The Great Interior Door Upgrades

Written by DIY, Featured

WE DID IT! Sorry for yelling. I’m just so damn excited about it. We finished our great interior door upgrade project. I believe in the beginning I told Jordan we would have it done in two weeks…. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! No. More like four months.

Granted, part of that was because we lost motivation or had something else going on over a weekend. But mostly, I underestimated the amount of sanding, cutting, glueing and drying time and what not.

BUT WE GET TO LOOK AT THIS NOW! Sorry for yelling again. Also please ignore the trim in the living room that isn’t painted yet. We’re getting there.

Let me refresh your memory of what we were dealing with before. The doors are already removed here, but you get the idea.

Here is our bathroom door so you have a reference point of what the doors looked like. We started with flat, highly varnished wood doors with silver hardware.

Now let’s dig into what we did and how we did it. I suggest getting a bowl of popcorn, this is gonna be long one.

Remove Doors & Hardware

To start out, we removed all the doors. We have nine hinged doors and six sliding doors in the whole house. As we took them down, we used a sharpie marker on the tops of each door (since no one will ever see writing there) to write which door was which. We also removed all the hardware including the knobs, hinges and strike plates. Jordan took each one down and brought them out back to me, where I had started a sanding station.

We also removed the doors on all three of our sliding closets. Part of the plan was to remove the dated, scalloped rail covers. To do so, we had to remove the molding on the front of the doors. Jordan tackled that. The wood was so flimsy it snapped with almost no effort, but at least our molding is super standard stuff. It was gonna be easy to replace. So not a big deal.

Sanding (so much sanding)

I had a folding table set up out back where I would lay a door out to sand it. Once I was done one door, the plan was that Jordan could take it over to the hose and clean off the sanding dust. The first misstep was using a Mouse palm sander. That’s all I’ve ever had and it’s worked fine for my small scale projects to date. As Jordan was bringing out the last door and I still wasn’t done sanding the first one… I realized I needed something more powerful. It seems so obvious now of course! So we jumped in the car and headed to Lowes really quick. We picked up a brand new orbital sander with more oomph and came home ready to rock to roll! Only for storm clouds to roll in and ruin everything. So our first day was kind of a bust and I was already upset about not getting further along like I had hoped. My motivation took a hit on day one.

But day two rolled around with clear skies, and the new orbital sander we bought did the trick. It still took me about 3 hours or so to sand everything down. We are talking 1960’s highly varnished doors. I had to remove ALL of that or the new paint wouldn’t stick to the surface. My shoulders were rock hard and my arms were like jelly for a few days after that.

Cut & Glue Molding

We weren’t just repainting the doors. That would have been too easy and cut down on a lot of our time if we had. I wanted to give them more dimension though. Yay me and my ideas! *sarcasm… We purchased some molding to attach to the fronts to give them a faux two panel door look. You could do this in so many different ways to add interest to your home. Like this, or this or even this if you’re feeling fancy.We chose the classic two panel for ourselves because it felt truer to the period and not too modern or too formal. It came right in at a happy medium.

Jordan handled all of the measuring, marking up the doors with the location of each strip and the label for each piece. He marked them such as “Guest Bedroom: A1” or “Basement B7.” He put the same markings on each strip of molding as he cut it down so it would be easy to match them up later. This was important since each door seemed to be a slightly different size.

Jordan here! In hindsight, it may have been quicker to cut/glue each side as we went, but the labeling kept things fairly organized.  PRO TIP:  Don’t do this while you’re tired, I accidentally marked the same side twice on a door, and forgot one side on another.  It was adventurous to say the least!  Another thing to note is that you should most definitely not expect these pieces to fit together absolutely perfectly once you’re all done, especially if you are hand measuring/marking/cutting.  Pay attention to the cut-width of your saw blade, do the best you can, and don’t rush.  Honestly, the imperfections shouldn’t be too noticeable, and a little caulking will help give things the finished look you desire once painted.  Molding quality was an issue for us, as it was harder than we thought to get molding that was straight.  Again, expecting imperfections is the key, and knowing how to work around them with creative caulking/sanding will bridge the gap to that finished look.  Once we had everything cut and ready to glue, we used other doors to keep the freshly glued molding down while the glue cured.  The whole process was simple, but time consuming.

I think Jordan did a pretty fantastic job on the cutting for the most part. Just look at that corner!

For gluing, I spread out through the whole basement setting up every folding table we had. I was able to do five doors at a time. Again, it was easy, but time consuming since I could only do five doors at a time and one side at a time. I used Liquid Nails Heavy Duty just to be extra cautious. As Jordan said, we were able to use the other doors we weren’t gluing at the moment to sit on top of the doors we just glued to put a little pressure on the molding while it dried in place. We also used storage bins with heavy stuff in them. This step took about a week by itself of after work gluing sessions.


Now that we had everything glued on, we still needed to give them that finishing touch and fill in the gaps. Now for another step that took about a week. At this point I was getting lazy and only working on them here and there. Other stuff still needed to get done! As with caulking on anything else, the secret to getting this right is wetting your finger before wiping away the excess. The corners were a little tricky at first, but with patience I was able to get them filled and smooth. If you want some more detail on caulking, I covered that in this post.


