2 days. Allow 4 to 5 hours to build, 1 hour to hang, and 2 hours to paint. Allow the remainder of time for drying before normal use.
Make room—this DIY requires a lot of supplies!
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What you'll need:
Miter saw or circular saw
Large work surface or a pair of sawhorses
Jointer, hand planer, or power planer
Router (with guide or router table)
Hinge mortise guide kit
Door hardware installation template and hole saw kit
Hand planer, power planer, or thickness planer
3–4 bar clamps
Power orbital or sheet sander
Power or hand screwdriver
½-inch table saw dado blade stack (optional)
Thickness planer (optional)
Circular saw (optional)
2-inch nominal thickness, paint-grade lumber (1 ½-inch actual thickness)
½-inch paint grade plywood
Sandpaper (80-grit through 220-grit)
Interior doors come in a variety of types and styles, from farmhouse to French. No matter if you paint yours bright white or rustic red, doors add style and individuality to your home. If you need to replace a standard-sized door, finding a style to match the ones in your house can often be done easily at home center stores.
However, if you need to replace an irregularly sized solid wood door, your options become more limited. Luckily, with this guide (and intermediate DIY skills), you can build a solid wood door for your home that looks professional.
“When you need a door that is not a conventional size, the prices can really climb,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board member and general contractor in Raleigh, NC. “We see this a lot when we are installing sliding barn doors, and we almost always end up making the doors ourselves.”
11 Steps to Build a Solid Wood Door
For this project, we’ll describe how to build a solid, recessed panel door with four panels. You can adjust your measurements, number of panels, and design elements to fit your needs.
Parts of a Door
Before we get started, let’s define the parts of a door that are important for this project.
Door panel: The door panel is the part of the door that hangs from the door frame.
Frame: This is the part of a doorway that’s secured into the wall and acts as the mounting surface for the door panel. The frame has two vertical door jambs and a head jamb at the top.
Stiles: Stiles are the thick vertical parts of the door panel on both sides. One stile is the hinge stile; the other is the lock stile.
Mullion: The mullion is the vertical center divider of the door panel, located between the recessed panels of the door panel.
Panel: Panels, not to be confused with door panels, are the recessed areas of a door panel.
Rails: These are the horizontal dividers between panels. Our door will consist of a bottom rail, a top rail, and a lock rail which will be located at the height of the lockset.
Lockset: This consists of the doorknob, or handle, and the latch assembly.
Hinges: These are the metal components that hang the door in place and allow it to swing open and closed.
Hinge pin: A hinge pin is a thin, cylindrical piece of metal that connects the two halves of a hinge.
Mortise: Mortises are the recessed voids where the hinges and latch assembly are installed into.
Remove Old Door
To start, you’ll need to have unhindered access to the door’s frame.
Remove the lockset and save if you’re going to reuse it.
Prop the door panel on shims or other piece of blocking to accept the weight of the door as it’s being removed.
Use a screwdriver or other thin, cylindrical object to pry and push the hinge pins up and out of the hinges. Lightly tapping the screwdriver with a hammer may help.
Lift the door from the frame.
Unscrew the door-side half of the hinges if reusing.
Measure Door Frame
Photo: yamasan / iStock / Getty Images
If the door you’re replacing is undamaged, and fits nicely in its frame, you can simply measure the door panel and replicate the measurements for the new door. If you’ve tried to fix the door after being damaged, but found it to be in need of replacement instead, you’ll need to get your measurements from the existing frame.
Measure the door frame opening from one jamb to the other and subtract three-eighths of an inch. This number will be the actual width of the new door.
Measure from the floor to the top jamb and subtract 1 inch to get the total height measurement. Subtract another one-eighth to one-quarter-inch if you have carpeted floors or need extra-high clearance.
Prepare the Stock Lumber
Choose either 2-by-6s or 2-by-8s—both will work well for this project. Replacing older doors that are 1.5-inches thick won’t require planing. Replacing modern doors, usually one and three-eights-inch thick, need to be planed to fit properly.
Use the thickness planer, hand planer, or power planer to reduce all the 1.5-inch thick material to 1 ⅜-inch thick if you’re replacing a modern door.
Remove any stock, beveled edges with a jointer, power planer, or hand planer.
Rip the pieces to width on the table saw. You’ll need three longer pieces for the stiles and mullion and three shorter pieces for the rails. Typically the bottom rail will be wider than the other rails, but this is an optional design feature.
