Plain to salvage wood door DIY tutorial

Foyer Update: DIY Salvaged Door

About five weekends ago I did a little foyer makeover but there were a couple things missing. This past weekend I was finally able to tackle them and I’m so happy with the results…

I couldn’t help but share a little preview on my instagram while staining it on Saturday…

But first let’s stop and rewind.

Here’s the best before photo I found…

Sadly I forgot to take a pic of the old light. It was just a very non-descript, round white plastic flush mount box. Nothing special at all.

I wanted to bring a little “oomph” to the space so I found this cool pendant lantern at World Market

For $99, I was sold.

It included a long chain which we couldn’t use since we have standard 8′ ceilings and were worried about tall people bumping into it, so we removed the links to hang it as high as possible.

I love it so much.

That was easy enough…. next up came the real challenge: making this door look like an old salvaged wood door. There’s not a lot of sources for real vintage doors around here, and the ones I do find are either not the right size or style, or would need too many mods to fit, or they’re just too expensive.

The existing door was one of those cheap-o hollow core synthetic wood deals… and it was pretty beat up.

You can really see the fake wood grain texture here…

If you have one of those old school plain wood doors it would be ideal for this project, assuming you could sand down the stain a bit. Because mine wasn’t real wood, unfortunately I couldn’t strip & sand the paint off. That meant I had to face my worst nightmare again… wood veneer.

If you saw my post about my first attempt at this, you’ll understand why I hate it so much. Although to be fair, it’s the contact cement I hate—not the veneer.

But I was determined to make it work this time. I bought the same 2×8′ sheets as I did last time (from Amazon) for a total of $70 (this project isn’t exactly cheap if you don’t have wood doors to start with).

Fortunately, I only needed veneer in the centers of the door so there was minimal cutting involved. I just trimmed the length with a sharp utility knife (it didn’t have to be exact at all since the edges would be covered by wood).

This time I used a LOT of contact cement. Two solid coats.

And I waited 20 minutes before applying the veneer.

And it worked.

I thought I was going to have to veneer the inside edge, but I started sanding and realized this piece was actually real wood (score!) So I just stripped & sanded the paint off.

After veneering both sides, I brought the door inside of the house to adjust to the climate. On my last attempt, my table had sat in the garage for 2 days and after I brought it inside it was ruined, so the temperature shift definitely had something to do with it. I thought if I brought it inside right away, it would have a chance.

That evening around midnight, I checked on it and was horrified to see that it had started bubbling! Not as bad as my console table, but still… I was so bummed. I smoothed it down as best as I could and called it a night, expecting to see the bubbles come back by morning. But surprisingly… I woke up and it was completely smooth.

Not sure what happened there, but I didn’t want to take any more chances so I decided to finish this project inside…

Back in the garage, I had plywood strips cut to 4″. I bought a sheet of cabinet grade plywood at Lowe’s ($30) and had them cut it for me. I would have done it myself, but the sheet was too big to fit in my car so I let them do it.

Let me tell you… those workers don’t care about your project as much as you do, so they’re just going to run your board through the cutter as fast as they can and you’re going to end up with a lot of crooked pieces.

I only needed about 7-8 boards, so I set aside the straightest ones to use for this project.

I started with one of the vertical pieces that ran along the outside edge where the door handle would be. After cutting the length to size, I traced inside the door hole and used an arbor around the same size to cut it out:

Then I lined it back up on the door and used 1″ finishing nails every several inches to attach my piece:

And the first piece was on!

Up went the next one…

Then I measured and cut my horizontal strips. I went with 6 which appears to be standard for old doors.

Then I flipped it over and repeated the process:

And finally, it was time for stain.

I used a blend of Minwax’s Dark Walnut combined with touches of Rustoleum’s Driftwood and Weathered Gray. There was no real method to this… I just dipped my sponge in and spread it around however I thought looked best. I intended for it to look weathered so I wasn’t aiming for perfection.

Then I took some 60 grit sandpaper and roughed it up until I was happy with the results.

Before rehanging it, we had to deal with this door casing. Because I made the door wider, these inside pieces of trim had to be pushed back so the door would latch properly.

We removed the strips…

It was pretty rough looking under there, so I sanded everything down while Brad removed the old nails.

Before putting them back on, the door went back on the hinges…

Then I stepped inside the closet with my air compressor and flashlight, shut the door, lined the casing strips back up and nailed them in.

A bit of caulk & paint later, and this project is done!

