Merry Mod Door Makeover

October 02, 2012   //  Posted in: Basement, DIY, Kitchen   //  By: Emily   //  8 responses

When it comes right down to it, this little bugger on our basement door should have been taken care of years ago.

How to remove a pet door from a hollow-core interior door. A simple DIY!

How I’ve managed to live with a big ol’ ugly, filthy pet access door that I’ve never actually needed, I’m not sure. It’s effected me in such a way that I rarely take pictures in this general direction, and in real life I’ve tended to avert my eyes like the door has an incurable skin condition, so go ahead and look at it like it’s a wall in the house you’ve never seen before, ooh, ahh. Sure, the little dog/cat door may have been happily functional for previous families, but our dog’s head wouldn’t even fit through the opening, so instead of being convenient and useful, it’s just been an eyesore, and on top of that, it’s never looked completely clean (there are gouges and scratches in the plastic and in the “window” from previous pets). The problem child of all of the unmatching doors in our home, I long thought it non-repairable because it had that hole cut directly into it.

The solution, after many years of shopping for reclaimed doors that were resoundingly not the right style for the house, being way too long, way too short, or way too wide, was to take matters into my own hands and transform our sad little door into this:

Update a plain (or damaged) door with DIY panels!

I went about this mini-transformation inexpensively last week, during which time I sketched concepts for door detailing to my little heart’s desire, finally landing on one that I liked, and then scoped out measurements to ensure that I was going to be create four completely identical and centered rectangles on the existing door. Every door is different and every dog door is (probably) different (what do I know) so if you’re going to try this at home, don’t follow my exact sketch measurements but take the time to customize your framing to your own needs.

In my case, there were only two big points of consideration: The lowest rectangle needed to be low enough to cover the low-riding dog door hole, and the edge that intersected the doorknob would need to be slightly customized to wrap around the knob. I mapped the entire plan out with masking tape to visualize the whole idea to scale, and then removed the dog door and got busy.

Plan out those door measurements carefully.

I used masking tape to see how the rectangle accents on the door would look in real life.

So glad to see that pet door gone, even if it does mean that I can see straight into the basement.

My plan scared me a little bit; I couldn’t get away with just adding plain trim to the solid door like you sometimes see creative people doing because the hole in the bottom of the door needed to be completely covered, and it wasn’t tiny – it was a good 10″ in height. To correct this issue, I relied on a 2′ x 4′ x 1/4″ birch board and twelve 1/2″ x 3″ x 3′ pine craft boards (a total $35 investment); the 1/4″ panel was as thin as I was able to source at our local stores, and the surrounding trim needed to be slightly thicker to achieve the framed effect (it worked great, but originally I envisioned something even thinner, like 1/8″ paneling paired with 1/4″ boards).

I used a birch 2x4x1/8" panel and twelve 3"x36"x1/2" craft boards for <$35 to update our basement door.

To prepare the boards, I cut everything to size based on the careful measurements I had prepared. The 2×4 panel cut easily with a jigsaw sporting a fine tooth blade and a guide rail clamped on to run along. I used the chop saw for the craft board pieces, choosing to miter the corners of each frame instead of using lap joints. Mitered corners just always look a little cleaner in my opinion, and I hoped the finished project would look nice and be something we (or someone in the future) could live with without having to immediately replace with something new.

I used a jigsaw and a guide (and pumpkins and plants for weight) to cut through a piece of plywood.

I was left with four rectangles for the four framed panels on the door.

I used the miter saw to cut boards 4 at a time.

Once everything was cut, I sanded the edges and began to install very slowly and carefully with the help of Liquid Nails Heavy Duty adhesive and some simple lightweight masking tape to help hold the pieces of wood in place while the glue dried.

A few notes:

  • This was a hollow door, and that’s why I relied on heavy duty adhesive (thankfully it worked really well, even on the 1/2″ craft boards). If it had been a solid door, I would certainly have preferred to use the brad nailer instead.
  • Also, the glue dries fast, which is nice, but still remains flexible for a few minutes while you check, double check, triple check, and yes, often quadruple check each board placement in relation to the edges of the door, to the boards surrounding it, and to level.
  • I worked from top to bottom for no good reason. Do as you wish.

Beginning to hang the pieces of trim on the door, working from top to bottom.

A new more notes:

  • The doorknob? I used a Dremel with a round sanding bit to lightly sand away a small area for the doorknob to sit within. No dramatic saw action required.
  • New knob! I went for stainless this time, as the old knob was brass.
  • For all intents and purposes, yes, there is still a hole on the backside of our door. I already have supplies to repair that side when I get a moment, another $35.

Making over the basement door with DIY panels.

I let the glue dry for a day, and then followed up with a neat application of painter’s caulk around every conceivable surface to make it appear as finished as possible, and after another day, I painted the entire door with two coats of no-VOC Behr self-priming white paint.

It appears that we have a brand new door for less than $40.

  • 12 pine craft boards, 3″ x 36″ x 1/2″ – $2.25/each
  • 1 birch 2′ x 4′ x 1/4″ board – $7.50
  • Doorknob – $10.00
  • One tube of Liquid Nails Heavy Duty Adhesive – $2.50
  • One 10oz. tube of painter’s caulk – $1.58
  • Behr no-VOC self-priming white paint – already owned, but roughly $27.00

Wheee, look at our new basement door! Such a dramatic improvement over the unused pet door!

I really like how it looks from the living room too, a subtle update that really makes the plain, cheap door look better in our home.

Wheee, look at our new basement door! Such a dramatic improvement over the unused pet door!

What unsightly features in your home have you managed to conceal lately?

Pin this:

How to remove a pet door and cover the hole.

  • John @ Our Home from Scratch
    6 years ago - Reply

    That is extremely clever.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Thanks John! I like it quite a lot.

  • Andres
    6 years ago - Reply

    After noticing the doors resemblance to a toilet seat, I then imagined the animals that would fit through such a door. They are adorable! I can see a sadness to boarding up a door where cuteness once passed. But you can’t live your life for adorable hypoallergenic ghost cats. Good job. Plus you can always imagine a cute door there or think that ghost animals don’t need no stinkin door.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -


  • Katie
    6 years ago - Reply

    Great end result, much much much better looking door and now both recedes and add to the character of the home rather than look-at-me-I’m-a-sore-thumb.

    My kitchen backsplash are hunter-green subway tiles. They were tolerable when the apartment was builder white, but once I painted all the walls I quickly learn that hunter green only go with highly few colors, what those colors are I have yet to figure out. So I went to Home Depot and got several sheets of faux tin decorative tiles and super glued them over the backsplash, with the intention of one day (as in never) replacing them with real tin when I renovate my kitchen. People always assumed it’s real tin backsplash so I’ll probably keep them forever.

    • Emily
      6 years ago -

      Great idea, Katie! I want to see before and after pictures if you have them, that sounds like a cool transformation.

    • Katie
      6 years ago -

      Ask and you shall receive, emailed those before and after pics.

      Andres, too funny! Now that you said “toilet seat” it’s all I can see now in the before picture. Once seen can’t be unseen. I’ll probably think toilet seat everytime I see a pet door now.

  • Dana
    5 years ago - Reply

    I have a similar problem with a slightly larger pet door, but my problem is compounded by the fact that the door has an uneven surface and the pet door doesn’t even seal properly around it, allowing bugs and dirt to enter. I’m trying to avoid getting a new door, but there might be no way around it. Thanks for the idea.

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