When it comes right down to it, this little bugger on the basement door should have been taken care of years ago.
Why I’ve continued to live with a pet access door that I’ve never actually needed, I’m not sure. It’s affected me in such a way that I rarely take pictures in this general direction. So, go ahead. Look at it like it’s a wall in the house you’ve never seen before. Ooh, ahh.
The small dog door/cat door may have been happily functional for previous families, but our Berner’s head wouldn’t even fit through the opening. Instead of being convenient and useful, it has just been an eyesore. On top of that, it never looked completely clean. There are gouges and scratches in the frame and the plastic “window” was cloudy. For a long time, I assumed it was non-repairable because of the huge hole.
After many years of shopping for reclaimed doors, I decided I could fix it myself. The reclaimed doors I found were resoundingly not the right style, way too long, way too short, or way too wide. My custom trim solution made it possible to transform the entire door.
Plan Your Design and Measurements
I went about this mini-transformation on a tight budget. Starting with sketched concepts, I then scoped out measurements to 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, take the time to customize your framework 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 dog door hole
- The edge that intersected the doorknob would need to be slightly customized to wrap around the knob.
I mapped out the entire design with masking tape to visualize the scale. Then, I removed the dog door and got to work.
Source Wood and Gather Tools
My plan scared me a little bit. I couldn’t get away with just adding trim to the solid door like you sometimes see 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 $35 investment).
The 1/4″ panel was as thin as I was able to source at our local stores, but 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, or basswood sheets.
Throughout the project, the tools I used included:
- measuring tape
- jigsaw with fine-tooth blade
- miter saw
- masking tape
- Liquid Nails Heavy Duty adhesive
Cut the Boards to Size
I cut the boards to size based on my careful measurements. The 2×4 panel cut easily with a jigsaw sporting a fine tooth blade and a straight edge. 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.
Sand and Assemble
Once everything was cut, I sanded the edges, then began to install very slowly and carefully with the help of Liquid Nails Heavy Duty adhesive. I used lightweight masking tape to help hold the pieces of wood in place while the glue dried.
A few notes:
- This was a hollow door, so I relied on heavy-duty adhesive. Had it been a solid door, I would have preferred to use the brad nailer instead.
- Also, the glue dries fast, which is nice, but it also remains flexible for a few minutes. Use this time to check, double-check, and triple-check the placement in relation to the edges of the door, to the boards surrounding it, and make it level.
- I worked from top to bottom for no good reason. Do as you wish.
A new more notes:
- The doorknob? I used a Dremel with a round sanding bit to lightly remove some of the wood to make space for the doorknob. No dramatic saw action is required.
- New knob! I went for stainless this time, as the old knob was brass.
- 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.
I let the glue dry for a day and then followed up with a neat application of painter’s caulk around every edge to make it appear as finished as possible.
Paint the Door
After another day, I painted the entire door with two coats of no-VOC Behr self-priming white paint. It’s perfect! We have a brand-new door, and it was less than $40 (2011 pricing).
- 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
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.
What unsightly features in your home have you managed to conceal lately?