Hidden Gem # 1 – Doors

Welcome to Gems of Wisdom!  I mentioned last week that I’m planning to use this platform to share any exciting projects that I’m working on, updates on the market and any bits of “wisdom” that I’ve picked up on my designing and real estate journeys.  Since that’s a pretty broad scope of topics (and let’s be honest, I’m trying to run a brand new business over here and may be a skosh busy!), I’ve decided to narrow it down and focus on one thing for right now.  Since I would really like for this to be something that is useful for anyone reading it, I thought I would start off with something that could be impactful with minimal effort, time or money or, even better, all three!  So I am going to start off with small, DIY, weekend projects that anyone can do with a small budget, minimal tools and a little bit of work.

I mentioned last week that Mike and I bought a 1958 fixer upper that we are flipping (more on that and it’s 7 million “projects” later) and with that came interior doors that may very well be original to the house based on the amount of grime and age that they were showing.  I’ll spare you a close up picture of that since, not surprisingly, I didn’t take pictures of gross doors when we moved in – but there were years of dirty fingerprints, grime and wear and tear visible.  However, other than desperately needing some (alot!) of paint and cleaning, they were in good shape.  Since we are flipping this home, we have opted to make this project part of the “preserving the original charm and beauty of a 1958 ranch-style home” (I hope you read that in an affected, somehow condescending British accent).  Others might call it “making money by restoring instead of replacing”.  We fall into the latter category.  So, we knew that we planned to keep the doors but, in addition to the griminess, they also were flat-panel, nondescript, boring old doors – a perfect opportunity to uncover/create a “Hidden Gem”!  (see what I did there???  So clever! lol)  

I decided to take the blank (and dirty) slate and take it up a notch by adding inexpensive trim and paint to turn an otherwise boring, forgettable door into something worth noticing. My hope was that by adding some visual interest and mimicking more current doors, we’d put this fairly disgusting relic of the past, in the past. This is my first time ever doing this type of project, so in an effort to not get in over my head or spend too much money, I knew I wanted to go with a very simple and clean design but wasn’t sure what that really would translate to so it was time to drag out the painter’s tape.  If you haven’t worked with Scotch Blue painter’s tape before, it’s a super useful design tool due to its ability to be repositioned many, many, maaannnnyyy times without any damage to the surface of whatever you might be working on.  I use it a lot for space planning, trying to get a visual representation of something’s size and, of course, for actual painting.  


After about an hour of taping out possibilities on my son’s door, I decided on the below pattern.  Although there were other options that would have been simpler, I felt like this one would actually upgrade the doors while still being cost-effective. 

The next decision was to figure out what to use for the trim.  If you haven’t been to the trim aisle in Home Depot yet, you should know that there are tons (hundreds?) of options to choose from – and that’s just one store!  I’m someone that is regularly plagued by “analysis paralysis” – meaning I can spend hours, days, weeks and longer analyzing all of the available options based on any number of criteria to the point of ending up in not making a decision at all.  So, I had Mike help me out with this one and we decided on the simplest, most cost-effective option:  ¾ inch finger-jointed half round moulding.   What is that you ask?  Basically, it’s general purpose moulding that is ¾ inch in diameter (before being cut in half) that has been manufactured through a process called “finger-jointing”-  which is in reference to a woodworking joint called the, you guessed it, finger joint.  A finger joint is sometimes referred to as a “comb joint”, but it essentially is two pieces of wood joined together and glued and the cross-section of that joint resembles fingers.  The manufacturing world built on that concept by “finger-jointing” small pieces of wood to make one longer piece of wood –helping to reduce manufacturing waste and creating less expensive options for non-structural things like mouldings.  Pretty cool, right?  Anyway, I digress…  

So we decided to go with the inexpensive (only $2.39 per 96 inch length!) molding to keep our costs down.  We purchased enough for 5 interior doors and definitely didn’t break the bank.  To give you a reference point, using my design on my coat closet door (which is slightly smaller than a standard door),  it only required just over 2 lengths of moulding! That’s about $5 a door!  

On a return trip to Home Depot, we picked up our paint for the doors.  Since we were covering years of gross, we picked a paint with a primer included.  We opted to go with Valspar Simplicity in….drumroll…….keep drumming….. bddddddddddd…Chalkboard Black!  Mike actually had the idea of painting the back of the boys doors (the side facing into their room) with chalkboard paint so that they can draw, write themselves notes and I can put friendly reminders, such as “Lucky you, it’s Toilet Tuesday” or, ”Poop Scoop Day – get scoopin’!”,  where they will see them.  You may be thinking, “when will they see the backside of their doors?” –well, we have teenage boys – that’s all they see!  

