A Whole Lot of Doors

The funny thing about installing baseboards is…

  • … it takes a long, long time.
  • … it’s not so bad at first, but those “small jobs” escalate. Quickly.
  • … you realize that to finish the job fully and completely, you’ll need to trim around every door. And then you realize that you need all new doors. Of course!

So, we found ourselves with a door situation on our hands. There are a lot of doors in this house, but there are five that are open to the two main rooms (upstairs and down) that would need immediate replacement – that is, if we wanted to finish our baseboards job properly (and we do!):


At first, we wanted to replace these doors simply because they were hollow, filthy (even after a scrub down) and just didn’t feel nice (and since we’ve been busting our asses on so many details in this home, what’s five more?). Thinking happy thoughts, we even thought we might be able to salvage a few of them, but after really noodling on that idea for a while, we realized that wasn’t going to happen.

For starters, we’d need a door – period! – for our bedroom. (Remember when it was a kitchen?) The doors on the first floor – which again, are hollow – were trimmed down, leaving the bottoms exposed and warped. At one point, I went to open the second guest room (where I had been storing art supplies before the workroom came to be), and the door fell right off its hinges! The second floor bathroom has an original solid door, but it’s very likely that it’s covered in lead based paint – and to be quite honest, I don’t want to go through that again. (There was a similar door off of the workroom that we took off completely, and both of these doors will be donated.)

Jambs are crumbling, screw holes have been stripped over time, and everything is at least 5 degrees crooked. In some cases, the doors are straight up sideways (I’m exaggerating, but still). Not a single door actually closes properly, and most of them had large gaps at the tops and bottoms.

All this to say, we decided to not just replace the doors, but the jambs as well. We had to; this, of course, brings up the cost of each door, but it would be worth it to have a smooth, functioning swing. After taking our measurements (and learning the intricacies of right-hand vs. left-hand swings), we ordered our five solid core oak doors with an arch detail that’ll mimic the other arches around our home (can you tell we’re arch obsessed?). Our second floor bathroom has a really narrow 26″ wide door, and we opted to order a 28″ wide door – mostly due to cost (since one that’s 26″ wide is considered a special order), but also because we figured we could widen the rough opening. And now, of course, we’re wondering if we made a mistake there. We will see. Side note: Even though the existing door heights varied, we ordered all 80″h doors, knowing we could make our openings taller and/or cut down our solid doors an inch if needed.

We also upgraded to oil rubbed bronze hinges for a little detail that feels a step up from the standard nickel – because if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right! As for the knobs, well, we’re not there – yet.

Once we had all the doors in our home, we started another round of demo – tearing out the existing frames, enlarging the openings that made sense and fighting with crumbling plaster.

And then we realized – oh, boy – after all of our careful measuring, we never considered the depth of the actual jamb. Below on the left, you can see that the depth of our rough door opening is around 6″, whereas the depth of our jamb is just 4 1/2″:

In some cases (especially on the second floor, which seemed to lack updates over the decades), we had a rough opening of 6 1/2″+, due to drywall and lath on both sides of the original 2x4s – which, by the way, are quite literally 2″ by 4″ (as opposed to modern day 2x4s):

Scott’s quick Googling helped to subside our panicked moment after he found a couple of (simple enough) tutorials on extending the jambs; with the help of inexpensive pine, we’d essentially need to trim our openings to make up for the depth of our new door jambs – which we’re sure will be really fun! (Aah! Ha!) We’re trying to keep an upbeat attitude about it all, but the doors have us feeling a little overwhelmed, and our goal of finishing up all the baseboards by the end of May is looking… grim? Yes, definitely grim.

So far, we have installed one door with the help of a friend (thank you, thank you, thank you, Dave!). A small victory!

There’s not one 90 degree angle in this home to make the job easy – not that we were expecting easy, but let’s just say that we were overly optimistic diving in. So! We’re not sure when they’ll all be installed, but now that they’re here, we’ll be installing them one by one. And when we get stressed about the big, bad door mess we have going on (while we’re installing baseboards and wishing we were patio-fixing), we say, it’s just doors! In the end, it’s not so serious.

But let’s just hope that not all of them will be as difficult as the first one. (Knock on wood – fast!)

