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The Final Stretch! Replacing the Door Sill/Threshold

August 3, 2011
Day 3: Elapsed time 4 hours
This project was quite an undertaking. I should have expected it though, projects done on old homes never go as planned.  Lesson learned again.
So the last step in the “This Old House” directions is to:
Foam It
Squirt expanding foam sealant under the threshold to hold it in place and plug any air gaps. Immediately put the toe kick up under the flashing and tight against the underside of the threshold, and screw it to the sub sill. Run a bead of sealant between the threshold and each door stop. Finally, protect the wood with deck paint or several coats of spar varnish.
We are almost there. My dad ripped down a piece of pressure treated wood to use as the toe kick. He dropped of the toe kick and the finished threshold he made out of a white oak board. He planned and sanded the board to make the angle on each side. The thresholds they sell at Home Depot and Fingerle are too short and too thick (of course), so he had to make a custom piece.
Geoff popped the toe kick into place and shimmed it level and tight to the sill. He then drilled three holes (2″ each from each jam and one in the center) 1″ from the sill’s edge. He used a 1/2″ countersink bit after drilling the holes so that we could hide the screws with oak pegs my Dad supplied. This step actually went fairly smoothly. He used 3.5″ screws so that they would go all the way through the 2.5″ thick sill and into the toe kick. When drilling he made sure to use a large bit. The screws were very long and the oak is a dense wood that does not have very much give. He needed to drilled holes to be just large enough to leave ample wood for the threads to catch but to allow the screw to go in smoothly without too much resistance.
  • 3, 3.5″ deck screws
  • 3 1/2″ oak plugs
  • 1/2″ counter sink bit
  • drill
  • 4″ drill bit
I placed the old threshold over the custom planed oak board my Dad made. I traced the profile of the molding onto the new board and used a coping saw to cut out the shape. Refer to my crown molding post for notes and video on how to use a coping saw.
We put the coped threshold down and covered it with the brass threshold that makes a tight seal with the copper flashing on the bottom of the doors. Geoff pre-drilled holes through the threshold and into sill to attach the metal piece with brass screws…..We had everything screwed in tight when we realized that the doors wouldn’t close!!!!
There was still a small amount of concrete below the sill that had raised the right side of the sill 1/4″ above level. So the door or the left close smoothly and tightly, and the door and the right wouldn’t close at all. For whatever reason we thought it would be easiest to sand down the sill 1/4″ (I don’t know what we were thinking) After 1.5 hours of trying that, we took the right door off it’s hinges, removed the copper flashing from the bottom and sanded it down 1/8″ in about 15 minutes. The combination of the sanded sill and the sanded door added up to just enough to have the door close.
We reassembled everything and all that’s left is to foam, caulk and paint. It has been very humid and raining the last few days so I am waiting for another dry spell to finish these last few steps.
Almost there!
Day 4: 1 Hour
So, the weather dried up a bit and I was able to finish the threshold/sill. I went back and forth between painting and staining. I decided to go with stain and poly because the white oak has a really beautiful grain and it will not chip or crack like paint. There was a more prep and more steps but it’s looking realy good.
Unfortunately we are suffering from the problem of “now that I’ve fixed X, Y looks like shit.” It’s the whole give a mouse a cookie syndrome. You think you’re just helping out a hungry murine friend until you realize you’ve involved yoursel in a whole series of tasks to get the job done.
This is how it went for us:
  1. The screen doors were ripped and flaking paint. Hmmm, I’ll just sand, fill and paint the door and replace the screens. NBD.
  2. Oh, now the threshold/sill look horrible next to the freshly painted screen doors. The sill is rotting and needs to be replaced. Ok I’ll replace the sill.
  3. Wow that was alot of work, but at least the sill will last 100 more yeats.  Wait….now the french doors look terrible. Dull brown paint, next to the gleaming sill and the crisp doors…..
  4. Guess I will have to refinish the french doors…..ugghh
For now, see the pictures of the Threshold/Sill below.
  • I sanded it down with 180 and the 220 grit sand paper.
  • I followed with 2 coats of minwax red mahogany oil based stain. Make sure to use a high quaily brush made for stain and poly. Cleans up with paint thinner/mineral spirits.
  • I brushed the stain on, let it sit for 15 mintues and wiped off the excess with paper towl.
  • 4-6 hours between coats.
  • I follwed it 2 coats of satin based polyurathene intended for outdoor use. I like the satin look more than the gloss or high gloss poly.
still drying in this photo
  • Tape and caulk where the sill meets the jam. Foam gap under sill.
  • Replace the deck boards.
  • Put the screen doors back up.
7 Comments leave one →
  1. J Gills permalink
    March 13, 2014 11:51 AM