Cut two stiles to equal the overall height of the door.
Cut two short mullions from the leftover long piece of lumber. Typically the lower panels and mullions are shorter in height than the top panels and mullions.
Cut three rails from the shorter stock to a measurement equal to the overall width of the door, minus the sum of the widths of the two stiles.
Cut Joinery Grooves
Next, you’ll create the system that holds the door panel together. For this step, you can use a router with a guide fence, router table, or a dado blade on your table saw.
Cut all of the following grooves one-half-inch wide by one-half-inch deep. Create a groove covering the full length of the dimension on each of these edges:
One side of each stile
All sides of each mullion
One long side and both short sides of the top and bottom rails
Cut the Panels
Photo: Sean Locke Photography / Stocksy / Adobe Stock
This project will have four recessed panels
Using the table saw or circular saw, cut the plywood into four panels. Each panel will measure the size of the planned voids in the door panel, plus 7/8-inch on each side.
Cut Floating Tenons
A floating tenon is a piece of wood that fits in the grooves between the vertical and horizontal members. It provides alignment, strength, and a gluing surface.
Using leftover plywood, rip a 7/8-inch-wide strip on the table saw.
Depending on the widths of your rails, the tenons will be of different length. Cut them to the maximum length allowed by the rail width, minus the space that will be filled by the panels.
Create one tenon for each location where a vertical member meets a horizontal member of the door panel.
Assemble the Door
Be certain to dry-fit all of your pieces together before committing to gluing the parts.
Protect a large, flat work surface with a drop cloth and lay out your door panel parts.
Starting at one side, assemble the door panel, placing tenons, panels, mullions, and rails into each stile. Liberally apply glue to all mating surfaces.
Continue until complete and firmly apply 3–4 clamps.
Allow to dry overnight.
Prepare the Door for Hardware
Photo: Wavebreak Media / Adobe Stock
For this step, use the measurements and locations of the existing hardware if it’s being reused.
Follow the instructions in your hinge mortising kit to create hinge mortises and a latch assembly faceplate mortise if applicable.
Drill holes for the lockset according to the instructions in your door hardware installation kit.
Sand the Door Surface
Photo: visivasnc / Adobe Stock
Your door build is complete. Now it’s time to give it a finish.
Use coarse sandpaper to remove dried glue that’s been squeezed out.
Sand all surfaces with increasingly fine sandpapers and an orbital or sheet sander. Continue through 220-grit paper.
Use a shop vac, tack cloth, or damp rag to remove the sanding dust.
Hang the Door
Normally, now is the time to stain or paint the door. However, for this project, it can be hung first if you wish to make sure that it fits and swings easily first. You may want to let it sit, unfinished, for several days to adjust to humidity levels.
“Door hanging can be time consuming and even tedious,” Tschudi says. “But it’s time well spent. If you don’t get it right the first time, you can spend a lot of time going back and adjusting, adjusting, adjusting.”
Install one half of each hinge on the door panel in the mortises, being sure to predrill each screw hole.
Reinstall the other half of the hinges on the frame.
Prop the door in place and install hinge pins to hang the door.
Check for even clearances between the door panel and frame.
If any adjustments are needed, remove the trim and use shims between the door frame and the wall frame lumber, or use a planer or sander to trim the edges.
Finish the Door
Apply your choice of paint or stain according to product instructions and allow it to dry before resuming normal use. You can remove the door or leave it in place for this step.
Optional Bonus Step
Your new door has flat panels that can be dressed up by routing designs into the panels or adding decorative trim to the inside edges of the panels.
DIY Wood Door Building vs. Hiring a Pro
Standard-sized solid wood interior door slabs cost between $200 and $400 and are a good option for replacing modern doors of the same size and style. This DIY project’s cost will depend on the type of wood you use and its quality, but will range from $50 to $300, plus any hardware and tools you may need to purchase.
If the door you’re replacing is an older, thicker door, or if its dimensions are of an unusual size, you’ll have the choice of building a new door yourself, or ordering a custom-built door for a cost starting at about $300, and quickly increasing from there. Professional interior door slab installation costs between $50 and $400 on average.
From a cost standpoint, building one of your own standard-sized doors will likely save some money, but possibly not a great deal more than hiring a professional to do the job.