Better-Looking Bulkhead Doors
Water-shedding wooden doors improve a backyard eyesore.
Synopsis: Prefabricated metal bulkhead doors do the trick if you don’t mind their industrial look, loud clanging noise, and eventual rust. Douglas Moore’s wooden basement doors offer an attractive alternative. The bulkhead is built from durable, pressure-treated framing lumber, cedar tongue-and-groove siding, and cedar trim. The design includes a water-diverting curb and gutter and foolproof flashing details. Along the way the author comments on the best finishes and hardware for long-lasting basement access. Though Moore’s doors are styled to fit a rustic beach cottage, the design can be adapted to most house styles.
Prefabricated metal bulkhead doors are inexpensive, easy to install, and work OK. But they can look industrial, they clang when you shut them, and they rust. Wooden bulkhead doors are an attractive alternative that can be built to complement almost any house.
The key to building wooden bulkhead doors is to use rot-resistant materials and durable finishes. The doors won’t be waterproof, which isn’t a problem if the area inside is unfinished, but they can be made nearly so by incorporating some simple water-diverting features.
I built these bulkhead doors five years ago to replace ill-fitting, rusted metal doors. They work remarkably well, requiring only periodic cleaning of the rain gutter and, recently, a fresh coat of paint. The best thing about the new doors is that they blend in with the rustic look of the house.
The doors consist of two parts: a tongue-and-groove skin and a cedar frame. I sized the doors so that they overlap the 2×10 top plates by 5 in. I glued the skins and frames together with West System epoxy and finished the underside of the doors with Varathane. After setting the assembled doors in place, I trimmed around them. All sides of the trim and the siding are primed with Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start All-Purpose Alkyd Primer. The bulkhead is finished with Benjamin Moore’s MoorGlo 100% Acrylic House & Trim Paint.
The most common problem I’ve seen with wooden bulkhead doors is the hinges being torn off by the unsupported weight of the doors. To support the doors, I used a pair of custom door stays. The stays limit how far the doors can open, and they can be locked in place. Alternatives to custom-made stays include short lengths of chain and fold-down legs.
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