DIY Interior Door Makeover (Five Doors At Once!)

The first time we walked through our house, I was mentally noting all of the things that must change immediately if we ended up closing on it. I was excited, naive, and confident we could fix them all in the few weeks before we moved in. Anyone with more house-buying experience is reading this and already knows... 90% of them didn't happen. Two years later, we finally got around to refinishing most of our interior doors, and the sense of relief is palpable!

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

We had five interior doors that were old, brown, beat-up hollow-core doors with the cheapest possible brass knobs. They were dingy, splattered with paint, and the one to our bedroom even had a hole knocked in it. When we moved in, I assumed we would just buy nicer solid-core replacement doors... until I actually went and priced out nicer solid-core replacement doors. Oof! They were expensive, and I couldn't find ones that didn't look like generic big-box store doors, with the exact same recessed panel style. Our home is a 1930's Cape Cod-style, and I wanted a little more character than those flat brown doors had! So, inspired by Jenna Sue's recent DIY door makeover and White Nest's very detailed tutorial, we took on the project of making over these five (five!!!) interior doors, even though we don't yet own a miter saw.

Let's look at some before photos, and where we are now!

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 
 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 
 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

Before starting in on this hefty DIY project, we did consider second-hand doors from our local architectural salvage place; the pros of this would be having something age-appropriate to the house, likely something solid-core, and avoiding buying new to be more environmentally friendly. The cons were potential lead paint concerns when we have children, and the added work of having to remove doors, clean off old paint and refinish them, and install them back in the door frames. Painting the old ones in place started to sound better and better.

Materials Used

  • TSP cleaner (Be careful with this stuff, and follow the directions! It works miracles but is pretty tough stuff.)

  • Sandpaper (I use this 220 grit Pro Grade stuff)

  • KILZ 2 Primer (I had some leftover from earlier projects)

  • Valspar Signature interior paint in Semi-Gloss (color-matched to Simply White by Benjamin Moore - I had half a gallon leftover from an earlier project, but did end up buying another gallon because I painted so many layers on the doors)

  • A mini-roller for the big, flat areas (I use these ones from Lowes)

  • A good short-handled paint brush (this one is my absolute favorite)

  • Spackling (I almost always use this Dap kind that goes on pink)

  • A putty knife (whatever size you are most comfortable with, similar to these)

  • Patch kit if any holes are present (I used one like this, and cut it to size)

  • Wood trim (like the one shown below)

  • Wood adhesive (I had this kind by Dap leftover from an earlier project, and used almost an entire tube of it - it worked really well!)

  • Good painters tape (I used 3M's green tape)

  • Rags and drop clothes

  • New doorknobs (We chose the Kwikset Hancock in Venetian Bronze to match our entry doors, and did four in Bed/Bath style and one in Hall/Closet style)

  • Cat door (after trying multiple ones from local hardware stores, I went with this one on Amazon and it was perfect!)

BTW, this is not a sponsored post - it's just what I used, and what works for me!

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

Following the tutorials, I spent half an hour carefully examining trim options before choosing the one shown above. It won due to having a pretty reasonable price, coming in 7ft length, and being flat on one side (making it easy to glue to the door). It was a good size, and would capture the character I was trying to add to the door. 

If you have a miter saw, that's awesome! I'm jealous! We do not, and so spent about two hours taking turns holding the trim in place and sawing it with a miter box and saw. One of us held it in place and sawed the angle on one end, then slid it over and the other person sawed the other end. When cutting, be sure you are cutting the angles so that the thickest part of the trim is on the outside, and the thinnest part is on the inside of the rectangle. I mistakenly cut the angle on the wrong side at least once! As we cut the pieces, we laid them out on the floor to be sure the fit was right and that we were cutting the correct pieces (seen below)(also, we need to replace this carpet STAT).

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

In the meantime, I got to work on the doors themselves! Over the course of two weekends, I did the following steps to all five doors assembly-line style, so while I had primer out I primed them all, etc. It was tedious, but efficient!