And here’s the new light in action:

I didn’t have time to make new wreaths so they’re looking a little sad, but can you believe these have been up for a month? They’re champs…

I love the way it warms up the space.

One day I’ll give the inside of this closet a makeover…

Here’s the view from the entrance to the kitchen:

And reflecting in from the mirror…

Here’s an older shot just for fun…

And now the foyer is officially done! I would love to do this to all of the doors in our house… but sadly they are mismatched, and I’d also have to decide if it’s worth $100 per door. Or maybe I can look for someone getting rid of their hollow core wood doors that are the right size and transform them for just $30.

Next up on the to do list? I’m trying to decide between a DIY fireplace mantel or getting started on our master bedroom. Or being lazy and taking the week off 🙂 We’ll see what happens…

56 thoughts on “Foyer Update: DIY Salvaged Door

  1. Looks great! As I was reading through this I was definitely wondering when we'll get to see makeover action on the rest of the house so I love how the post ended. I can't wait!

  2. I'd love to see a DIY on the fireplace mantel, but you definitely deserve a break if you need one 🙂
    I love the lamp btw, it looks really great.
    Greetings from Germany! 🙂

  3. I love your idea. It looks so warm. It reminds me of the Craftsman and Bungalow doors my mom grew up in Los Angeles areas. I don't know why they stopped making Craftsman and Bungalow houses and doors anymore. They're so beautiful. I'm a CA native, but I reside in Texas for almost 6 years now. I grew up in houses full of dull and plain interior doors except front doors just like your front doors. You could do the same thing to those bedroom doors if you're up for another cement contact project. 🙂

  4. I love that door! I've been thinking about doing something similar. Did you have any problems putting the door knob back on with the increased thickness? That's the only thing stopping me right now.

  5. I wish I had some of the thoughts that must run through your brain. Because you must lay awake at night in bed and think, “You know… I hate that closet door SO DADGUM MUCH, but if we used contact cement and wood veneers, I think we could make it look fantastic, for cheap dollars.” And then your brain probably goes through the entire process of going from UGLY DOOR to HOLLYWOOD DOOR, right before you fall asleep. MY brain has a few thoughts at night in bed, too. Mostly it's things like, “Crud. I never switched the wet clothes from the washer to the dryer!” I wish we were neighbors, you and me. I'd be knocking on your door constantly and saying things like, “I brought you a hot cup of Starbucks' goodness, and I was wondering if you have any fresh ideas for redecorating the mantle on my fireplace this morning!” As always, I love your little project here. The door looks fantastic. *CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP, CLAP!!!!*

  6. Nope, no problems at all! I'm not sure if there's a standard door thickness, but the original door was pretty thin and I think most handles have some leeway so it will fit a variety of doors. And you can always just use longer screws if that's the only problem.

  7. Love the door! We remodeled one of our upstairs bathrooms last year and changed out the hollow core builder grade (from 1964) doors to a 5 paneled door that looks just like yours except mine is painted white. I love it. We are now remodeling the master bathroom and bedroom and are changing out the bathroom, bedroom and two metal bi-fold closet doors to 5 paneled doors. Slowly, we will be changing all of the doors in the house to 5 paneled doors. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! I can't wait to see your next project!

  8. OMG, I'm so glad you said that about the cutting at Lowes. I had to buy the same cabinet grade plywood for my bookcase project and I had Home Depot cut it for me. I finally had to get a manager because every piece was about an inch shorter at 1″ than the other. Glad it wasn't just me ;). Your door looks great! I love checking in to see how your how remodel is coming along 🙂

  9. The door looks GREAT! Do you have a Habitat for Humanity Restore near you? They always have the old wood hollow core doors that you could sand and stain and add your plywood to, and for probably much less than the veneer. Just a thought.

    1. I scored a truck load of Very old doors some 5 panel and several like your kitchen door from Habitat for $ 1.00 each 🙂 One week I got sinks for $5.00 each 🙂 4 deep Stainless steel (deep),2 Corian,and one Antique Farmhouse sink ($3.00). I Love Habitat restore 🙂

  10. LOVED your entry makeover and I just adore this door! What a perfect way to add even more character and personality to the space! Super excited to share it with my favorites from the week this Friday!

  11. Gorgeous as always! I definitely took some tips regarding veneer, I've been debating between that and plywood to refinish my coffee table. Love the lamp, but I gotta ask, how jarring is the bare bulb in reality? I love the look of bare bulb lamps but I always wonder how they affect the space.

