On a cleared workbench, assembly and glue-up of both columns should take under 30 minutes, so both assemblies can be clamped at once.

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Machined and Ready – Dry fit all the parts before starting to add glue. You can even add some small pencil lines on the base to help with alignment during assembly.
 

Assemble the parts

I use Titebond Type III wood glue, mainly for its strength, extended working time and here because it's waterproof for solid exterior projects. A moderate coat spread over the detail parts using a 2" disposable brush with the bristles clipped to 3/4" bristle length will hold confidently; I apply just enough glue for a very slight weeping all around the joint once the parts are clamped. But first the parts have to be positioned and registered in place accurately using 5/8" pins or brads.
 
Assembly of the first column begins by attaching its capital using a square to precisely position the part during gluing and pinning. Next, the side detail strips get applied snugly to the capital and flush with the edge of the back panel. Then the base panel gets applied snug to the side strips, all bonded using Titebond III with a few pins/brads to register the parts in place. Next, referencing the capital’s center line and column’s layout lines I'd marked earlier, the short vertical detail strip gets centered and applied. Lastly, it's time to tightly fit the short horizontal detail between the long side verticals; with the 10-degree edge up, slip it under the bottom edge of the short vertical piece and secure it with glue and a couple of pins.

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Start Square – When installing the capital, use a square to pin it in place perpendicular to the base it gets glued to.
 
door-surround-clamp
Clamp Them Together – To evenly distribute pressure, Salusbury glued and pinned the column parts together, placed them face to face, then clamped them. If you don't think you can get the second column assembled in time, it might be an idea to place a plywood caul, about the same overall size of the column, on top of the trim in the first column and apply pressure with clamps before moving to the second column.
 
Now set aside the finished column and deftly repeat the build to make the second column.

With both completed, on a perfectly flat surface, create a sandwich by placing one assembly face up and the other face down on top of each other, separated uniformly by thin stock or plastic film, and apply clamps all around the stack to bond the components of each assembly tightly together.
 
While that's drying, the entablature can be assembled by centering the cornice and architrave pieces above and below the frieze panel, flush along the back and with a proud 3/8" reveal along the front and ends. Aiming for a tight, uniform glue-up, Titebond III, pins/brads and clamps will create a strong, weather-tight bond.
 

Apply a good finish

An hour or so later – assemblies cured, glue squeeze-out pared away, all edges eased and surfaces sanded – comes painting. I believe in doing things once, well. From experience, with paint, the only way to avoid repairing blistering and peeling caused by the elements and seasonal moisture exchange within wood is to finish all surfaces, all around – even those that will never see the light of day. I've had great success with Benjamin Moore "Fresh Start" latex primer followed by Benjamin Moore "Aura" latex paint. Fresh Start is a tenacious sealer / primer that I apply generously over all surfaces to keep the wood’s seasonal moisture in check and prep the surfaces to be exposed for two coats of paint. After a thorough overall priming/sealing I wait two days before a light de-nib sanding. Then I apply my first coat of Aura, and a full day or more later I apply my second coat, allowing all the primer and paint products to fully cure, regardless of the temperature and ambient humidity.
 

Install the parts

Once the columns and entablature trim assemblies are ready for installation I clean and inspect the siding surface they will go over and locate as many structural components I can nail into for solid installation. Because a door is framed within an assembled stud structure, there's a lot of solid surface behind the siding both beside and above the entrance system. I used 2-1/2" finishing nails, countersunk and filled flush with Lepage 2 in 1 Seal & Bond, the same compound I used to caulk around all seams where my trim assemblies abut the siding. As a latex product it's friendly to apply, and because it's an adhesive as well as a sealer it'll add an extra measure of confidence by bonding my trim panels to the house.

door-surround-other-applications
Other Applications – Don't be afraid to use the same, or at least very similar, details around other parts of your home for continuity. Here, Salusbury cut and applied trim to either side of his garage doors, which brings the entry and garage door design aspects together cleanly.
 
So that's how I crafted a welcoming entrance for my home. How will you create a fine entrance for yours? As I mentioned, I incorporated many details of my existing home into the design of this surround, and I'm very pleased with the final result. This design might not speak to your design aesthetic, nor your home's existing design elements. If that's the case, use my design details as a starting point, and with the help of the Internet and some trusted design magazines come up with an approach you will be proud of. Just don't underestimate the importance of creating a welcoming, beautiful front entrance for your home.
 

MARK SALUSBURY
Mark Salusbury

salusbury@nexicom.net

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