Well, I guess I have a mild-obsession with old doors. That’s where it starts. Heavy, hardwood, authentically glass paned, leaded doors are just next to impossible to find anymore (unless you’re willing to pay big) so I’ve taken to getting my fix at salvage shops and garage sales. I showed you the new front door I found and had installed (read about that here) but I’ve also been meaning to give you a peek at everything involved with replacing the door between the living room and the sunroom. See it here? Discolored, distasteful, an eyesore. And that’s the seller’s stuff, not my own.
This particular find was a paned glass door from a garage sale in Rochester. I found it about 2 months before I actually closed on my house – I knew I wanted a door just like this in that doorway, so I grabbed it because it was $2 (yes, really) but keep in mind that I didn’t actually have any doorway measurements. It wasn’t trashed, but it wasn’t in perfect condition.
What was wrong?
- Top of door was beginning to warp apart.
- Two panes were broken.
- Chipping paint.
- No knob, lock, or hinges.
Anyways, yes, so I brought it back to my then apartment, and slowly (oh so slowly) chiseled paint off it with a single razor blade in my garage. There were at least 2 coats on there, and no, I couldn’t get it down to the bare wood by myself (but gave myself an A for effort). That whole messy process looked like this:
When it was time to move from the apartment, I transported it over to my new house and let it stay in the garage. After 3 months of living with the old door (just to make sure I really wanted it gone-zo), I proceeded with a plan to finish installing the new door. OH, sidenote, can you believe that the door was actually the correct width for the opening? While it was a standard 32″W, it did end up being 2 inches off in height, which you’ll see we corrected. Width matching is the important part, and I nailed it, er, I was very lucky all things considered.
Enter my new best friend, paint stripper. The Citristrip orange-scented, less-harsh paint remover worked wonders (and FYI, is safe to use indoors and in less-ventilated areas, hurray). It’s a thick concoction, and I painted it on goopily manner (sorry, self-made words happen). After not too long, the paint that was remaining began to bubble up. I promptly removed it with a scraper. I did this apply and scrape treatment a few times to both side to ensure I was getting as much off as possible.
Following paint removal, I sanded like crazy. I spent a lot of time on this step (hours) but for good reason — it really made for a nicer, smoother painting surface in the end. I gently power sanded the larger surfaces (I realize that sounds like an oxymoron, I just mean you should sand with a nice fine paper) and finished touching up the panes by hand (on both sides of the door, mind you).
After the paint was removed, I fixed the top of the door, which I don’t have close-up photos of, but the top corner of the frame was separating a little bit. I had no idea how to fix something like this securely, but we put our trust in Gorilla Glue and some large, strong clamps, and were pleased to see how strong it was in the end. Obviously if it hadn’t worked out, I wouldn’t have used the door. I guess I should add in here that neither of us are professional contractors, construction workers, or door installers and we’ve really just learned a lot by reading and trying things out as we go.
The paned door felt very strong once the glue had dried and the clamps were removed, so next up was to remove the existing door. It came off the frame with ease, and I was actually able to sell it (and all other doors I’ve removed) on Craigslist ($50 a piece, if you’re curious), which helped to offset other installation costs. And fortunately, as I mentioned, the width was right on so once we had used some wedges beneath the door to raise the door to the point it needed to be at to fit in the opening. (We used books to serve as wedges). By attaching the hinges to the door first, we were able to swing them to line up on the frame where they needed to be attached, and used a pencil to mark off the spots. The scariest part of the whole project, with most potential screw-up was when we were attaching the door to the frame (no pun intended); we started with a screw in the top hinge, and then put one in the bottom hinge. We swung the door around a LOT during this part of the installation process, so if we noticed any unusual fitting, it still would have been early enough in the process to make adjustments. We left the middle hinge until the last, since it doesn’t do all that much except add extra reinforcement in this case. Fortunately it all worked out pretty well for us.
Now, I said the door was too short. Solution? We hung the door in the middle of the vertical space, and were suggested to add door extender plates to the top and bottom of the door. You can buy them at most home improvement stores, so I bought a sweeper plate to attach to the bottom of the door, and a cap to add to the top. They come long enough to fit the width of any door, and are intended to be cut-to-length. And there was a nice benefit to having added these pieces; they come with a rubbery insert which acts as extra insulation. While most of the options I observed were available come in stainless finish, the metal is paintable after a gentle sand; I spray painted mine white prior to installation to keep things neat, and have had no problems with the finish wearing away in the last year. Sorry for not having more information about brands that we used for the extenders, I’d share it if I knew for certain.
The panes that were broken were pretty easy to fix; I removed the wooden framework verrrry carefully and measured how large the glass pane had to be cut to fit. I fortunately found a piece of the old shattered pane left in the window frame that I took with me as a sample for the width I needed to duplicate. I picked up some glazing putty at the store while I was there getting the glass cut; reason being, if you put a little bit of glazing putty along the edge of the panes, it helps hold the glass in place and keep it from shaking. And as soon as the panes were back in place, I happily painted my new-old door white; a gentle coat of primer and two coats of off-the-shelf white paint.
Knobs and locks were the last things to do: I swapped out an antique glass knob from an upstairs closet and use it as the main doorknob (I’m way happy seeing this every day instead of knowing it’s hidden upstairs). I bought a modernized mortise lock kit to fit into the door and make it lockable/functional, so, it’s pretty with the glass and antique hardware, but also practical for security purposes.
I continue to be amazed with the amount of light that’s allowed into my living room during the day; painting the trim around the door obviously helped a lot too, but the door really makes the room feel bigger, and the sunroom much more accessible.