Finally! We’re at the painting stage. Since we were doing so many doors at once, and decided we have enough projects to warrant it in the future – we bought a paint sprayer. The Flexio 590 that we got actually uses the paint straight from the can without thinning it out. So color consistency isn’t a worry. Since we are first time paint sprayers here, we definitely made a few mistakes we learned from. We chose to spray the doors inside. We have plenty of space in the basement and figured we could section off the area to make a “sealed” paint room. We didn’t want to paint outside because we were afraid of messing up our fence, or the weather changing on us, or God forbid a leaf falls on a door with wet paint.

So here we are taping plastic drop cloths around the rafters and on the floor one night. Shout out to my parents who helped! Here’s the thing I learned though: DON’T USE PLASTIC DROP CLOTHS! They are the flimsy-est things on the planet. The slightest breeze blows them any which way. And what do paint sprayers do? CONSTANTLY BLOW AIR! It’s how they push paint through the device. The plastic kept billowing out and then coming to rest on the parts I had just gone over with paint. It was a little bit of a nightmare. DON’T DO WHAT I DID! Be smarter than me.

The sprayer itself did an awesome job! I got a little too much paint on a few spots which was my own fault, but I got the hang of it and they all turned out pretty damn sweet, if I do say so myself. It was so fun watching the whole thing transform so quickly after feeling like an eternity to get to this point.

Each side took two coats. I did the first one on the first side early in the morning, then came back an hour later to do the second coat. I left them sit for several hours that time, then came back downstairs in the evening to flip everything over and start the other side. I was done painting everything in one day and it was by far the fastest part of the whole process. Although this step claimed my nice pair of Nike sneakers I was stupidly wearing when I flipped them over. The stupid plastic sealed around the bottoms and didn’t let air in for the paint to dry. Oh well, now I just have really nice house work shoes. DON’T DO WHAT I DID!

Somewhere in here (can’t remember exactly when i did this) I spent another entire weekend painting all the trim and door jambs where we removed doors. I listened to a lot of podcasts that weekend that numbed me to hour 18 of prep work and trim painting.

The basement door previously had two additional sets of locks on it (probably to keep kids from going downstairs), so I had to do a little extra work there to fill the holes. We had a delivery box downstairs with sturdy foam in it. I cut down the foam into small pieces and stuffed one of the larger holes with it so I wouldn’t be wasting a ton of wood filler or spackle. I then went over the top of the foam with spackle for a smoother finish.

The portion at the top had a chunk missing. I basically remolded a portion of the trim using Plastic Wood, then sanded it down to match the shape of the trim around it. Now that it’s painted, you can’t even tell there was ever a chunk missing!

One more thing to do – from our little plastic nightmare scenario, we had a few spots to sand and touch up with a paint brush on the doors. But it wasn’t a huge time suck and was resolved easily. Then we were ready to rehang!

Rehang & New Hardware

This part definitely takes two people. One person to hold the door up while the other one screws everything back into place. We figured out, for us at least, it was easier to put the hinges on the door frames and then screw them to the doors. Once the doors were hanging again, we installed the new hardware. I had purchased all new matte black hardware for all nine doors. It was the exact same knobs that were on the doors before, just a different finish. Why you ask? Because I really wanted that high contrast look with bright white doors and black hardware. There’s just something about it that elevates the look and makes everything seem more expensive than it is. The sources for everything we got are waiting at the bottom for you!

Since the knobs I replaced were almost brand new themselves, we put the old knobs in the new boxes and are gonna see if we can sell them for a little bit on a community page.

The next test was to see if the doors closed properly. Do they latch or not, and can they actually close? All our doors could close, but not all could latch. For whatever reason here and there, a few of the doors shifted. We remedied this with shims very easily. A shim here or a shim there and all our doors were back in functioning order latching everywhere and locking where necessary!

Closet Doors

I put closet doors in their own category for a reason. They were a little bit of a different beast. We had to purchase new molding to replace the ones we ripped off, and wood for the new rail covers. We were able to buy a sheet of 1/8″ thick wood at Lowes and have them cut out the three pieces we needed for the rail covers. So that was pretty easy for us. We just brought them home and sanded them down.

Jordan spent a good portion one day cutting the molding for the closet doors and hanging all of it. The rail covers had to go on first which was easy. Next came the molding sitting over the edges of the rail covers. I just remember hearing a lot of swear words coming from the back bedroom and I kept my distance. Haha! But eventually he figured it out and got on a roll.

The next weekend, I came through and caulked everything filling in cracks and gaps. The next day I painted everything, including the trim inside the closets. There were a couple spots for me to touch up the wall paint in the bedroom and office which I was able to do in 15 minutes. Et voila! DONE! TOTALLY DONE! DONEZO! FINI! It was an amazing feeling to check off that item on the to-do list. What did we do to celebrate? Nothing. Hahaha! I guess I’m writing this post and enjoying an alcoholic drink as I write it… so that’s celebration enough.

We could also celebrate by looking at some pretty doors we can open and close whenever we feel like it!

I didn’t keep very good track of how much this all cost with the multiple trips for more molding or an additional can of paint… But it was under $450 for sure, not including the paint sprayer. The main cost went towards the new hardware. For $450, it totally changed the whole look of the house. Now to just take care of that pesky kitchen and living room!

One more before photo to remind myself how far we have come… cause I need the reminder from time to time.

Yep! I’m a happy camper 😀 It was all worth it.

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Last modified: September 25, 2017