Make it work.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. That^ phrase is uttered much more often in construction than in fashion design. And I imagine even more often in DIY construction, judging by some of the shoddy work we’ve seen. I am even guilty myself. Shhhhh.

You know how someone thought it was a brilliant idea to make the sink and vanity area open to the master bedroom in the late 70’s and early 80’s? Yeah. That was about as bad as dropped ceilings and shag carpet. Our house was built in 1983. I think we just barely missed that groovy open concept bathroom idea (we had it in a different house and closed it off first thing!). But, there is no door. We have a completely separate bathroom that never had a door. This woodwork seems original and there are no hinge cutouts.

I took this picture at night and that opening was a big, dark hole. How o you like my Paint rendering of sunlight? Fancy, huh? You get the idea.

I took this picture at night and that opening was a big, dark hole. How do you like my Paint rendering of sunlight? Fancy, huh? You get the idea.

Sunlight pours in here in the mornings (I hear some people love such a thing). Also, we have a constantly-running toilet that we haven’t been able to fix yet. Both things are driving us crazy, not to mention that the hubs gets ready for work while I’m still asleep, and I prefer to shower before bed when he is already asleep. (Since I workout strenuously right before bed. Haha. Just kidding. I’m often covered in drywall dust or paint, though.) So yeah, we both spend the most time in the bathroom while the other is asleep. Needless to say, we needed a door. Besides all those reasons, it is a bathroom. Bathrooms should have doors. The end. No further explanation needed. Who’s with me?

We took the door off of the closet in our sons’ room (I’ll show you their room next week probably) and figured it would be perfect here since it would match all the other doors in the house. It appeared to be the right size. All the closet and bathroom doors in this house are 24 inches…every. single. door. that isn’t to a bedroom or exterior is 24 inches.

So we double checked the measurements and realized the opening was half an inch too wide for the door. What? We thought that surely couldn’t be right. Maybe we were wrong on our estimates for how much space we needed on each side? Why would they make ten other doorways in this house an exact standard size and make this one half an inch wider?  I was getting a good idea why this bathroom never had a door. Some construction crew messed up and they weren’t going to redo it. Good thing open bathrooms were recently en vogue. “Meh. We can’t make it work. We’ll just leave it open.”

So, we could just hang the door and call it good. But then we would constantly struggle with it not catching properly and staying closed. Plus, the gap would be mismatched on each side (since you can’t adjust door hinges, it HAS to be a set gap on the one side). That won’t work. Not for us. That is not “making it work.”

So here’s the secret part. This entire door really needed to be re-framed. No. No way. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I had just caulked and painted all of the trim on the bedroom side. Plus, I didn’t want to tear all of this out and re-frame just for HALF AN INCH! We would have to get new baseboards on the bathroom side and repaint the trim, not to mention maybe move the electrical (the light switch is right next to the molding) just for this half inch. No. Have I said that yet? No!

So, as my husband was telling me that there was no other option (we discussed this for entirely too long and looked at lots of options for making the stops thicker, etc…but none of that would fix the problem since the hinges aren’t adjustable), I said we had to “make it work.” We had to! I wasn’t taking his solution for an answer, and I wasn’t going to rig this by shimming just the latch plate (no offense, but that is tacky!). (He didn’t suggest that, I’m just saying…)

(Yes, that was three paragraphs in a row that started with “so.” This blog is written in conversation style and I really do say that a lot!)

Then, it hit me. I was standing there staring at the door jambs and noticed how this trim has these little “bumps” from one level to the next. (Did that make any sense?) And they are about a quarter of an inch, judging with my eyes. So, I suggested we put quarter inch plywood on each side. “Caulk it and paint it and it will just look like one more little ridge in the molding!”

To the garage we ran. Okay, we walked. Yes! We kept some quarter inch plywood from the scrap pile when we moved. It was a good portion of a sheet, so we were too cheap to throw it away. Awesome. A possible solution AND we already have it on hand. Zero dollars! Our favorite amount to spend on problems.

If it didn’t work, THEN we would tear out the entire doorway, re-frame it and move it half an inch; potentially requiring new baseboards, new electrical, new drywall and texture, etc, etc. Totally worth a try, right?


This is the bathroom side, that’s why the molding is still so yucky.

Look! This is what it looked like just nailed on. plywood top

For about two seconds, we thought about jijsawing it to fit around the floor, but decided we should actually do it the right way and make it go all the way to the subfloor in case the flooring is replaced someday. We think ahead like that. Usually.

plywood to floor

We just pried up a piece of the wood flooring to make sure the plywood went all the way to the subfloor.

Then I caulked the seams and the edges.seam caulked plywood caulked

And then I filled the nail holes, let that dry, and sanded it smooth again.plywood wood filler sand wood filler
caulked and sanded

Once it was all caulked and sanded, it was ready for paint. (So are those bathroom walls, and look at the almond switch plate. Eek.)

I primed it and painted it, using this foam brush just because it was the exact width of my plywood. It went super fast!foam brush

Look, Look! What lovely molding and pretty new white paint and now our rough opening is the correct size for our existing door. freshly painted

Then we cut out for the hinges. (We meaning my husband. I’m not allowed to use the chisel. I’m a bit heavy-handed.)

trace hinge score around hinge

Screw your hinges into place before making the cut out and trace around it for an exact measurement. You can get a special router bit for this for about $20, and a mortise guide for another $8. We decided to keep our thirty bucks and score it with a box knife, then chisel it out.chisel wood for hinge

If your three-year old is wearing his Bob the Builder costume and wants to help, let him.Bob the Builder

cale hammer cale chisel

We made sure the hinge screws were long enough to go all the way into the original door jamb and not just the plywood that we added.finished hinge

Then we added door stops (the little piece of trim that the door hits when it is closed). Same ol’ story…fill your nail holes, caulk your seams, sand it smooth, prime and paint.door stop

You’ll need to drill a hole for your latch plate and chisel out for it to sit flush in the door jamb. drilllatch plate hole drill hole cale hammer (2) help daddy latch chisled

Screw the latch plate into your door jamb. Let your three-year old try a screw driver until he asks for help. Then use the drill.

cale screwdriverdrill latch plate

Our floor needed to be cut back a half inch because we added a quarter of an inch of material to each side of the doorway. trim wood floorwood floor


Then I called all my children in to swing on the door like monkeys. Just kidding. I swung on it myself. Yep. It’s going to work. Hooray! Hooray! We made it work! In very little time (compared to reframing the door), for zero dollars! Woot!bathroom door

*We are reusing the brass hinges, doorknob, and latch plate for now, but a whole-house doorknob update is definitely on the to-do list.


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