The second story of our timber frame & straw bale house has shorter than standard wall heights. It is definitely standing height, but the beams (or top plates, more specifically) that support the rafters are at head height, and another curved tie beam is similarly placed. We have two door locations upstairs, one to access the north storage loft above the porch, and a second for the walk-out balcony on the west, so we were faced with having to size and build our own homemade doors from scratch. Since I have never built a DIY door before, I was fairly intimidated, but the process wasn’t that bad once I got started. What I came up with were some super heavy duty, insulated doors made with tongue and groove boards, complete with some burly strap hinges to support the weight.
Building a Homemade Door
The main considerations for the second story doors were most obviously 1.) the proper dimensions, and 2.) making something that was significantly insulated. Having a west-facing door is not truly ideal in my mind, as it is the direction from which a lot of cold winds and rain come in. The north is an equally crappy location for a door, but at least the storage loft door was not a true exterior door. That door opens to a sheltered space, but it is unheated in there and the need for insulation is still important. The balcony door is a true exterior door, and it was essential that this custom door be burly enough to keep the warm in and cold out.
So, getting to the point here of the design here…
Custom Door Details
The design is essentially a sandwich, with a 1.5″ polyiso foam board surrounded in 3/4″ tongue and groove boards. The construction was fairly simple thanks to the ease of using t&g. I simply laid out the proper number of t&g boards, cut them to length, clamped them together, and braced them with an X style brace. Importantly, the long/continuous leg of the X pattern starts at the lower hinge. The other “broken” half of the X runs in the other direction. (See the above image to understand what I mean.)
Next, I copied my pattern and made the identical back half of the door. Once I had made both sides of the door, I used 1.5″ square pieces of wood and nailed a perimeter border to one half of the door. This wood holds the foam in place inside, and creates a clean look around the border of the door.
Finally, I cut a piece of polyiso foam (1.5″ thick, R-9+, by the way), and stuck it in there. I laid my other half of the door on, fastened it with nails to those 1.5″ perimeter pieces, and viola…. door. Heavy, heavy door. Pretty nicely insulated, too, as far as doors are concerned.
Finding Strap Hinges
Standard door hinges would not suffice here, so I spent a fair amount of time trying to find strap hinges for a reasonable cost online. Unfortunately, our blacksmith friend wasn’t around soon enough to bang a few out for us, so we went the commercial route. Acorn Manufacturing makes some decently priced strap hinges in a variety of styles, and their 9 inchers (rough forged, with heart pattern) cost us about $20 a pop. They look good and perform great so far.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to think through the latch design fully before we had to leave, and so the doors are latch-less for now. I envision some kind of homemade wooden or forged latch to be the top choice, but I have no detailed examples to draw from.
I’d love to try my hand at building more doors in the future. This style is fairly basic, and works well for the situation.
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