  1. Taped off any areas as needed

  2. Cleaned with TSP cleaner

  3. Lightly sanded

  4. Wiped down with damp rag

  5. Added two layers of primer

  6. Patched both small and large holes, spackled areas of missing or damaged veneer

  7. Sanded spackled areas

  8. Wiped down with damp rag

  9. Glued and taped up the cut trim pieces

  10. Caulked the corners of the trim (the tutorials I linked to talk about this more)

  11. Primed the trim

  12. Painted three layers of paint

  13. Replaced doorknobs

  14. Touched up areas as needed

Luckily, my awesome friend Laura (who lives across the country) entertained me via phone while I primed and primed and primed. Also, my shoulders still hurt.

A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.

Above, you can see that one coat of primer left things still VERY patchy - yikes. The second coat of primer made SUCH a huge difference! To be honest, these doors were so old and banged up, a third coat of primer would have probably been worth it.

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

Before putting the wood trim up on the door, I used my level and t-square and a pencil to lightly mark where it should be placed. This reduced the amount of times I had to move the trim around after it had glue on it - cleaning the glue up is not easy! I added glue to the back of each piece of trim, stuck it to the door along the pencil line I had made, checked it with a level, then pressed it more firmly down before using painter's tape to hold it in place while the glue dried. I left it like this overnight, just to be sure things didn't shift around! I only caulked the corners where the trim met, and it really looks like it was always there now.

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

One of our doors (the one to our bedroom) had a bigger hole in it; I'm assuming it happened when the previous owners were moving a piece of furniture through the door or something. At first it helped make a case for just replacing the doors, but I've used patch kits in the past and they've made an area almost undetectable -  for a few bucks why not try? It turned out so much better than I could have expected! As you can see above, it's invisible to the eye now. I actually had to look back at process pictures to figure out where it was on the door, when I was taking that after-photo. I did spackled/sanded/spackled/sanded several times to get it ultra-smooth.

I opted to leave the old doorknobs on during the priming/painting process since it gave me a handy wet-paint-free place to grab when I needed to open/close the door while working on it. The new doorknob bases were the same size as the old ones, so it worked out. The very last step of the whole process was switching those flimsy brass knobs for these oil-rubbed bronze ones; we used the same ones as when we painted our main entry-way doors.

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

The door leading to the basement stairs is in our kitchen, and had a very beat-up old cat door when we moved in. Touring the house for the first time, the cat door is actually what sold me on it, though! We had been dealing with cat-ownership in a small apartment for a year while we house-hunted, and the whole litter box situation was so frustrating. Finding a house with a cat door to a basement was a game-changer for me! It's the little things, what can I say. The flap broke off shortly after we moved in, and eventually I removed the old cat door frame leaving just a hole in the door.

Finding a cat door that fit that hole was not so easy; I tried a few from local stores and none fit. I finally ordered one from Amazon that was so close. I ended up using a small handsaw to cut another couple of inches off the top of the hole, which was easy to do on a hollow-core door. The cat door we found is telescoping, so the front and back of it fit right together through the hole, and we don't need to worry about dirt getting trapped in the bottom, or using trim to cover up where you can see the hollow inside of the door. It's awesome!

A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.

Lucy appreciated the hole in the door, as it made coming and going from the basement very easy. I, however, did not enjoy the situation both from an aesthetics and a heating bill point of view. As you can see, she struggled for a few days to get used to the new cat door, which has a magnet at the bottom that helps keep the flap closed. I can assure you that she now has the hang of it, and barges through the cat door with ease! Also, you can see that the spackling was still pink when I took this photo; the old cat door had used screws through the actual door, and the new one doesn't.

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

No lie, this project was a LOT of work. If you're just refinishing one door it seems like a quick weekend project - FIVE doors definitely changed the scope of things. It was so worth it though! The doors are now clean, bright, and no longer something I feel like apologizing for whenever we have guests over. I think they give the space a lot of character, too - it fits the tone of the house. It saved us quite a bit of money, too - all in all, I estimate we spent about $289 total to update all five doors. We already had the primer, tools, and even about half of the paint which helped cut down the cost a lot!

