I am building a vacation home in Mexico, by myself. I need to make frames for my doorways and they are arches. Is there a plastic material resembling wood that will bend. I had thought of using wood but don't think I can find the proper wood, as good wood is hard to find. (for a do it your-selfer like me). I cannot find any useful information anywhere as it seems true craftsmen are out of fashion. I know it will not be easy but I know it will be worth the effort.
John ~ Tucson, Arizona
Hi John, What you are describing can be done, it's just a matter of finding the right pieces to do it. I have never been to Tucson, Arizona, but it should have a number of mill work and lumberyard type businesses which should either stock or be able to order the correct trim for your doorways.
When you say you are building door frames I assume you are either planning on casing out the arched openings or building door jambs and hanging arched doors. Either condition should be trimmed out the same with the exception of installing door stop and routing in the hinges if you're hanging doors.
If you are planning on painting the trim work when you are finished, the project should be within the capabilities of a good DIY handy-person. However, if you are thinking of staining the trim, you are probably going to need some outside help.
The inner trim piece or door jamb material can be flexible 1/8" or 1/4" plywood. 1/4" plywood would be better if you are planning on hanging doors. The grade of plywood you use will depend on whether you are planning on painting or staining the trim. Use finish nails to install it, and make sure you are hitting framing with the nails where the plywood is bent as it will be under a lot of stress in those areas.
The door casing for your doorway is where you may need some help. The plastic material resembling wood is actually a rubber type material. I have used it quite a bit to trim arched windows, but it has its limitations. It is great if you are planning on painting your trim, but if you are thinking about stain, I think you are going to have to look for trim in another direction. Flexible trim with stain on it looks like a piece of rubber that has been stained.
The flexible casing is available in different widths and profiles, but you don't have anywhere near the selection that you have with wood trim. The flexible casing is available at most lumber yards and some home improvement stores. It is usually sold based on the radius of the arch it is going to be used on. If you have a problem finding the correct size, you may be able to order it through a window company. That's where I used to purchase my odd sizes. You should be able to use regular wood or MDF casing up to where the arch starts and then make the switch to the flexible casing. A good paint job will blend the two materials without a problem.
If you are planning to stain the trim, and for some reason I can picture stained arched doorways in a Tucson, Arizona house, then you are going to have to get a custom mill work shop involved. This should give you much more options for the profile and width of the trim you use, and they can create a custom casing arch for you that should look great. You are going to need two for every arched doorway you have, so it could get a little costly.
If you are hanging doors in the arches, all you should need for doorstop is a 1/8" x 1 1/2" flat mullion strip. It should be flexible enough to install around the arch and make sure you use clear wood if you are staining. I would enjoy seeing a picture when you are finished, it sounds like a great DIY project.