  12. It's a pretty low wattage bulb (I think 40?) so it doesn't hurt your eyes when you look at it or anything. We tried different LED bulbs but they just don't look as clean—they're not really made to be exposed. The simple clear ones just blend in better. The light never stays on, we only flip it on for a second at night if we need to see by the door so I'm not too worried about how it lights the space 🙂

  13. WAAAH! This is amazing. Now I want to run to Lowes and get wood and do this on my cheap doors. I am so happy you showed us how you took the trim off and just re-attached it. I'm so doing this.

  14. Jenna Sue: What a great idea! I have the identical front doors as you do and a small closet in just about the same location and want to try this. This if OFF TOPIC, but I notice your doorbell. I almost purchased it this weekend to replace my old 70s chimes. I'm wondering how you like it. Does it make enough noise? What does it sound like? It's certainly better looking than the small, white plastic doorbell I ended up buying and I'm wondering if I should go with one like yours. Thanks for any info you can provide.

  15. I really like the doorbell! It's an old school style buzzer/bell so there's no chime or speaker or anything. I think it's fun 🙂 And it's so cheap, you can just replace it if you don't like it.

  16. So cute! All of my doors in my 1950's house are hollow wood doors. I just might do this to them. I am going to include this tutorial in my favorite things friday over at

  17. I have had this idea in my head for yrs…. actually did the back of my bathroom door with leftover beadboard and it turned out great…. now on to the other doors….. Thanks for confirming my idea can work!!!

  18. I'm in love with this. I have been looking for a way to redo my hollow-core doors without the hassel of moulding and mitering corners and measuring and all that nonsense. I knew I had seen stuff like this before but so glad you made a simple tutorial on yours especially with the adjustment of the door strips. I plan to start my redo this week with gel stain on the doors and painting the ugly gold knobs I have 🙂

  19. Jenna ! I called a door company that replaces door and asked if the had any old doors that they had replaced and they did and they will usually sell them cheap or give them to you ! Check your phone book, and give it a try, I got mine for a donation to a church lucked out

  20. There really was no specific formula, but I remember it was mostly comprised of the driftwood and walnut, with a little less of the weathered gray. Hope this helps!

  21. I am going to give this a try! I am going to use euchre board instead of veneer because I'm not going to stain. I saw it on one of your other projects, but you called it something else. It is like a super thin piece of MDF, but on the backside reminds me of the back of a bulletin board. I wanna say it's $8 for a big sheet the size of ply wood. It won't easily cut as straight, but it will work.

  22. This is cool but you can purchase a “Real” used door for about $10-15 with built in character. Seems like your method was more expensive in both materials and labor.

  23. Lol!! Well i don't know about her but i sure do lay awake plotting diy projects in my head. Hahaha You are funny!

  24. I need to do something with our old ugly hollow cores and found this post on Pinterest. It’s a great post and your door AND entry looks amazing, thank you for sharing. Did you have to move position of the hinges on the casing, or could you reuse the same spots because you repositioned the casing strips?

      1. Hi, if the hinges stay in the same spot does that mean the doors stick out a bit from the front due to them being thicker? And if so is it noticeable?

  25. Jenna:
    Hi, can you please confirm you used three stains: MinWax Dark Walnut and Driftwood and Weathered Grey from Rustoleum? Also, any tips you have on the staining technique would be appreciated.


  26. I absolutely love the finish on the door! Did you mix all 3 stains together or did you apply them separately and randomly? I would love to recreate that look on a table. Thank you!

  27. I love your door makeover. Also have a great product for your to try next your have to use a venor. I recently remodel my laundry room and the cabinets and cabinet doors were made from MDF or something with out a wood grain. They were also painted with a lacquer paint. I found some stuff called Stainable Primer. It worked out great I got the wood texture I wanted then I stained and destressed after that.
    You can uses it on just about anything and get a wood finish. If you will email I can send a picture I have on my phone. I also have before and after of the cabinets

  28. Hi I love this door makeover and the instructions are great! I would love to know the thickness of the cabinet plywood.

  29. Please whats the thickness of plywood you used. Your projects are perfection! I also dream up DIY projects so much it drives me nuts! We have a small house on Cape Cod so it has to be big on character!

  30. I just got the World Market 4 pendent light to hang over our kitchen table and I love it. Could you tell me how exactly your shortened the cord on it? Thanks!

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