Gilles' Outlet

June 24, 2007

Repairing a damaged exterior wood gate

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 5:55 am

An exterior wood gate is disassembled, repaired and hung. New hinges and hardware is installed.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 3 Hours

In this article, we remove the door from its hinges and fix a moderate split in one of the post. The gate is then unassembled, damaged wood is replaced. The frame is hung, boards are attached and new hardware is installed.

The subject of this article, seen from the inside (the door swings toward the photographer).

It is not immediately obvious on this picture, but there are many problems with this door:

  1. The door does not operates smoothly. It needs to be held up to swing,
  2. It is clearly not square (there is more space between the door and the post at the top hinge than at the bottom hinge),
  3. The wood has split at various places, including the bottom of the left post,
  4. It can only be opened from outside,
  5. Hardware is badly rusted.


Left: I started the repair by a full inpsection of the door.

The top hinge is fastened to a piece of treated 2×4. The wood is clearly split. Hinge and fasteners are rusted. There seems to be various different kind of fasteners used.


Right: The bottom hinge is rusted. It is mounted with a surprisingly wide range of fasteners: there are two 3” screws jammed in the same hole (top) and one 1-5/8” machine screw in the bottom hole. The hinge barely holds in place: I could move it by hand.

Finally, the post seems to have split. I suspect the damage can be repaired without replacing the post but I will need to gain access to the area under the hinge to confirm this.

Left: I used an impact driver to remove the screws on the bottom hinge. They came out without a fight.


Right: A large socket ratchetting wrench allowed me to remove the lag screws holding the hinge to the post. I held the door in place as I was removing the lag screws.

When the hinge was loose, I removed the door from the opening and sat it aside.

Left: I probed the left pole for weaknesses. I could not move it by hand. It was set in a concrete base which appeared in good shape.

Right: I used a 24” level to check the post for plumb. It was almost perfectly plumb on all faces. That was a good sign.

Split put aside, the post appeared to be in good condition.

Left: Upon closer inspection of the split post, I found various nails, probably installed to contain the problem. Many of them were badly rusted.

I used a mecanic’s bent pry bar to pop the head of nails out of the wood and removed them with a regular pry bar.


Right: I slid the tip of the mecanic’s pry bar in the split to gauge the severity of the damage. It felt like the sliver was still holding very strongly to the post. The split looked very clean.

I decided that the split could be contained and there was no need to replace the post.

Left: I injected exterior, waterproof wood glue in the split as I maintained it open with the pry bar.


Right: I used a plumber’s flux brush to work the glue in the opening. I applied glue from the top first: gravity drew the excess down.


It is notoriouly difficult to sucessfully glue pressure treated wood. There are three major reasons:


  • Pressure treated wood usually contains a lot of moisture when purchased and water is a solvent for most popular "yellow" (known as "PVA") wood glues like the Titebond familly in their liquid form. However, there are poluyrethane based wood glues. For these type of glue, water actually accelerates the curing process. It is worth using these when the wood is wet (brand new treated lumber for instance).
  • When glued wet, the large shrinkage of pressure treated wood puts much more stress on the glued joints, causing them to fail much faster.
  • Usually, people want to glue pressure treated wood for exterior applications. In this case, it is mandatory to use a waterproof glue. Water resistant glue resists water for some time and then give way while waterproof glue, in theory, is not affected by water after curing.

In my experience, gluing wet pressure treated wood sucessfully is difficult, especially with brand new lumber. To maximize your chances of success, leave the wood in a dry area for up to 90 days (depending on the air humidity of your location) before using it and bind with polyurehtane based glue.

Now, I am in the best case scenario: the post has been installed for at least 3 years and I know it is pretty dry. Moreover, it has already shrunk and elements have already washed some of the preservative away. My experience told me that it was fine to use a waterproof PVA glue here.

Left: I installed a few clamps to maintain the lips of the split in contact. Clamps were set to be tight but I made sure not to overtighten: this would have squeezed much of the glue out of the joint and defeat the purpose.


Right: I decided to hold the split tight with a few exterior 3-1/2” deck screws. To prevent further wood splitting, I pre-drilled about four holes.

I chose a drill bit which was 25% smaller than the shank of the screw.

Left: I drove four 3-1/2” exterior deck screws using an impact driver. I made sure to drive them so their heads were flush with the surface of the post.


Right: The finished repair: I have removed all clamps and cleaned the excess glue with a wet sponge. It is easy to see the four screws on the right face of the pole. The last one was installed on the corner.

Left: I turned my attention to the door. Using the same large ratchetting wrench, I removed both hinges.

Right: I discovered two badly split pieces of 2×4. Fasteners started to rust and stained the wood, probably due to the combination of water and the corrosive effect of the preservative used to treat the lumber.

Left: Using a reciprocating saw with a short metal cutting blade, I cut all nails attaching the top and bottom 2×4 to the sides.


Right: I pryed the frame from the board. This left a bunch of nails protruding from the door’s boards. I used a hammer to push them down out of the board gently.

