Making Your Own Interior Doors from Sawmill Creek
The original poster in this thread needed some new interior doors for his home. He posted his options for replacing them, and asked for some feedback. - Editor
"I do have a million projects going at the moment, but am considering another and wanted some feedback. The interior doors in our old 1930s home are solid core. Unfortunately, they are also beat up and have too many layers of paint on them. Options: 1). Refinish the existing doors - lots of work, probably lead paint, some would have to be replaced anyway. 2). Buy new prehung doors. Hollow-core seem cheap and noisy to us and a downgrade for the style of home. Solid in the right style are too much $$. 3). Build them myself. I'd use poplar as they would be painted. Joinery would be mortise and loose tenon. We are talking 9 or 10 doors total. What do you think? Anyone make the same decision? It's sweat vs. dollars." - Victor R.
The first vote (perhaps unsuprisingly, on a woodworking forum) was for "do it yourself." - Editor
"This is actually my next project, only my plan is to make (2) full radius arch doors and their corresponding frames. Cheapest price I found for a pre-hung arch door was $600. I'll easily beat that by building them myself." - Justin DiV.
"Interior doors are not that difficult to build, assuming you have the right tools and knowledge. From a cost standpoint, I can't build a door for twice the price you can buy a decent quality door for from a wholesale supplier. But you're not going to include your time, so you just have to figure out your material costs. You'll probably save some money, and it will be a good project so why not?" - Jeff D.
Then there were suggestions for variations on the project. - Editor
"I would strip the old doors that are in good shape and only make as few new ones as possible. Are you able to match the style? I'd say lead paint is 100% certain. But if you use chemical strippers, wouldn't that make it easy to contain and keep it out of the air?" - Dave Z.
"Instead of doing mortise and loose tenon, you might want to consider a system like the Amana stub spindle, which integrates the tenon into each of the rails." - Justin DiV
Some woodworkers, on the other hand, shared reasons not to build the doors. - Editor
"I went the route of buying them for our house. In the beginning, I was going to make them, but time was passing by and I needed them sooner than later. I found the exact door I was going to build so I bought what I needed. I had already bought about 300 board foot of 1-3/4 clear pine to make them. It was cheaper to buy them. I still have the wood, so I'll be turning that into a dining table some day." - Jay J.
"I like building doors, but they are more time-consuming than you think -- even with a slot mortiser and big shaper. If you are looking for something that shows some craftsmanship and don't want to pay 600-900 for it, you can make your own and save money. If you are happy with a $300 door, you can spend your time better elsewhere. When I am painting a door I use maple as just flipping the door over on the bench causes poplar to dent. It is in the stained hardwood door that you can really show off the wood and make your time really count for something special." - Dave K.
"Trust me, you don't want to get into making new doors.You will pull your hair out trying to find suitable lumber.The doors you have now may be clear vertical grain Douglas fir. I am on a renovation project that has interior doors from the '30s. We had them dipped and stripped.Very fine grained fir was under the many layers of paint. Cost about $150.00 per door. Much cheaper than buying new and all the character. I do make doors and I always buy double what I need to pick stock that will behave in service." - Andrew H.
More project suggestions, and responses to earlier comments, arose. - Editor
"Loose tenons are as strong as a traditional M&T, making them perfectly fine for a door. They also are a lot easier to fabricate efficiently and accurately, which helps in ending up with a flat door. Poplar is more than stable enough, is a dream to work with, and paints beautifully. Its only drawback is it's soft compared to most other hardwoods, but it's every bit as hard as pine, which is sold as doors by the millions. If your panels are flat panels, MDF would be a great choice: very flat and stable, cheap, and paints great. If you have a shop set up for handling stock the size required to make doors, it's not hard to make 10 doors. Figure a solid week, start to finish -- so if you have to work a 'real' job, that will mean more like 2 or 3 weeks of weekends and a few nights." - John T.
"I'm scratching my head on all the "poplar" criticisms. Before the economy went south I was making doors for a living, and we made lots of poplar doors in paint grade. You learn to pick your stock, go for straighter grain, weed out those stiles that seem to want to dance around daily, no problems.
"Should you make doors? I'm thinking you have to get a price on what you want commercially, and weigh that against your skill level, your shop
situation, your access to quality lumber and its cost, your time frame, and, frankly, your sheer physical strength. Hardwood passage doors get heavy, especially with 7-10 clamps on them. At some point, you need to glue them up, clean up the squeeze-out, and flip them over to clean the other side. This takes two people, or a specialize bench/frame, or a big determined gorilla. And you need to hang them, which in my opinion actually takes more skill than building them for most door styles. I find making doors very rewarding, and if you have never done it it will add to your skill set, so that's worth considering. It's never a yes/no answer; it's really relative to your situation. You can do it; there is no shame in buying them either." - Pete Q.
"You can buy cheaper than you might build, but you will probably build nicer than you would buy. Nice doors get noticed, and doors are
readily seen in your house. In my childlike mind, I wouldn't see why not to build them, and I would use poplar also. 10 doors would take me a while, though." - Dave N.
So, eZine readers, what say you? Would you/have you built your own doors? Or is it a project for which you'll take a pass? Chime in on the discussion by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Your feedback will show up on a future Feedback page! - Editor