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Door Panels

We have a problem with our doors. The doors are various 4-8 panel doors. However the panels have a fair amount of movement within the door (back and forth between stiles, and up and down). Is this something we should glue tight? Or was this intended because of expansion. Any rule of thumb as to how much movement is too much? — Andrew & Janyte Bullock, Middleboro, MA

The frame and panel system is designed to allow the panels to move. Wood expands and shrinks with changes in moisture content 10-15 times more across the grain than along the grain. The design keeps this movement within the panels making the overall size of the door more stable and less likely to jam in the door frame.

Generally you should not glue the panels in place. If a panel is shrinking enough to leave a gap between it and the frame, or if it shifts to one side it is possible to fix the panel in place and still allow for movement.

First determine which sides of the panel are end-grain. Usually it is the shorter sides, but if there is not much paint buildup you can confirm this by looking for minor striations or cracks on the face of the panel that indicate the grain direction. The end-grain sides are perpendicular to the grain direction. Center the panel in its opening and fasten it in place at the center of the end-grain sides with a single spot of glue or a thin brad. This will hold the panel in place and still allow it to expand and shrink at both sides.

John Leeke is a preservation consultant who helps homeowners, contractors and architects understand and maintain their historic buildings. You can contact him at 26 Higgins St., Portland, Maine, 04103; or by E-mail:; or log onto his website at:

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