From Slab to Fab – DIY 5 Panel Door

Let me just come right out and say it.

I HATE slab doors.  For real…

And you know what really stinks?  I have a 3000 square foot house FULL of them!  15 of them to be exact… and they aren’t even remotely pretty.  They’re wood with wood trim which in many cases is beautiful, but not mine.  Check out this gem.

With the bathroom remodel, I knew something had to give with these doors.  I was going to step out of my comfort zone and show these doors some love!

Today I am going to show you how to update your interior doors and take them from SLAB to FAB!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 ugly slab door
  • 1 sheet (4×8) of 1/4″ thick plywood cut in to 4 inch by 8 foot strips – the guy at Lowe’s seemed a bit annoyed when I told him I wanted the whole sheet cut, but he did it anyway.  I got birch plywood that didn’t have a lot of grain showing.  It’s more expensive, but not by much and it looks so much better when it’s painted than the cheaper versions.  OH and it’s pre-sanded on top… SCORE!
  • Liquid Nails
  • Primer – I use Zinsser BIN, it is BY FAR the best!
  • I also use my finishing nail gun in addition to the Liquid Nails.
  • DAP White Paintable Caulk
  • 2 1/2 inch hole saw
  • Sand paper
  • Paint (I use Sherwin Williams)
  • Wood Filler (I use Elmers)
  • Joint Compound (I use DryDex by DAP)

Step 1:  Remove the door and door knob
I had my “demo hubby” do this.  Seriously, y’all… he can take something apart or demolish it faster than I have ever seen.

BRAG TIME:  I told him last weekend that I’d really like the overgrown flower bed at the end of our driveway cleaned out completely.  It was full of yucca plants that the previous owner had planted and they were way overgrown.  I’ve tried over the years to trim them back, cut them down… but there are a tremendous amount of bugs in that flower bed and I always end up running back to the house with the heebie-jeebies and it doesn’t get finished.  This man of mine heard my plea!  He got up early Sunday, pulled and chopped everything down, mowed over it and was back inside in the shower within 45 minutes!  I hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet!  Check out his aftermath.

Ok… back to the door.

I removed the hinges from the door and the door jamb, then cleaned the door really well with Clorox Wipes.

Step 2: Remove the door stops
Because we’re going to be adding thickness to the door (basically 1/2 inch) from the plywood, if we just put the door back up, it won’t shut properly.  So we have to move the door stops back.  Door stops are what stop your door from swinging through and basically breaking your door or pulling it and the hinges off.

All of the tutorials I saw on this showed pretty people popping the stops off easily, painting them and nailing them back up…easy peasy…NOT!

Apparently my door stops are attached on ONE SIDE… as in.. the stop and jamb are one piece. When I noticed this, I was already half way through ripping it off, no going back now.  I made a complete mess…jamb, stops and wood were flying everywhere.