Approximate Cost

  • Wood trim: $145

  • Gallon of paint: $32

  • Patch kit: $3 or so

  • Doorknobs: $90

  • Cat door: $19

If you didn't have to buy new doorknobs or a cat door, the price would go down significantly! If you had to buy all of the tools, sandpaper, spackling, etc. it would go up quite a bit. Just something to think about.

The wood trim was by far the most costly part, which surprised me, but I think it is what makes the doors look so much more original to the house, and adds a lot of character. All that trim = worth it. We needed about 7 lengths of trim for each door. If you were only doing one door, the trim cost would only be like $28 which sounds so much more reasonable than our $145!

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

Of the five doors we refinished, the one above, right next to the stairs, is my favorite. This little spot just looks so much better after our staircase update and now this door being 100000% better. I'm still loving how that green (Dark Linen by Benjamin Moore) on the stair risers gives it some personality.

 
A DIY makeover of five (!!!!) doors at once! How to make old hollow-core doors clean and bright with paint and trim, from danielle and co.
 

You may have noticed a few things in the picture above, if you are as critical as I am; namely, the old yellow light-switch that needs swapped out, the missing trim around the doors, the lack of baseboards, and the painted-over hinges. We still have a lot to do, but none of it would have made much of a difference without these doors being transformed.

Would you take on refinishing five doors, or just replace them with new? Have you spent multiple weekends on a project to save $$$?

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this blog!

 

 

Staircase Upgrade: Lots of Work, But Affordable!

When we first walked into this house, the staircase was scary. I mean, literally - our son walked upstairs and was scared to walk back down, because there was no hand rail. Also, it looked terrible. It will never be wide, or have fancy railings or windows... but I knew it could be a nice little staircase! Our goals were making it bright, clean, and simple.  We wanted the space to look fresh and new, but also to preserve some character. The wood treads are worn in the middle, and have some interesting dents and marks that show their history - it was important to retain that while making the space feel overall updated.

The staircase begins at the landing between our kitchen and downstairs half bath, and leads to the upstairs bedrooms and full bath. The room right at the top of the stairs seen in the photos is the upstairs bath, which you may remember we have some big plans for!

BTW, no worries - my kids can walk down the stairs now. The previous owners had to add a railing in order for our loan to get approved by the bank. Is it the railing I would have chosen? Probably not, but it isn't too bad!

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

See those old brown doors at the top of the stairs? We're working RIGHT NOW to make them beautiful! I can't wait to share all about it! I'm over on Instagram with real-time updates.

Check out what it looked like right before we moved in:

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

Yikes, right? We were dealing with damaged risers that were an old blue color, but had carpet tacks sticking out from them - so the previous owners must have had a runner at some point? Also, dirty treads with old, dry wood, wood paneling, walls that were only painted with primer, and brown-swirled ceiling tiles. While I would love to tear out the wood paneling and ceiling tiles, right now that just isn't in the budget or time frame - it would be SO much work and expense. So, we're making the best of it and working with them!

For the stair risers, we used paint leftover from our downstairs bath renovation - Dark Linen by Benjamin Moore. Before painting, I removed all of those pesky carpet tacks, did a lot of spackling and painted a coat of primer. We bought 1 gallon of Dark Linen color matched in Valspar Signature when we painted the downstairs bath, and I worried it wouldn't be enough. I was wrong! Since then, I've repainted two walls of the downstairs bath after we got blown-in insulation, painted the insides of the kitchen cut-out, and these stair-risers... and still have some leftover. It's like the miracle gallon of paint.

For the walls, we went with White Dove by Benjamin Moore, the trim is Simply White by Benjamin Moore, and the ceiling tiles are Sweet Slumber by Valspar. I love a blue ceiling, what can I say.

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

Those stair treads though! I was not looking forward to completely sanding them down and refinishing them, and knew I would miss that aged quality. I thought about trying a gel stain, but the treads were already pretty dark. I considered just using a floor polish, but I have vivid memories of sliding down my grandmother's stairs many a time due to a slippery, just-waxed floor. Then getting yelled at for walking on the just-waxed floor.

Then I found this Hardwood Floor Reviver by Minwax when walking around a local hardware store! It is amazing. Truly, sincerely awesome. This post isn't sponsored - I am just super impressed with this stuff. I gave the floors a good scrub, then used one of those paint mitts (like this one), and rubbed on a coat of Floor Reviver. I followed the directions for how long to wait afterwards, and eventually added two more coats. It is shiny, clean, and surprisingly not any more slippery than it was before. The wood no longer looks dull and dead - it looks so nice, and for $20 it saved me a whole lot of time spent refinishing these suckers!

We used this type of caulk, this type of spackle, and this type of paint.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting the blog!

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

What a difference caulk makes, right? The hardest part of this project was dealing with all the trim. It took a LOT of caulk, let me tell you. I started with wiping every single surface down with a TSP cleaner, then giving the trim a light sanding. Then, I used trim nails to repair the wood paneling and trim in places it was loose. I worked my way over the walls and stair risers with spackle to fix up the worst dents and old nail holes. We primed pretty much every surface, and I the spent1000000000000 days caulking. Lastly, we added two coats of paint to the walls, ceiling tiles, trim, and risers. And then I had a glass of wine and took a nap.

Things got dicey when painting the highest part of the ceiling; I managed part of it by taping the paint brush to a painting pole - it was pretty effective! Caulking a few spots was tough, though.... I tried every single thing I could think of with a ladder, and just couldn't reach them. Finally I used old boards and cinder blocks to build out the steps by stacking on lower steps so I could walk out further from the higher ones - don't try this at home. I'm honestly glad I have no pictures of it, and a little surprised I survived.

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

The whole space turned out so bright, pretty, and clean! Even the wood paneling feels more natural, right? (please say it does please)

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

See what I mean about those ceiling tiles? Woof. That's what I was dealing with before the magical powers of caulk and paint saved the day. I had already started priming the ceiling, in these photos.

Just for fun, here is a quick before & after side-by-side comparison (using Fotor, which is so awesome in case you haven't tried it yet!)...

An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com

Every time I walk up the stairs, I'm so happy - the whole house feels more pulled together now. After we are done updating the upstairs bathroom and our bedroom, I think the staircase will be a great introduction to those spaces.

 
An affordable staircase update - check out the before & afters! House renovation that is practical and still transforms a space! From danielleandco.com
 

We aren't done though! We still need to finish updating the doors, add baseboards at the top landing, and replace the light fixture.

Have you used leftover paint in other spaces in your home? Or found that one magic color that just seems to work everywhere?

Random Stuff We Just Fixed

Our first year in the house was a mad rush to improve general aesthetics. Paint gives you so much bang for your buck, and SO much needed repainted, it was the obvious first step. Our upstairs had no real flooring (just the original sub floor), so getting some nice carpet it was an immediate need. We focused on improvements that would make the house generally more comfortable, and it made a big difference.

Our second year has become all about fixing stuff. Somehow, ALL the stuff seems to need fixed. We have figured out a water softener, some plumbing issues, fixed broken window panes in the basement, etc. etc. etc. Next year... probably more fixing stuff? Then, landscaping maybe?

Anyway, in November we kicked our home improvements up a major notch by getting full-house, blown-in wall insulation! December and January have meant more smaller improvements, and it is making such a difference in our daily lives.

One big improvement was actually little in size: New electrical outlets in both bathrooms and the staircase!

Random stuff we just fixed, on danielleandco.com - old house renovation on a budget.
Random stuff we just fixed, on danielleandco.com - old house renovation on a budget.

To the left is the outlet in our upstairs bath; due to some existing insulation and interesting 1930's building techniques, we ended up having the outlet external on the wall (I forget the technical name for it). You can see the patched area next to the outlet, where we had tried to put it in the wall before realizing it wasn't going to happen. It isn't ideal, but I think when the walls are repainted including the cable, it will be fine. Honestly, just having an outlet there is amazing and beautiful. I've been flat-ironing my hair in the bedroom, so this is a whole new world. On the right is the outlet in the downstairs bath; it was easy peasy, and is just perfect. Going from zero outlets, it feels like such a big improvement! And they are GFCI, so nice and safe in the humidity.

Check out more about our downstairs bathroom renovation, and our plans for the upstairs bathroom renovation (which hopefully will kick off in late Feb!).

Next up, an outlet at the top of the stairs!

 
Random stuff we just fixed, on danielleandco.com - old house renovation on a budget.
 

When we moved in, I was concerned that there were no outlets anywhere in the staircase or landing, top or bottom. There also isn't another good low-light source to leave on at night, visible to the stairs. There is an overhead light, but it is really bright and has switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs - so if it is switched the wrong way at the bottom of the stairs, you can't flick the lights on from the top. #oldhouseproblems With little kids, it made me nervous to have them going up and down the stairs in the dark, so within an hour of this outlet being installed I had dashed out to Lowes and picked up a nightlight. Viola! #lettherebelight

 
Random stuff we just fixed, on danielleandco.com - old house renovation on a budget.
 

Our favorite project this winter has been heating what we affectionately call "the porch", but really was more of a three season room since at some point it had been fully turned into a room, complete with plenty of insulation, an abundance of outlets, and everything you need to make it a great little useful space - except for heat. In upstate NY, heat is a pretty big freaking deal. Well, now it is a "four season room"! This is a game changer for us! We had a little electric baseboard and programmable thermostat added, and it is doing it's job just fine.

As you can see, it is where we keep our treadmill and other workout equipment. As you can't see from these photos, the other (and bigger) half of the room is our home-office area. I'll share more about that soon. All of the electrical work and supplies added up quick (to the tune of over $700 - oof). To have an entire room now heated and all of those shiny new outlets (as well as a couple other little repairs) over the course of two separate electrician visits, was well worth it for us.

For some before pictures, check out the "Our House" page or read more about how we painted that purple door. I added that white board & batten myself - I need to find some process pics and share more about that sometime.

 
Random stuff we just fixed, on danielleandco.com - old house renovation on a budget.
 

This room still needs a lot of work including adding more baseboards, touching up the paint in a few areas, and painting over that metal electrical box (what is that thing called again?) from adding the heat, and we are thinking about trying to fit in a little desk for me in somewhere... but we did add two window treatments in the form of pull-down blinds! One is shown above (they are these from Lowes). We wanted to test them out before committing to all five of the windows, but so far they are a great fit.

The biggest project, both in the form of time and money, was definitely getting blown-in insulation in all of the exterior walls For a short time, we had a cool new polka dot effect on the walls:

 
Random stuff we just fixed, on danielleandco.com - old house renovation on a budget.
 

Since much of our first floor has stucco on the outside, that level had to have insulation blown in from inside the house, which meant quite a bit of repainting.

 
Random stuff we just fixed, on danielleandco.com - old house renovation on a budget.
 

It's all better now! PS, in real-life our door is not that bright green. It photographed weird that day, I promise.

While we were in the midst of all of that painting, it made sense to also paint the kitchen cut-out. I don't have a good before picture, but when we repainted most of the house, including the living room and dining room areas. I went ahead and let a bunch of the living room paint get all over the inside of the kitchen cut-out, leaving it two different shades and looking like a hot mess. What did it matter, when I would probably be working on the kitchen within a few months, right? LOL. No. The kitchen is months/years away probably, so it stayed like that for way too long.

We had some leftover paint in Dark Linen by Benjamin Moore, from our downstairs bath update, which we also used on the staircase risers (more about that soon). I think it fits the tiny wall area perfectly - neutral-ish, but not too neutral and a very pretty, mellow color.

 
Random stuff we just fixed, on danielleandco.com - old house renovation on a budget.
 

Well, that's a wrap. I am very hopeful we will dive into updating the upstairs bathroom soon, but in the meantime we are taking care of that electrician bill, planning an IKEA trip for upstairs bathroom supplies, and doing a little more research and careful planning before we take the big leap.

What non-pin-worthy updates are you doing? It's the little things that count, right?

 
Random stuff we just fixed, on danielleandco.com - old house renovation on a budget.