    Got a “Woodworking Specialist” to look at the rot on and round my old front door. It’s a quarter century old saltbox so the front door has seen lots of hot sun and rain. There are no gutters either so all the rain falls on the brick stoop and bounces back on the house so the hand carved door frame has to be rebuilt. “Couple days we’ll be done with me and one helper” at $60 per hour.” That was the quote. HA HA

    Monday: He came (no helper) late in the day ripped off all the rot and my front door threshold and chipped several pieces of my slate in the foyer. 8:30 that night called and gave me the list of materials he would need.

    Tuesday am I’m at the lumber yard when they open. Get all the stuff except two pieces of wood – threshold and bed moulding. Bed is actually a mini crown molding they “hadn’t seen anything like that in 25 years.” (Should have given me a hint of what was to come!)
    The other was the oak threshold. No one has this. It’s 6 quarter x 8″ for front and back doors I need 8 feet. The lumber yard gave me the number of a local sawmill not too far away. After talking with the mill and finding out they had just sold ALL their oak to a dealer they gave me the dealer’s phone number and I call them. They did have the oak and would sell me a board but they were working out of town and would meet me tonight 6:30.
    Back home with the materials but although it’s a beautiful 75 degree day – no show on the carpenter.
    Went after dinner to get the white oak only he didn’t have any long enough. Only had red oak. The originals were red oak anyway so we got that and paid $35. I called to see when the woodworking shop opens in the a.m. and they are closed tomorrow so come on Thursday 9:30. I make a plan.

    Wednesday supposed to begin raining at noon so of course carpenter shows at noon throws a tarp over the job and heads home.
    I get out to Lowes, HD and continue to search for the missing piece of trim. It is specifically made to fit under the copper edge of the door roofing and nail the copper roof cap down. No one has this size – too small (2.25″ crown molding). No one not even speciality lumber yards so I buy a piece of 1×4 fir. Take it to a woodworking shop and have it cut to size or so I thought – I even brought the original trim piece with me and a hand-drawn diagram from an architect but the piece they made is not like the original or diagram so I don’t know if it will work. Tonight – Big storm / Nor-easterner coming in and I have no threshold under the front door. Dipping down to 20’s and gale force winds lost power.

    Thursday a.m. again up early and out to meet the woodworker who said he could make the threshold. Got the red oak and a box of fried chicken to sweeten the deal. Says he can do it while I wait. However, when I show him the old threshold he balks. This threshold is deeper than his saw can reach! Now this is an issue so I have to either leave it so he can see what can be done to make this work or take it to another shop. Nearest shop is back at the lumber yard but the woodworker out for two weeks! I make the decision to leave the wood where it is with the fried chicken and hope for the best.
    Carpenter shows up at 11 a.m. says its too gusty to work. Says he’ll be here tomorrow morning…

  2. Colleen B. permalink
    January 19, 2014 7:54 PM

    We bought my husbands child home, and we have the same problem-worse even. Thank you for all your details. I decided today (yes January) was a good day to tackle this project. Your blog has been so much help!!

  3. February 25, 2012 7:34 AM

    I to own a old Home & needed the same thing done.Yes Threshold / Sill replacement with Oak.I am a Machinist & appreciate very much your Complete Detailed steps you so kindly provided. After studying You & your Dad’s article in detail I had no problems doing mine at all.I Thank you both for such a fine article.

  4. November 29, 2011 4:56 PM

    All I can say is, "How beautiful." Your blog really helped me to appreciate the door sill and thresholds of older homes.


  1. College Hill Renovation Realities « A Home In College Hill
  2. Door Threshold/ Sill Replacement « A Home In College Hill

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