Old Barn Wood, New Basement Door

Oct 15, 2012 4:00am

This one tiny little hallway– literally the smallest space in my house– has officially become the mecca of insomnia fueled awesomeness in my life. It started with this light (that I just barely remember purchasing after midnight) and then this really tall chalkboard (that I definitely don’t remember purchasing after midnight) and culminated with a couple of salvaged doors that I definitely remember purchasing during actual daylight hours (but one might say the urge to cut them to pieces was certainly a hey-I-haven’t-slept-in-two-weeks kind of idea.)

And all of that has brought us here:


Did you just fall over from the awesomeness of that door? I mean, holy shit, not to be immodest here because I have some crazy-ass ideas that are a complete fiasco, and frankly, this one should have been one of them, but I pulled a magic rabbit out of a hat with this project and it turned out better than I could have imagined. I mean, the laws of physics and old houses pretty much state that there is no way in hell you’re going to find an old wood door that will fit the opening for your current hollow-core prehung swinger, and then modify the shit out of it, put the old hinges on it, and be able to open and close it. No way.

But I gave it a shot, and let this project be a testament to why you should always follow through with your crazy ideas. Here’s how it all went down…

I was lucky enough to find this door at the local salvage place for $50, which was (supposedly) the right width, and about 3/4″ shorter than my current door:


It was somewhat damaged and painted on the reverse side, which made me feel not the least bit bad about chopping it to bits:


I did some careful measuring, clamped a board in place to use as a straight edge, and used my circular saw to make a plunge cut just inside of the center panel. I considered using the jigsaw, but I wanted as straight a cut as possible and the circular saw did a fantastic job.

Four cuts later…


Then I went out to my barn wood pile and hunted down a few different pieces that would fit the size of the opening. There was quite a bit of nail removal at this point, followed by several splinters and some swearing, but eventually I got to the point where I could trim the boards down…


(I don’t know what it is about that picture, but it makes me want to be out in my shop smelling some sawdust right this minute. What can I say? That saw makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.)


I lucked out that these three pieces fit perfectly inside the door frame without needing to be ripped down, which means I go to keep all those beautifully worn edges. What are the chances of that? I’m telling you, the soul of the old barn was smiling down on this project from barn-heaven.


Because the wood was fairly deteriorated, I used a piece of 1/8″ luan as a backer for the new panel. While I was waiting for the paint to dry on the frame, I cut the piece of luan to fit inside the opening. Then I put everything together on sawhorses, and screwed each board to the luan from underneath. The panel itself I attached to the frame by shooting 18ga finish nails through the old wood and into the frame on an angle.


There was a lot of little touch up work at this point… using a nail punch to set the finish nails farther into the wood, caulking around the interior panel from the back, covering the luan on the back with some beadboard and old trim (which, apparently, I never took a picture of, probably because I was so blinded by the awesomeness on the front of the door.)

I’ve been working on it here and there over the last couple of weeks, and finally this weekend there were no more excuses to keep me from wrestling the thing inside (it weighs at least ninety pounds) and attempting to hang it. By myself. While standing on the edge of the top step of the basement stairs.

I figured my best shot at getting the hinges in the right place was to clamp the old door up to the new one to mark their placement…


Which worked surprisingly well, actually. I got the door attached to the frame with minimal swearing, and I thought, “no effing way that was that easy…” And then I tried to swing it closed and the damn thing was 1/4″ too wide. Even though I measured both the door and the opening about 37 times, and the little notches told me it should fit with room to spare.

This is where the Laws of Old Houses trump the Laws of Measuring Tapes. Don’t try to fight it, just take the hinges off the door and go get your hand planer.


God bless power tools and having as many of them as my bank account will allow for.

I’m not going to lie, it closes, but it’s not 100% straight in the opening . I actually think that has to do with the frame itself because the original door would also swing shut on it’s own. A more correct way of doing this would have been to build a new door frame, pre-hang it, remove the old trim and door frame, and then install the new door. But I wanted to see the door in place before I turn eighty, so I’ll live with the fact that it’s not completely level.

(It’s actually slightly open in the pic below while some touch up paint dried… it’s not that crooked.)


And now, on to my favorite part of this door. You might think its the old barn wood (which does make my heart go pitty-pat) but the thing that clinched it…

This door has a working skeleton key.


What? You didn’t even know that was possible? Me either, but I am so geeked about this, I can’t even tell you. And the full credit for it goes to Jake from www.directdoorhardware.com–who I’m pretty sure is my very own door hardware guardian angel– and just so happened to email me at almost the exact minute I was staring at 13 open browser windows on my computer, trying to decide what kind of hardware I could switch all of my ugly 80′s brass knobs out for.

Jake generously provided the handle for this door (and for my in-progress laundry room doors) and I couldn’t be more thrilled with them. He provided excellent guidance and also taught me some fancy new words, like escutcheon, which I seriously could not pronounce correctly if someone offered me a million dollars.


While they did provide the hardware for this project, they didn’t ask me to blog about it or do any kind of review… I’m just telling you what I think, which is that this is the most awesome door hardware ever invented.

Specifically, it’s the Nostalgic Warehouse New York Plate with Homestead knob, which is a lot fancier than my regular hardware will be, but I just felt this door deserved something special. (The egg shaped knobs and ORB finish will be a common theme though.)

So, okay, enough drooling over my knobs (and holy hell, that sounded inappropriate.) Here’s a shot of this room way back when I did my first walk-through of the place…


And now…


I mean, the pink floor has got to go, (not to mention the green in the tool room) but–gasp!– it looks like I may actually be making progress…


Read more on DIY Diva >

About This Author

This blog is about DIY in its finest. We are obsessed with it and so are you, so while we're working and have nothing to show you of our own projects we show off yours. So submit your projects!


More Articles From This Author >

Video & tutorials

Learn from the Pros, check our videos and learn all the secrets.