We also needed to replace the dated, brass door hardware with something more current. I initially wanted to go with a gold-colored finish, but based on availability and cost, we opted to go with the Kwikset Signature Series (Pismo) in a satin nickel.  (Thankfully, I’ve styled the house where we could easily go with either a gold or silver finish without affecting the overall aesthetic since my first choice didn’t work out).  They have a Microban antimicrobial technology that helps keep them 99.9% cleaner and in today’s world, we need all the help we can get!  I also liked their simplicity and clean lines.  So we picked up 5 of those on Lowe’s run and it was time to get started on the actual project.  

After removing the door from the hinges and taking off all the hardware, I measured and drew out the design on the door.   Since I had taped out the design on my son’s standard sized door, I needed to scale it to fit on the door that I was working on first – my coat closet door.  For this design, it meant making each trim “box” 5 inches from the edges of the door and 4.5 inches from each other. Now that it was drawn out, I measured the drawn lengths and marked them out on the trim.  

For this part of the project, you could use a standard miter box and saw to cut all of the 45 degree angles and it would only set you back $10 – $25, depending on the box you went with.   That being said, if you know me, you know that I ALWAYS like to save money (thanks Dad!).  There’s nothing more rewarding than figuring out a way to do things on the cheap, BUT from past experience, we have found that having the right tools can make or break a job.  I believe that this is one of those instances where spending more money on a better tool is worth it.  You are making precision cuts and you may find it difficult to get everything to line up perfectly with a standard miter box and saw. So, Christmas came a little early for us and we (Mike) decided to purchase a Kobalt 7-¼ Compact Sliding Single-Bevel Miter Saw.   We were able to score this beauty on sale for only $99 which in my opinion was totally worth not having to struggle endlessly with my beloved miter box!  

I strapped on my safety glasses (okay, not really – I am always wearing them!) and got to cutting.  As I mentioned, this is my first time doing a project like this so this portion took me some time —and there were several mistakes!  If you decide to tackle something like this, I would encourage you to plan for at least 10% waste.  I really didn’t think I would need it —but I did.  Do yourself a favor and don’t make multiple trips back to get more like someone I know – just get it from the get-go – you can always return it if you don’t end up needing it!  

Once all of the pieces were cut to the right length and laid out on the door, it was time to attach them.  I used our Central Pneumatic Brad Nailer  and 1 inch long 18 gauge brad nails to attach each individual piece of trim.  Turns out that knowing the gauge of your nail gun is important – ask me how I know.  Sigh.  (If you were counting the number of trips that I made to Home Depot/Lowe’s for this project, you can annoyingly add another tally mark)

Now that the trim was attached, it was time to caulk it.  I was only recently introduced to caulking and it is the best mistake- hiding, problem-solving miracle goo out there!  It can be used in a myriad of applications, but for our purposes we needed it to fill in the small gaps between the trim and the door and the 45 degree angles where the trim pieces connected.  There may be better suited options out there, but I used DAP Kwik Seal because that’s what I had on hand.  This little miracle is paintable, is waterproof and doesn’t shrink or crack.  I could write a whole post on how to caulk (and now I probably will!) but essentially, you run a bead of caulk where you need it, smooth it out with your finger and then wipe off any excess.  I learned the BEST little trick to make this easy work —use Clorox wipes!  Trust me, it’s like magic! 

After you let the caulk dry —in our dry Vegas climate with the tiny amount of caulk that we used, this literally took minutes- it’s time to paint!  I used Cabinet/Door Grade Mini Paint Rollers and rolled on two coats of our paint, making sure to get the edges and undersides of the trim.  

We (okay, Mike did this part) installed the new hardware and realized that we (I) didn’t pick up any new hinges. Ugh.  So, I could make yet another trip back to Home Depot or…honestly, it didn’t matter what the other option was at this point because I was. NOT. Going. Back. To. Home. Depot!  We opted to paint them and see what happens.  We may end up changing them out at some point, but this was a workable, low cost solution and meant I didn’t have to go back to the ‘pot again.  #Winning! 

Mike hung the door and it’s now been up for a few weeks and we love it!  It definitely went from bland, boring and blah to something that is interesting, unusual and a bit more unique in the span of a weekend for the cost of paint, some trim and, annoyingly, a “couple” trips to Home Depot.  

Thanks for sticking it out for what turned out to be a much longer post than I expected – let me know what you think of the uncovering of our first Hidden Gem!