Finishing Raised Panel Doors

Q. I am about to make several raised panel doors. They will be painted. What precautions can I take to prevent the finish from cracking between the panel and the frame due to expansion and contraction?

Michael Dresdner: The best one is to pre-finish. That means paint the panel BEFORE you put it in the frame. That way, even if the panel moves, it will never show a raw wood line. And since the finish will not be “bridged” over the joint where panel meets frame, there will be nothing to crack.

Ellis Walentine: It’s fairly standard procedure to finish the panel before you assemble the door. This way, any contraction will expose finished wood. If you plan to apply a heavy film finish, such as polyurethane or regular varnish, you might not want to do this, because it will add too much thickness to those edges and they won’t fit your grooves on assembly. In this case, just wipe a coat of your finish on the edges of the panel to seal and saturate the wood’s color before assembly.

Lee Grindinger: Use MDF for the panel and glue it in place when you assemble the door. A solid wood panel will not work here because you can’t glue a solid panel in place. A composite like particle board, plywood, or MDF can be glued in place without tearing the door apart when the humidity changes. MDF is quite paintable so it’s your best choice for these doors.

Posted in: