Dear Kathy: Fix or Replace My Ruined Doors?

Kathy's Remodeling BlogDear Kathy:

I am planning a major remodeling in a 12-year-old house we just bought and I’ve been reading your blog articles for the past week. I found them very informative and inspiring. Most importantly, they are very practical and also very fun — a rare combination to find among remodeling articles nowadays!

Now I have a big problem with my exterior wood French doors. Eight of them have developed dry rot from the bottom. Some are more serious than the others. When it rains, water came through and stained the carpet. Different contractors have different opinions about this: some think it can be fixed while some told me firmly that my only choice is to replace all of them with vinyl or fiberglass doors. However, I have concerns on both of the options:

To replace:

1) They are very expensive due to the size and number of my doors. I’ve been given estimate from $35,000 to $45,000 to replace all of them.
2) Can I make sure that water will not come through again with the new materials?

To fix:

1) How can I make sure the same problem will not happen again?
2) How I can find a licensed people to fix this problem? Should I find a contractor or a handyman will do the job?
3) One contractor told me that it might be even more expensive to fix compared with just buy some new ones. Is it true?

Look forward to your reply. Thank you very much.

— Christine in Diamond Bar, CA

Dear Christine:

Thank for the kind words about my blog. I am not a contractor, architect, consultant, lawyer or anything like that. But I do have one very strong opinion based on my years of home remodeling observation.

And that opinion is this: You have a moisture intrusion problem, not a door problem. Unless you address why the water is coming into your house, no type of door will solve the problem. The problem is usually that there is insufficient slope away from the door opening to the outside. It could be the flashings around the door, designed to create a barrier between the inside and outside, are not in place. Perhaps there should be a sill pan.

(Note: The photo above is from a house with just such a problem. See it here.)

So the problem is not so much whether you fix or replace the doors. The problem is stopping the water intrusion.

I suggest you don’t hand this job over to a handyman. I suggest you find an excellent remodeling company to help you. This is a serious problem and needs a top-notch company. Your chosen company should licensed and insured, of course, but it should also be respected, award-winning and a member of a local remodeling or building association.

You may well run into this comment: “We don’t do small jobs.” That’s fine. Just keep developing a list of excellent companies and calling them until one is receptive.

Any other advice for Christine?

1 Comment on Dear Kathy: Fix or Replace My Ruined Doors?

  1. james

    National Association for Moisture Management is a non-profit organization to educate and protect the consumer from problems associated with moisture primarily