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  • Loryn5.7.14 - 8:49 AM

    I think you have to be an unrealistic optimist to work on an old house. If you realized in advance how much will go wrong, you’d never even get started! Those doors will look absolutely beautiful and will definitely be worth it. It’s actually not hard to add a jamb extension. I used pine lath and a multi-tool to trim it down to size. I think it was actually much easier than baseboards!ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.7.14 - 9:45 AM

      Thanks for the tip, Loryn! Did you find that the lath was thick enough? Our new door jambs are almost 1/2″ thick, whereas most lath is only 1/4″ thick.ReplyCancel

      • Loryn5.8.14 - 8:08 AM

        Actually, the thinness of the lath worked better, because it’s less obtrusive. After caulking and painting, you can’t even tell it’s there (and since I ripped it with a multi max, my cut was not remotely straight). I’ll see if I can get a picture.ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square5.7.14 - 9:04 AM

    Thanks for sharing this! Do the jambs come with the doors you ordered, or are you building those on your own?

    Our doors/jambs are also all not square. And we think they were originally stained with lead-based stain (?) then painted over with safe paint later. But we definitely want to repaint them down the road. Thinking about having them sandblasted or something to get all the old stuff off somehow. Old house doors, grr.ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.7.14 - 9:46 AM

      The doors we ordered came with their own frame/jamb, but they’re no where near deep enough for our rough openings! Ah well, lesson learned.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah @ 702 Park Project5.7.14 - 9:44 AM

    I totally feel you. Our baseboards look identical to yours, and the trim in general in our 1902 house can be so hard to work with. Through our restoration, we’ve found that we also don’t have a single square angle in the house. It sure makes things interesting!! PS- LOVE that green chair!! :)ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer I5.7.14 - 10:30 AM

    Oooo the door looks so pretty with the floors. It will be worth it. I vote for just a clear sealer to darken/protect the wood a bit, I really like the oak doors play with the floors!ReplyCancel

  • Traci5.7.14 - 11:58 AM

    It’s going to be beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Marie5.7.14 - 12:10 PM

    OMG, what you guys are working on is a whole different story. I’m always impressed by your renovations, I wish you good luck and knock on wood.ReplyCancel

  • Julia5.7.14 - 2:55 PM

    Doors look great? What is the brand? Did you buy online or through local supplier?ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.7.14 - 3:08 PM

      Thanks! We purchased them at Menards, and the brand is Mastercraft.ReplyCancel

  • Aye aye aye! What a project – on top of the baseboards! The end of May might not be realistic, but that’s renovation for ya. The good news is that the new doors look fantastic! You’re going to love having those matching doors throughout (and more arch details!)ReplyCancel

  • Dave5.7.14 - 6:02 PM

    Keep up the good work! It is looking awesome. Kim, can you send me some photos of the front steps from several different angles? I need to get my brain working on ideas.ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design5.7.14 - 7:29 PM

    You guys even make this type of job look pretty! It will all be so worth itReplyCancel

  • caroline [the diy nurse]5.7.14 - 7:55 PM

    You guys are badasses. Seriously. THis is one job I just would’ve thrown my hands up and cried on. Granted, measuring is NOT my thing. “5 and a half, two squiggles and a smidge.”

    They look great and I cant wait to see what hardware you choose!ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.9.14 - 8:09 AM

      You’re too funny – thank you! And believe me, I am not above saying “5 inches plus 2 tiny lines.”ReplyCancel

  • Ann L.5.8.14 - 10:39 AM

    Kudos for all your hard work! When it’s all done, you will be rewarded daily by the beauty & function of your home. As far as widening the bathroom door, you absolutely made the right decision. I recently had to widen a bathroom door in my mother’s house to accommodate first a wheelchair and now a walker, and I am amazed how much more spacious the room feels without that cramped little doorway. We had room to put in a 30″ door, and I encourage you to put in as wide a door as your space allows. Down the road, you will never say, “I wish we had left that doorway just a little narrower!”ReplyCancel

    • Kim5.8.14 - 10:49 AM

      Thanks, Ann! Did you have any issues with moving the studs to widen the door? This is where we’re worried we made a mistake…ReplyCancel

  • Steph10.12.19 - 7:35 PM

    Hey guys! I understand why you wanted to trim around the doors before you finished the baseboard. But help me understand why the new doors had to be in before door trim? How does the door trim affect or get in the way of the door? ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.13.19 - 11:53 AM

      We ordered doors with the jambs, and in order to put trim up to / on top of the jamb, the new doors had to be in first. It just makes the process much less painless!ReplyCancel


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