Steel Door Construction: Replacement for my door replacement

Posted in : Door Replacement, Window Install on by : Tai , freemiumfreemiumfreemiumfreemiumfreemium Comments: 6

6 Months ago last May I constructed an awesome looking green door out of 2×6’s and RV scrap window I had laying around.  I knew it wasn’t perfect but it was a hell of a lot better than the existing doors.  It was a fun project and I loved the hell out of it.  Recently, I spotted some catastrophic leaks into the doorway area caused by some poor overlap where the gutter meets the door, I knew this must be fixed ASAP!  Work has been busy and the pacific northwest has been dumping rain with it’s notorious persistence.  Getting some sun on my day off has been a twisted game of weather roulette, I found a decent dual pane window off ebay and ordered it immediately so I could start whenever weather permits.  I recently drew a perfect hand of timing and coincidences outlined below.

1,  Starting 2017 I now have 2 days off, my first weekend landed right in the middle of a frigid yet dry weather streak

2.  I got myself a work jacket which keeps me mostly warm in the freezing temperatures.

3. My dual pane window arrived a few days prior to my weekend.

4.  A great mate of mine (Steve) was in town and had some great opinions and skills to share

Perfect, lets get down to the process.  I apologize, I didn’t take a lot of pictures this time around.  Here’s a finished pic first.

I started out as a deer staring into headlights.  What the hell do I do? Luckily I had Steve’s guidance and I also didn’t want to look like a fool in his presence so I took it step by step.

1. Cut metal to desired lengths: my original door replacement was 82″ tall, 31″ 3/4 wide, there was nothing between the gutter and the door. I wanted the new door to be a little shorter so I could stick a lip below the gutter to accommodate for possible future rain diversions.  So I cut myself a new frame which consisted of two 79″ long tubes with 45 degree angle, and two 31″ 3/4 long tubes with 45 degree angle(note: my “45 degree angles” were a little off).  Modest problem, I don’t know how it took me 5 months to learn but the old chop saw I used has an odd sized arbor (shaft) which was 45/64″  (give or take),   I continued to use abrasive cutoff wheels with a 1″ arbor without any thought about it.  However I was having about 1/4″ inconsistencies with my cuts this time around and I could not afford to have such inaccuracy.  I recently got myself a  14″ metal cutting blade on sale, I wanted to try it which is when I learned about my arbor inconsistencies.  I luckily found a cheap local chop saw on craigys and was able to purchase it on my way home from work the next day.  I put the new cutting blade on and holy crap.  THIS THING CUTS AMAZINGLY!  No burs, much quieter, much faster, and better longevity.  The new saw also has a clamp which is great!  No pictures though, just imagine some black lines on a junky shop table with a lot of clutter.

2. Weld the frame together: since I’m a novice I used corner clamps to assist in keeping my angles near 90 (they were a tad off).  A note on welding the frame:  my table wasn’t straight or large enough to accommodate the door.  As a result the frame was pretty twisted after I welded it.  We used the bus floor as a reference of a “flat surface” and twisted the frame back by gently stepping on and off it from the corners while resting the other corners on some 2×4 scraps: this did great assurance for me in regards the strength of a steel frame.   I flip flopped a lot on the frame shape but finally settled on framing a bunch of 45 degree angles. into the corners.  Not for support but rather for a surface for me to fasten wood to later for a thermal break.  It took a few hours for my common sense to kick in about not using a camping chair as a prop.


3. Skinning the door:  I had some big 18 gauge steel sheets left over from the bus skinning project.  I tacked them onto the frame and overlapped them about 6″.  If I was thinking clearly I would’ve riveted them together, but instead I welded them together without enough tacks.  This lead to them warping pretty severely with gaps as big as 3/8-1/2″ in some areas, I also would’ve saved an hour or two if I thought this through better.  I lost some sleep over it, but live and learn, life goes on.  These are galvanized sheets, so I wore a respirator while I welded them on (most of the time).  I didn’t take any pictures because I was in a zone.  I also stuffed 1″ of insulation in my door handle lock area, and skinned both sides.  To my surprise I don’t htink the insulation caught fire.  Good to know.

4. Cutting the Window Hole:  I cut a hole for the window.  It was messy, I was tired, it wasn’t perfect carry on.  By this point it was about 10pm so I was acting a little hasty.  As soon as the window hole was big enough (or a little too big), we threw two quick layers of spray primer on the back and flipped the frame over.  The paint probably didn’t dry fully, but I was impatient and had a schedule to keep.

5. Butyl Tape, Window and Clecos:  I painted 2.5 quick layers of paint (15 to 30 min apart) on the door before I put the window in.  Hasty and sloppy, but better crappy than rusting.  I wrapped the tape in butyl putty tape and cleco’d it on.  This was a moment of triumph.  All the cleco’s didn’t go in well due to the poor fastening job done in step 3.  However I was tired and it was 1am.  Drink a beer and sleep.  (I was a terrible host)

6. Rivet the Window in.  Once again I didn’t take any pictures, mainly because my phone died from me not using it.  Excuses.  You guys can see this process with more detail and pictures in August 2016: Window Installs.