 They are in good condition and I plan to re-use them because the door must keep its "old" look as much as possible while function well at the same time.

Left: I cut a piece of new pressure treated 2×4 using a circular saw. I held my framing speed square as a guide for the saw to ensure a straight cut. Using this trick you can cut dimensional lumber quickly, accurately and safely.


Right: I pre-drilled holes for 16d galvanized common nails. I used a drill bit which was 20% smaller than the shank of the nail. This prevents the wood from splitting. This is especially required here since I am going to nail very close to the end of the board.

Left: I used a pneumatic palm nailer to drive two 16d galvanized common nails.

This is called "face nailing" (nailing on the face of one 2×4 through it, into another piece of wood). Face nailing provides a great holding power.


Right: Ater nailing the frame back together, I cut two pieces of treated 2×4 and attached them to the frame and with 3-1/2” deck screws. I then attached them to the cross bracing with two 2-1/2 deck screws. This will give the cross bracing and the frame extra strength.

Left: The finished frame, ready to be hung. 


Right: The glued post after 24 hours. The repair can barely be seen. However, there is a slight edge (about 1/16”).

As small as it seems, 1/16” will cause the hinge to not sit flat on the surface and increasing the stress. This will cause the hinge and / or the wood to fail sooner than expected.

Left: I used a finish sander with 60 grit sand paper to sand the bump flat. It took only a few minutes.

Sanding pressure treated wood creates dust with dangerous chemicals: avoid sanding pressure treated lumber if at all possible. If you must sand treated lumber, wear lungs, eyes protection and perform sanding in a well ventillated area. Clean all tools well and wash work clothes separately from other clothes to help prevent cross contamination.

I clean my sander with blasts of compressed air.


Right: The new hardware for the door. On the left: lock (can be opened from both sides), the new door handle. Right: new hinges.

Left: The frame sitting in the door opening. It is held by two temporary cleats of wood clamped on posts. The door frame was made perfectly plumb and level by adjusting the cleats under it. 

Right: Detail of the temporary cleat on the left. It is essentially a piece of scrap 2×2 held in place by a vise like clamp. The door frame rests on it.

This allowed me to see exactly where hinges need to be attached. Before proceeding to the next step, I made sure everything was setup plumb, level and square one last time.

This is critical: doors don’t function well if they are installed out of plumb or level.

Left: I pre-drilled holes on the post for lag screws holding the top hinge in place. Holes were 20% smaller than the shank of said lag screws.

I use an impact driver equipped with a socket to drive the lag screw. I made sure the hinge was perfectly plumb before tightening.

The hinge is clearly not straight on the picture. I had to drop it as I was taking the picture. 

Right: I pre-drilled the holes on the frame for lags screws holding the other part of the top hinge. Holes were 20% smaller than the shank of the lag screws.

Left: I removed the left temporary cleat to gain acess to the area where the bottom hinge will sit. The frame is held by its top hinge and the temporary cleat on the right. 


Right: I verified the level and plumb one last time and installed the bottom hinge following the same procedure.

I removed the temporary cleat and verified that the door swung freely and nicely.

Left: I re-installed boards on the frame. I inserted a  spacer (a piece of wood with the right width) between the previous board and the board to install to ensure an even spacing. I positioned two old fasteners in their holes.

Right: Using a pneumatic palm nailer, I drove two nails in the top section of the frame and then, two nails at the bottom and two nails in the cross brace.

Left: After installing all boards back, I turned my attention to the lock. Again, I pre-drilled holes for lags screws. 


Right: The door, with the new hardware installed. I had to fabricate a little support block to hold the hardware. It is made out of two pieces of 2×4 screwed together with 2-1/2 deck screws.

This block was secured to the frame with four 3-1/2” deck screws.

The door, seen from the outside. The only trace of the repair is the holes left by the old hardware (top left) and the black handle allowing the door to be opened from outside.


Notice that there is no hardware on the outside of the door, which might make it a little difficult to close it from the outside. This is done on purpose: homeowners wanted the door to look almost like if it was a regular part of the fence, not a door.

Tools Used:

  • Pneumatic Palm Nailer
  • Ractchetting Socket Wrench 
  • Cordless Drill 
  • Cordless Impact Driver 
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Clamps 
  • Basic Carpentry Tools

Materials Used:

  • Treated Lumber (2×4)
  • Door hinge & Lock kit
  • Galvanized, Hot Dipped 16d common framing nails
  • 3-1/2” Deck Screws
  • 2-1/2” Deck Screws


June 2, 2007

Repairing a titled porch

Filed under: House Remodelling — Gilles @ 6:31 pm

A tiled porch is repaired after a few tiles fell by themselves during a moderate rain storm.


Skill Level: 2 (Basic)

Time Taken: About 2 Hours

During a moderate rain storm, several tiles fell off a porch. We inspect the tiling job for loose tiles, prepare surfaces for repair, mix some modified thin-set, apply and comb it. Tiles are installed and grout lines are filled.

Left: the affected section of the porch. I know tiles were laid less than 6 months before they fell. Well installed tiles last for years, even outside.

