Tuesday, April 19, 2016

From Hollow Core Bore to a Beautiful Updated Door: DIY Slab Door Makeover using Trim and Paint

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for more info.

Let me start this post by saying how much I loathe hollow core "slab" doors. I really do. There is not one redeeming quality about them. whoever came up with this sorry excuse for a door should be shot.

Ok, maybe that's a little harsh. 

Hollow core doors are great for the budget conscious or for cheap contractors that are building construction grade homes. But really these doors only save money initially. They quickly drive down the value of your home. Especially if you've updated the rest of your house. 

They are so cheap and so ugly it's enough to drive anyone to the edge, kicking and hitting wildly in a fit of rage at those hideous veneered boards (that don't even deserve to be called a door). But then we all know you would have destroyed all of your thin doors (that can't even stand up to a punch from a hormonal teenager, much less your wild abandon) and be in a worse pickle than before, now having to buy all new doors.

Oh, sorry. I went off on a bit of a tangent there.

If you have boring, flat, hollow core slab doors you know exactly where I'm coming from, especially if you don't have loads of cash laying around to buy solid wood paneled doors. We could cry on each other's shoulders, or we could do something about these atrocities. I'm all about the doing ;).

I'm sure you've seen pictures and posts floating around the Internet of completely transformed slab doors from people like me who were almost tearing their hair out from the sheer awfulness of their flat slab doors. I of course googled and pinterested around checking out other bloggers door projects and the most inspirational for me was a video from Ron Hazelton If you haven't seen any of these dramatic door makeovers (heck, even if you have) I'm here to show you an easy (and awesome) door transformation that I did for $20 or less a door. I don't have a video to show you all but I do have tons and tons of pictures of the process.

Here's a before shot of the two doors I decided to start with first. Of course Jackson's bathroom door is one of them since it's the last step to finishing that bathroom up and the guest bedroom right next door.

So first things first I had to paint the doors and of course the trim. Painting all the woodwork and doors is a huge job to say the least. With 2700 square feet of trim, multiple closet doors and 16 slab doors in my house I have my work cut out for me. I'll be lucky if I get done with it in a year the way I am with projects. Of course that's not saying I won't try! Wish me luck ;).

Here's a pic of the in-progress painting of this small section of my house.

Painting trim is easy but tedious work. Although painting trim with carpet under it is a whole new ballgame for me so I had to come up with a way to work around getting any paint on the carpet. I came up with an easy fix using painters tape and an extra large putty/drywall knife. I took some pictures of how I got the tape to easily fit under the carpet so I could possibly save someone the trouble of figuring out how to paint trim with carpet.

Step one, I gathered my putty knife and painters tape. Step two, I placed the tape on the carpet with a little overlapping on the woodwork. Step three, I placed the putty knife at the base of the wood where it meets up with the carpet. Step four, I pushed the taped under the woodwork. Step five, I leaned back and admired my painters tape on top of the carpet and underneath the woodwork, just perfect to not get any paint on the carpet but to still manage to paint the whole piece of woodwork.

Ok, now back to those pesky slab doors. I painted the bathroom door while it was hung but took the guest bedroom door off the hinges and painted it in my pseudo work space in the kitchen on top of two sawhorses just to see which way would be easier. I found taking the door down to be the simpler way. After painting the door it was time to work my magic and transform a flat door into a masterpiece.

Supplies for making a flat door into a paneled door

  • door
  • decorative trim
  • tape measure
  • T-square or carpenters square
  • pencil (I used a dry erase marker for the first door, not the best idea)
  • miter box with saw (or just a saw if you're good like that)
  • liquid nails, or other comparable wood glue
  • painters tape (I use Frog Tape because I find it works best on not pulling up any paint)
  • paint (I used Dutch Boy white paint from a 5 gallon bucket that we got at half off with a rebate from Menards)
  • level (not necessary but if you want to check how awesome you are at putting level panels on your doors this will reassure you ;)
  • time

First you need to measure and mark where your trim for the panels will go. I found that I didn't even use the carpenters square (Cory suggested it), just the T-square because the length of the blade was great for drawing lines and the head was perfect for keeping everything straight and right where I wanted it to be by resting it on the edge of the door.

Here's a picture of the panels drawn out. I wanted a pretty standard panel look for my doors so I used 5" in everywhere except on the bottom of the door where I did 6" up.

After you have your panels drawn out it's time to measure them to cut your trim. I bought my trim from Home Depot. They have some decorative trim pieces that come in 8 foot sections for $5 a piece. When I bought my first batch (about a year ago) they were only $4 a piece. When you snooze, you lose, I guess.

I got out my trusty miter box and saw (that you can buy at any home improvement store or Amazon for under $15). The miter box makes it very easy for an amateur like myself to cut mitered cuts. It also is very convenient since I wanted to cut the trim inside while I had Jackson playing right by me. I put the miter box on my kitchen table and cut the trim at 45 degree angles. After I was done I simply wiped up the sawdust and put the miter box and saw away. No muss, no fuss.

I placed all the cut trim pieces on the door where I would be gluing them down like so. I used approximately four 8' trim pieces per door for making panels on both sides. For the smaller doors it will be less and for the four small pantry/closet doors I will only do the front of the door that faces out. So essentially I'm spending $20 or less a door. Much less than buying a solid wood paneled door from the store!

I then gathered my liquid nails, frog tape and a damp paper towel for any glue seepage. I put the glue on quite liberally since I really wanted the trim to stick well with no gaps. I simply placed the trim with the glue side down on my drawn out lines and taped it down for about 24 hours or so.

 Depending on if your trim is warped or not you may have to apply more tape. This is a picture of Jackson's bathroom door and it needed twice the amount of tape as the guest bedroom door. After you have removed the tape all that's left to do is paint the trim to match the door and hang the door back up.