I decided it was nothing a little wood putty or wall patch couldn’t fix.  I had seen stops in the trim section at Home Depot, so I just ripped them out… sigh.
Step 3:  Patch yo’ jambs
So if like me, you rip off half your wall, you may need to patch.  I used wood filler first on the huge hole at the bottom of the jamb.
Let it dry, then used joint compound over it.  It took a solid 36 hours for the really deep places to go from pink to white.
At this point, hubby walked by and said “Is that how it’s supposed to look?”  :
All I could say was, “It’s going to be beautiful.”
Once all of this was dry, I used my sander and sanded everything down smooth.  I then went over it all a second time with joint compound, let it dry and sand smooth.  Then prime and paint the jambs.
Step 4:  Measure and cut your plywood strips.
My door is 80 inches tall by 27.5 inches wide.  So my two long strips are going to be cut at 80 inches.
The 6 middle strips are going to be 19.5 inches each.  (27.5 inch wide door and subtract the two long 4″ wide sides) 27.5 – 8 = 19.5 inches
Step 5:  Attach plywood strips to door.
Start with the 4×80 inch strips on the sides.  Next, attach the top and bottom strips with Liquid Nails and finishing nails if needed (just make sure they are shorter than the thickness of your door).
You’ll be left with 4 of the middle strips (mine were 4×19.5).  In order to get these spaced out correctly, you’re going to have to do a little math.  I know, I know… but let’s break it down:
Dry fit the middle pieces first and make sure they look appropriately spaced, then Liquid Nails these bad boys in place!
Step 6:  Flip and cut out the spot for the door knob.
Once you are finished with attaching the plywood to the front side, flip the door over. You’ll now see the hole opening where the door knob will go. Use your hole saw and simply stick it in the opening and cut out the plywood that covered up the front door knob hole.
Step 7:  Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the back of the door.
Flip it and reverse it!
Step 8:  Fill all joints and seams with joint compound
I also had a hole right in the middle of my door that I patched up.
Step 9:  Sand joints
Step 10:  Caulk the inside of each panel around the plywood
Ok, so I was completely covered in caulk while doing this and didn’t take any photos.  So sorry, I’ll do better, pinky promise.  I did give a photo tutorial on caulking in this post.
Step 11:  Prime and paint
I primed the door before hanging it…but…because we needed a door… in a BAD way, I had the hubby help me hang it and then I painted it once it was up.  You’ll need to attach the door knob as well.
Step 14:  Reattach stops
With the door shut, replace the door stops, they’ll be further back now because of the new width of the door due to the plywood strips.  You’ll want to nail these in to make sure they stay in place (I used Liquid Nails as well for extra strength).
Below is the original stop in place, it was then caulked and painted white.
Here’s the final product!!
This weekend, we’re replacing those horrible beige outlets and covers.  It will all be crisp and white… I can’t wait!
Just in case you forgot, here is a before and after.  🙂
I’m loving these doors!  I’m obviously going to have to do it to the rest of the doors in my house to make them match.  I do NOT look forward to working with the door jambs and stops, so I need to find another work around with that.  Maybe I need to just saw them off. 🙂  The point is, be fearless! There’s NOTHING that can’t be fixed.  I told the hubby at least 5 times “It’s going to be beautiful!”  I don’t think he believed me.  When I showed him the final door, he said “Wow!”  That’s a WIN to me!
To see the other parts of this bathroom remodel click the posts below:

This post is linked up to the following FAB parties:
The Shabby Nest
Chic on a Shoestring
DIY Showoff
Thrifty Decor Chick


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  1. This is beautiful! I love how the door turned out.

  2. WOW!! This is darn useful! Thank you for sharing! 😀

  3. Awesome makeover! I have a question about the edge of the door where the door latch hardware sticks out. How does that look? It seems like you would be able to see where you added the trim pieces?

  4. Thanks Pragati!

  5. Thanks! The edge does show, but it's not noticeable unless you are really looking for it. I sanded the edges of the wood then put a ton on primer and paint on it, so it actually blends well.

  6. Thanks so much Ashley!

  7. How did you handle the hinges?

  8. beautiful job! I did the same thing to a hall tree I made from a $2 hollow core door. It's one of my favorite projects!

  9. Love it. Your door is gorgeous!

  10. Karen asked about the hinges. I have the same question. Did you just install them further out and then patch the vacant space using filler?

  11. I installed the hinges in the same place. No adjustment was needed. I had to move the door stops but that was it!

  12. Tina Haustetter says:

    I’m concerned about the knob fitting after adding 1/2“. Did you buy special knobs?

  13. This is gorgeous. Always fantastic to find a really great DIY project. I’ve got a tired, broken old door and I’ve thought that the only future for it is to throw it away and buy a new one. I’m looking forward to reincarnating it as something that looks much more expensive. Thanks for the tip!

  14. This is beautiful! I have a question….. Did you do it on the other side of the door too? I really want to do this to my doors too!

  15. Hi! This is the coolest. I have a quick question- when I take off my door stop strip it exposes the deeper channel underneath where the 2 parts of the pre-hung door jam set kinda come together. If I move the strip back it will expose that deeper gap. Do you suggest I just try and fill that up with a strip of wood + some wood filler?

  16. Ashton Allgood says:

    Did you ever do the rest of the doors? I realllly want to do ours and we have the same door jam problems!