Combs in mortar are clearly visible. This means that the back of the tile did not come in contact (or very little) with the mortar. This is clearly the signature of a hack job done by a clueless homeowner.

Right: I started the repair by inspecting all other tiles. To see if a tile was not set properly, pros hit it gently with their index or the back of a plastic putty knife. If this produces a hollow sound, the tile has not been set properly.

I found about 7 improperly installed tiles, some had already started to separate from their substrate. I tried to pry them loose with a putty knife but none gave way.

I would normally use a flat piece of metal to force tiles off but I had only time to repair the existing damage. In the future, more repairs will likely be needed in this area.

Left: I inspected the back of the failed tiles. There were no trace of any mortar. This told me that the tiles were not pressed down in the mortar or there was not enough mortar applied.

The small areas where the mortar actually touched tiles were breaking, almost like sand. This indicates that the mortar used was not designed for exterior use. Rain washed the mortar away, leaving the sand behind.

It is difficult to see but most tiles still had the store’s price tag sticker attached to it (left, under my wrist). This prevents adhesion so it needs to be removed.

Right: using a flat tipped cold chisel and a masonry hammer, I removed all pieces of loose mortar. I also removed all high spots to ensure there would be enough room for the new mortar.

Left: as I was removing loose mortar, the chisel caught under an adjacent tile and pried it loose. I got lucky not to break it. The tile’s back came off clean, like all others. I cleaned the old mortar under the newly removed tile.


Right: I used a masonry brush to clean the area. For the mortar to adhere well, surfaces must be perfeclty clean, dry and free of dust. This step is critical.

Left: a 25lbs bag of VERSABOND Fortified Thin-Set Mortar which can be purchased at most home centers. It is polymer modified and approved for interior and exterior use.

Non modified thin-set will cure hard and will be prone to cracks if the substrate moves. Polymer modified thin-set will cure flexible which dramatically reduces future cracks.

Right: I pourred about 1/4 of the bag in an empty 5 gallons bucket. The tool in the bucket is a mixing paddle. It is attached to a corded drill and makes mixing thin-set an easy and quick task.

NOTE: When pourring thin-set, it is important to be in a well ventillated area and to wear respiratory protection. This product contains Portland cement, which is bad for lungs.

I added about 3/4 quart of water (as indicated on the bag), turned on the drill on low speed and mixed the thinset for a few minutes. It is essentially like making custard with a beater.

Left: the mixed batch. Instructions said to let it set for about 10 minutes so I cleaned the paddle and prepared the tools I’ll use when laying tiles.


Right: after about 10 minutes, I gave the thin-set a gentle mix as specified by the instructions. When mixed right, it has the consistency of a paste.

Left: I used the flat side of a square notched trowel to apply the thinset.

When applying mortar, it is important to use the right notched trowel. For this thin-set, the manufacturer calls for a 1/4” x 1/4” x 1/4” notched trowel. It means that notches are squares 1/4” deep and 1/4” wide.

Right: the bead of thin-set before combing. I made sure there was enough mortar for tiles to come in contact with it almost everywhere. In this case, it took a more mortar than usual because the substrate was so uneven to begin with.

Notice that the bead is relatively flat.

Left: using the notched side of the trowel, I notched the bead of thin-set.

Notches help thin-set to spread evenly and to adhere to the back of tiles.



Right: I laid the first tile in position, carefully aligning it with the previous tile in the row. I also tried to leave a small gap between the tiles so the repair would blend in.

Left: I gently moved the tile left and right, back and forth about 1/4” to ensure an even distribution of mortar under it.

Right: I laid a scrap of 2×4 over the tile and genty tapped the tile down with a hammer. This pushed the title down into the mortar. I repeated the operation over the whole surface of the tile.

Now, these two steps were not done when the porch was originally tiled and this is why it failed less than 6 months after.

I laid the remaining tiles following the same technique. It took only a few minutes to lay the tiles.

Once all tiles were laid, I applied a thin bead of thin-set to fill in the gaps between tiles (called grout lines). Now you should (unlike me) wear rubber gloves: touching thin-set with bare hands can damage your skin and is not recomended.  

Using a wet sponge, I removed all thin-set traces on tiles but not on grout lines. Essentially, the technique here is the same as if I was applying grout, only I am using thin-set instead of grout.

Now, this is wrong. Thin-set should not be put in between tiles. This is a place reserved for tile grout. I did it this way because the whole porch was done like this and I wanted the repair to visually blend in.

Whoever did this job could not be bothered with waiting for the thinset to dry and then filling gaps with grout.

The two vertical slates had a tendency to fall down so I wedged two pieces of scrap 2×4 to maintain them in place, down in the mortar.

I let the thin-set dry overnight. On the next morning, I removed the supports and finished clean up the area.

Tools Used:

  • Masonry Hammer
  • Cold Chisel
  • Masonry Brush
  • Notched Trowel
  • Corded Drill & 4” Mixing Paddle
  • Spunge

Materials Used:

  • Polymer Modified Thin-Set (exterior) – about 6lbs 

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