7. Install the door:  Steve suggested we install the door by clamping it onto the old hinge (much better than my “do it with manpower” plan), in general Steve uses a much more methodical approaches than myself in many ways .  This worked out really well, we received assistance with scrap wood and a jack stand as well.  We put a layer of butyl between the door and the hinge and installed the door with 1″ #12 screws. Once again no pictures, sorry.

8. Destroy the Battery Box:  In may I also made a battery box, I was pretty proud of it.  Unfortunately this gets in the way with installing the door, also the steps got in the way of the door closing fully, also I wasn’t sure if it the stairwell had water in it.  So I destroyed the battery box and removed the hinge steps I installed in may.  Sigh.

9. Install door knob:  I installed the old door knob, it was crooked, I’m way over it.  I was just happy to have the door lock again.

10. Shortening the Hinge:  This was pretty sketchy, I removed the top 3″ of the hinge with an angle grinder and a cut off wheel.  It was sketchy, I would not want to do this again.   I did this for the upper lip.

11. Fabrication of the Upper lip:   I made the upper lip with a small sheet 36″x 3″ 1/4.  I rivetted a 32″ tube to it to keep it straight.  Then I spray painted two layers of primer on it (15-20min apart) and got some food.  Once again poor picture taking.

12. Installing the Upper lip:  I installed the upper lip with a little butyl to seal any cracks which may exist.  It took a little adjusting but it is mostly fit and most importantly, overlaps the door in a mannor which will reduce leaks.  It was night and I was tired, no progress pictures.

13. Insulating the door:  I had no intention to do this, but I found myself restless while my wife took her evening bath.  So I stuffed some insulation in the cracks of the door.  You’ll notice this in the final pictures.  I will do more insulating and framing for the door but this put me in a great stopping point for the evening.

Finished Pictures:

Upper Lip (outside)

Upper Lip (Inside)

Weather-seal, more insulation, and other fine tuning to be done further in the future.

6 thoughts on “Steel Door Construction: Replacement for my door replacement”

  1. Jim Billington January 15, 2017Reply

    I like your bus, I live in Belfair, WA which is just a short drive south of Bremerton on Hiway 3. I mostly use the bus as a guest room and for summer burning man events so live in it for weeks at a time, in years past lived in a bus due to an angry wife then she became ex wife, but I was the only money and my only option for staying dry, but n ot always warm. This present bus have had for 7 yrs, but getting new interior.
    If you are in the area would love to see your bus and show off mine and I buy the coffee.

    1. Tai January 15, 2017Reply

      Jim! I am pleasantly surprised to see you’re my first two (non-spam)comments on my website! The wife, bus and I all seem to really enjoy driving around highway 16 so I will definitely take you up on your offer if it still stands in a few months. May-June is my current goal for the bus to be travel-worthy. Lots of work to do, lots of posts to make.

  2. Sandi Blankenship February 6, 2017Reply

    I’ve read through much of your posts. I love how humble you are 😉

    Living full time on my bus has presented some challenges while still doing a build out. But, I’ve gleaned some good info from here.

    Thanks again for the advise on Much appreciated!


    1. Tai February 7, 2017Reply

      Thanks for the kind words Sandi! I’m actually quite arrogant, but I try and conceal it from the online community for many of my online peers have wisdom and experience which I may never match!

      I enjoy your website (, I appreciate that you didn’t waste any time moving into your skoolie. Your skoolie build is the build I should’ve gone with- simple, practical, flexible, effective. Instead I’m investing too much time and money into things I barely understand, resulting in me continuously delaying my move in date. Hell even if the bus was done I’d still be too starved for cash to live the dream. But the Joy is in the process I suppose.

      Best regards to you and your wanderlustbus!

  3. Jim Billington February 8, 2017Reply

    I loved how you made changes and then made changes to your battery box, this is what is happening to me, put the floor in, but ordered way too much flooring, but it was super cheap, so will be re doing floor after construction is finished. Anyway, I find myself after building something nice, getting other ideas, scrapping out what I just finished to take advantage of the new ideas. I am a retired steel fabricator and would have just put some scrap steel plate in the corners for gussets, but I realize that you had the extra tubing and put that to work. I love looking at what you did, some things I will imitate and others will do differently, but always get inspired at how any of us come up with things to do and if it works? then it is the right decision.

    1. Tai February 10, 2017Reply

      Oh what I would do (aside from taking on debt and going back to school) to have your retired steel fabricator experience. I didn’t think about using plate to enforce the gussets. However that’s gives me some good ideas for me to apply for future planning. But I have a lot of tubing laying around, not a lot of plates, so I guess I still will keep using tubing :p.

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