Here’s how you can easily restore old doors and make them functional again by repairing damaged areas and adding modern hardware.
We recently updated the door hardware and even some of the doors in our home and it’s made an amazing difference. This project gave me the chance to save a few old doors, too. They turned out so good Courtenay asked me to share a few tips on how to restore old doors.
Restore Old Doors
Over the years we replaced a few doors on the main floor with off-the-shelf, 6-panel doors and we had a few old, flat slab doors remaining that needed to be swapped out as well. Most of the doors downstairs are from a 20-30 year old renovation so they were ugly, boring and of poor-quality. They had to go. Upstairs, however, we had some doors that might not date back all 120 years this home has stood here, but we assume pretty close. Every time I strip back another wall, section of floor or ceiling I come up with a new theory on the age of this upstairs layout. I doubt I’ll ever completely solve the mystery. What matters here, though, is that we can save these beautiful, old doors and breath new life back into them.
Sometimes the best, most interesting reclaimed doors have broken or painted over hardware, some damage to the wood from years of use, or unconventional bore holes for the door knobs. Whether the doors were in your home when you purchased it or you’ve picked some up at the ReStore or an antique store, they sometimes need a little work to return to their former glory.
As you can see, the area on the end near the latch looked pretty rough and the mortise-style lock set would be difficult to repair or replace. You can also see a small crack in the closest panel as well. Time to get to work.
Remove the Old Hardware
To get started on the restoration of this old door we need to remove the old lockset. This one came out pretty easy but as you can see, I had break away layers of paint and wrestle a couple stripped screws out. It’s okay to pry some of the stripped screws out like a nail, we’re going to patch that all up in the process.
Remove the Heavily Damaged Areas
Next we’re going to identify and mark the damaged area that needs to be removed. The key to this step is staying parallel and square with the existing edges. This will make it easier to create our patch later. Using an oscillating saw, remove the damaged area.
Drill Bore Holes
In order to fit a new, modern style knob set into this door we need to layout the position of the new lock and cut a new main bore hole and make any adjustments to latch hole. Using a door lock installation jig a great idea here to save time and ensure accuracy. Typically, interior doors knobs require a 2 1/8″ hole set back from the edge 2 3/8″ for the knob and a 1″ hole for the latch. Check the instructions that came with your new knobs to make sure. If your door already fits the necessary specifications, skip ahead to the next step.
With the holes drilled out, check fit and function of your new holes. Make sure the latch lines up with where our repaired edge will be when we’re complete.
Make a Patch
Now, it’s time to measure and cut our wood patch. I used a piece of pine cut from a regular 2×4 because pine is easy to work with. The downside with pine is that it’s soft and may damage again easily but with a patch this small and a quality paint to cover it, I wasn’t too concerned. At this point we can also drill the edge bore and chisel the recess where the faceplate with sit.
Return to your door and using a chisel and sandpaper, fine-tune and fit the patch into place. When you’re happy with the fit, glue the patch into place using a wood glue. Add a couple finishing nails to hold it tightly in place. Pre-drill the nail holes to avoid cracking your patch.
Fill and Sand
Now we can finish the fit by adding wood filler to all the gaps around your patch. This is a good time fill any other gaps, screw holes or cracks on other areas of the door like the one we saw above. Sand down any high spots around your patch and rough areas on the entire door.
Apply a coat of primer to the areas that were repaired and give the entire door a new coat of paint. When the paint has dried, completely install your new knob set, faceplate and strike plate.
The other restored old doors look just as good.
Apply this same technique if you’re updating the hinges, too. Just cut out the damage and patch it with wood and wood filler. Do the same on the door frame.
Restore Old Doors
Restoring old doors creates so many great design opportunities and they are fun to hunt for, too. You can update the hardware like we did here or close up all the holes and install the door using sliding barn door hardware. You could even clean one up and just lean it against the wall as decor. We’re very happy with the look of our restored doors and we had a lot of fun saving them for years of enjoyment.
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.