An Open & Shut Case

by | Jul 9, 2021 | Designing, How-To

Surprisingly, the look and quality of interior and exterior doors often come as afterthoughts in the construction of log and timber homes. However, a missed opportunity to brighten an entryway, welcome guests, and increase the “wow factor” can be corrected. It’s never too late to spruce up doors, keeping an eye on cost and environmentally friendly factors.

Getting in touch with the ins and outs of interior and exterior doors is easier than you think. Craftsmen who are in tune with their potential can prompt prospective clients with a few simple questions.

“We first ask if they have any ideas toward the look they are trying to achieve,” explains Kent Olsen of Specialty Woodworks Company. “By look, I mean do they have a wood species that they like or are leaning toward? We then ask them about the style of door they like. We look at the plans to see what the style of the home is, and we have many different door styles on display in our showroom in many different species of wood.”


Just mentioning the subject gets a homeowner thinking about doors, often for the first time in the evolution of their log or timber home project. “Once we know the species of wood, we can give them several different styles of doors along with the pricing of each style,” adds Daniel Schmidt, Jr., of Timber Valley Millwork. “To find the style that speaks the most to each individual, we go through our website and talk to the customer to see if they have seen something elsewhere that has caught their eye.”

These days, there are numerous wood species and more options than ever, from the plain and understated to the handcrafted and elegant. Knotty red alder is wildly popular now, according to Olsen, “because of its look and affordability. Natural red alder varies a little in color from a light brown to a pale pinkish brown and has no visible boundary between the heartwood and sapwood. It stains up real well to give just about any beautiful rich shade you choose.”

Contemporary rivals to red alder include knotty pine, knotty cedar, and more traditional woods that tend to be continually popular but not necessarily seen often as door options. “People want their doors to match the rest of their house,” observes Schmidt, “and lately we are seeing more requests for species like rustic cherry or rustic hickory. These produce great looking doors and are really nice because they are woods that are not typically seen in doors for log and timber homes.”

Blue Stain Pine is a unique and eco-friendly option for doors.

Considering the homeowner’s taste, Richard Cornelius at Hand Carved Doors can make an idea come to life—from simple crafted images to just about anything that speaks to a personal preference.

“A carved door is very distinctive,” relates Cornelius. “It’s a one-of-a-kind addition to a home. The motif and design need to be something the client can live with and look at for a long time. Together, the homeowner and I create an heirloom that makes a unique statement.”

When they come to Cornelius, some homeowners have already thought about their doors of distinction. Some may enjoy wildlife, a picturesque mountain scene, or even a beloved pet that can be carved into an amazing image on an interior or exterior door.

“Other considerations include the home style,” Cornelius notes. “Arts & Crafts, Lodge, Western Rustic, or a traditional formal treatment need to be determined as well. Should the door wood match the species used throughout the home? What color of stain will be used? Does the client want color added to the carving to accentuate details?”

Stable woods that are suitable for carving are a requirement for the best finished product in custom handcrafted doors, and Cornelius recommends alder for relief carving because it works well when crafting detailed images. Other woods that are fine for carving include cherry, walnut, and white oak. Each has its own character and lends a different look. “When I started carving doors in 1994, there were very few door carvers,” Richard concludes. “I spent a lot of time presenting carving to embellish a door. Today there are more options, but I still think the homeowner is the one to seek out what is available. I still like to inform folks about the possibilities. That door can be a large wood canvas, a wonderful place to make a unique personal statement.”

When it comes to cost, many homeowners may overlook the relative investment of interior and exterior doors in the context of the project as a whole. Although the dollars spent may be a fraction of overall cost, the quality and style of doors is still worth more than just a passing glance.

“We build everything per order,” says Schmidt. “So if a customer is looking for a two-panel door but their size is slightly different than a standard-size door our price for the most part will not change. The biggest factor for us when determining the price is the design. We manufacture a lot of round top and hand-carved doors. These are going to be the most expensive because the most time is put into producing them.”

Environmentally friendly products are readily available in choosing the right doors. At Specialty Woodworks these are regularly offered, and customers are amazed at the choices. “We have several green options,” comments Olsen. “We craft many doors using remanufactured and recycled wood. Some of the species available are recycled oak, Douglas fir, barn wood of various species, and chestnut. Another green option we offer is Blue Stain Pine, milled from dead standing timber. The pine trees were often killed by pine bark beetles or fire. It is a very beautiful and unique looking wood and is referred to as Beetle Killed Pine or Buggie Pine. Over the years we have produced thousands of Blue Pine doors, and we can also produce blue stain cabinets, moldings, and tongue-and-groove paneling.”

With boundless options, log and timber home owners owe it to themselves to pause and consider their doors during construction or renovation. Being open to the possibilities brings beautiful results.