The house project that has most intimidated me is replacing our oak doors and trim. Like seriously intimidated me. For years.
Our house has oak veneer trim and busy hollow core doors. And the dry Colorado climate has not been kind over the years. They veneer has begun to split and crack in places. The wall colors have been painted and repainted, but the trim has not. It’s original to the house, which makes it a little over 30 years old. And it shows all kinds of scuffs and scratches.
And because I know very little about home improvement, the thought of replacing it left me stuck. I desperately wanted to replace it. I don’t like the look of it. It’s hard to match paint colors up against trim that can either read orange or brown, and it sucks up light, making the rooms feel darker than they actually are.
But the skill and expense that would be required for this project seemed beyond us. If we’d had the money, we would have thrown it at the problem years ago and been done with it. Or had someone else replace or paint it for us. We actually got a bid on painting it all, flat doors and all, and it was way more than replacing it all would cost. It required lots of Kilz, caulk, and spraying those flat doors. So we kept trying to ignore it. (Sorry about the blurry pictures. I snapped them right when the first door came down, and I wasn’t paying attention to my camera settings.)
I blogged a few months ago about how I didn’t really look into the costs that specifically. (You can read about how I was stuck in a state of fearful procrastination here.) I just assumed it was beyond us. And I assumed something like routing out a door hinge was something only an experienced DIYer could do. Not to mention cutting a hole for the door knob that aligns with the existing strike on the jamb.
I also thought it would be really inconvenient to have all those extra doors in the garage. Or be embarrassing when people visited and saw the in-progress state our house will be in for a while due to our busy schedules. But these concerns were just excuses to make me feel better about not getting started, because I haven’t thought of one of them since we began.
This spring I participated in a kids’ clothing consignment sale and earned a good bit of extra money. And then I saw that interior slab doors went on sale at Home Depot for $19 a door. I was close to having enough for the whole house.
One weekend I threw a bunch of stuff up on Craigslist, and soon I had enough for a dozen doors—that’s every door in our 4 bedroom, 3 bath house—plus a few boxes of hinges and a hinge router template. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I sent my husband to Home Depot with a list of the door sizes we would need.
I’d been watching videos on how to mortise hinges with a chisel, and I’d really hoped it was easier than it looked. I asked the advice of friends and family members, and last Saturday we dove in to installing the fist door. We still didn’t have skills, but we had faith in our problem solving abilities. I hoped that would be enough.
I assumed I’d do this project myself, but my husband jumped in to doing it all with me. Turns out he’s much handier than he thinks he is. We actually enjoyed the process of working on it together. And I don’t think I could have gotten the doors up on the new hinges by myself.
It took us most of the day and several trips to Home Depot to install one door. I didn’t realize we would need to plane the door down to the correct width. And then I thought I could do it with a sander. Nope. But turns out planing doors is actually kind of satisfying and fun. We were able to borrow a router from a neighbor, and the router template I bought was essential in helping us match the exact hinge size. It was so much easier for us beginners than the chisel method we started with. We also bought a door knob replacement kit that takes a lot of the guesswork out of installing the door knobs. I’ll take better pictures and write up a mini-tutorial for those who are interested in the how-to process.
By the end of the weekend, we had three doors installed with hardware.
We still have to paint them and sand the rough edges—one thing at a time. But we already think they look so much better. (I’ll take real after pictures once we replace the trim, and I promise they won’t be blurry.) And I love the oil-rubbed bronze hardware. It’s almost black, and it’s going to look fantastic once I give the doors a coat of white paint.
And they all close and latch! These new doors feel so much heavier than the other doors, which is surprising because they’re still just inexpensive, hollow-core doors. But it’s a multi-sensory improvement: The look, the feel, the sound—it’s all so much more satisfying than the previous doors.
I’m wondering why I let the project intimidate me for so long. That might be another post for another day, but, more importantly, I want to make sure I never let it happen again.
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