Here's a pic of just one door done with panels, one door just painted and one door untouched. You can see the difference it makes. It looks much more refined and "finished".

And here's the finished doors complete with my "new" DIY spray painted doorknobs.

Here's a couple of close up shots of the finished door.

One more shot. I just love how these doors have turned out!!

Updating these doors has given me hope that my hollow core doors will stop bringing the value of my house down and possibly add some profit when we eventually move on to bigger and better things(sweat equity for sure!). Hope you become inspired to change your own hollow core doors into something you love!

Until the next time,


  1. Sooo much better! They look great and you wrote a clear and easy tutorial.
    I'll pin. :)

  2. The doors look great! I am too the victim of the same doors and now have some confidence to tackle them. So no sanding is necessary to dull the shine so the paint can adhere? What brand of paint and paint finish did you use? Thanks!

  3. Awesome. Thank you going to buy miter box and hand saw today.

  4. No sanding is needed to dull the shine on the doors. I just cleaned them off and started painting. I would use a better quality paint. I got lucky and got a 5 gallon bucket of white dutch boy paint for half off (with rebate) at Menards. I usually use Behr but I couldn't resist the great deal ;).

  5. Soo Excited I am painting the interior of my living room and hall and was lamenting over my ugly six brown, hollow doors...curious did you do both sides in the trim or just the outward facing?

  6. I did both sides of the doors on all except the pantry/small closet doors (I figured they were closed to a closet and didn't need trim on the inside).

    1. Did you use the same 5-inch border on your small/closet doors or did you adjust your measurements? Thanks for this amazing tutorial! I have six of these to update in our main hallway og our 1970s raised ranch. We've only lived here for about a year, but the doors are driving me crazy. I'm actually getting started today! Can't wait!

  7. Whoever fist imported 'luan' and made the first hollow core door should be taken back aboard ship and made to walk the plank!

  8. I totally need to do this! My bedroom doors are boring. This makes them pop for sure. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Did this years ago to an 18" door I didn't want to spend money on to replace (closet door). Would post a pic but I don't find a place to

  10. Thank you for giving all the details! Great job on the doors and great job on the post!

  11. What a great new look for your doors.Job well done. Something I think I can & want to do.

  12. These doors are awesome! Can't wait to do this project!

  13. Love how the doors look - did you use a glossy paint

  14. Love it! Going to do this to our doors too! Did you paint the door knobs also? or buy new? Thanks!

  15. What kind of painthing did you use? Satin/gloss? Color?

  16. No comment mentioned on what type of paint was used on doors. Please tell

  17. I'm in the middle of doing this to all of the doors in my house.. and I've got the trim all glued and ready on a couple, and I had the idea to caulk around the trim before I paint to make it look a little cleaner/more integrated.. I haven't done it yet, but now I'm wondering if it's a bad idea to try it.. Any thoughts??

  18. How'd u paint trim after gluing it to the already painted door without making a mess of the door? Wouldn't it b much easier to pain trim them glue to door? I'm confused on this do u have a video?

  19. Thank you so much for sharing this! I'm definitely going to do this in our new house. Did you replace the hinges also? How did you paint the knobs and get it to stick without hindering the mechanism?

  20. Also, did you brush, roll or spray paint the doors?

  21. Thanks for sharing this! I'm currently in the process of painting my doors. However, I have one question on the trim. My doors are all different sizes (hence why I'm painting them as installation of custom new doors is very expensive). Some are pretty skinny others are much wider than the average door. Should I still set my trim 5 inches from the edge on each door? Or does it vary by size of the door?

  22. I have disliked my unfinished hollow core doors unfinished for 10 years (and two of them are in an alcove right in the living room so are seen right when you walk in the house). I painted the whole interior of the house but left those doors alone just not knowing what to do with them combined with budget abd not wanting to waste perfectly good, ugly and cheap, doors. It's time to repaint and I found this. Super excited! Thank you for the great tutorial and amazing idea! Today you're my hero.

  23. Could you tell me what the measurements of each rectangle ended up being?

  24. Such a great idea! Thank you for sharing. Did you do the other side of the door the same or just wait it white? (The side that would be facing the shower and bathroom)

  25. Fantastic job! The doors look awesome! Love the fresh touches on the doorknobs, too. I'm inspired! :)

  26. I am curious as to what paint you used. I see you mentioned using white dutch boy brand but was it a semi-gloss, matte, or satin paint? Thanks in advance for your reply.

  27. This is genius. Made an amazing difference on some truly ugly doors. A couple of things that made it easier for me. 1) I put a strip of painters tape on my work surface and marked off the lengths for each of the pieces of trim on it. Saved trying to measure each piece with a tape measure and 2) I have a table saw and lots of scrap so made a set of jigs consisting of a 6 and 7 inch wide pieces of plywood and then screwed a 1" block of wood along one edge. You can then just put the block along the edge of the door and the other edge of the plywood is exactly where it needs to be to butt the trim against it. Saves on measuring and marking lay out lines. I made 3 of these for the 5 inch and one for the 6 inch. Doing a bunch of doors so it was worth it for me. One of the easiest and most satisfying DIY projects ever. Actually wish I had more ugly doors.

  28. This is very smart, Digital M really an intelligent idea. This is my first time in your blog and I really love it. Thanks for this awesome post...

  29. what are the lengths of each panel please.

  30. The lengths of each panel will vary based on the length of your door. Just go down to around the handle and then space it 5” like she did

  31. Love your doors, my double wide is from 2003 and we are now doing updates. Hoping your idea works on my doors as well. Had anyone done this and the paint not take to the doors?


Blogger template designed By Sherri.