Hollow Core Bore to a Beautiful Updated Door: DIY Slab Door Makeover

10 Materials
4 Hours

Let me start this post by saying how much I loathe hollow core "slab" doors. I really do. There is not one redeeming quality about them. whoever came up with this sorry excuse for a door should be shot. Ok, maybe that's a little harsh. If you have boring, flat, hollow core slab doors you know exactly where I'm coming from, especially if you don't have loads of cash laying around to buy solid wood paneled doors. We could cry on each other's shoulders, or we could do something about these atrocities. I'm all about the doing ;).
I'm here to show you an easy (and awesome) door transformation that I did for $20 or less a door. Here's a before shot of the two doors I decided to start with first. Of course Jackson's bathroom door is one of them since it's the last step to finishing that bathroom up and the guest bedroom right next door.
So first things first I had to paint the doors and of course the trim. Here's a pic of the in-progress painting of this small section of my house.
After painting the door it was time to work my magic and transform a flat door into a masterpiece. Supplies for making a flat door into a paneled door •door •decorative trim •tape measure •T-square or carpenters square •pencil (I used a dry erase marker for the first door, not the best idea) •miter box with saw (or just a saw if you're good like that) •liquid nails, or other comparable wood glue •tape •paint •level (not necessary but if you want to check how awesome you are at putting level panels on your doors this will reassure you ;) •time
First you need to measure and mark where your trim for the panels will go. I found that I didn't even really need to use the carpenters square, just the T-square because the length of the blade was great for drawing lines and the head was perfect for keeping everything straight and right where I wanted it to be by resting it on the edge of the door. But if you don't have a T-square the carpenters square will work just fine.
Here's a picture of the panels drawn out. I wanted a pretty standard panel look for my doors so I used 5" in everywhere except on the bottom of the door where I did 6" up.
After you have your panels drawn out it's time to measure them to cut your trim. I bought my trim from Home Depot. They have some decorative trim pieces that come in 8 foot sections for $5 a piece. When I bought my first batch (about a year ago) they were only $4 a piece. When you snooze, you lose, I guess. I got out my trusty miter box and saw (that you can buy at any home improvement store for under $10). The miter box makes it very easy for an amateur like myself to cut mitered cuts. It also is very convenient since I wanted to cut the trim inside while I had Jackson playing right by me. I put the miter box on my kitchen table and cut the trim at 45 degree angles. After I was done I simply wiped up the sawdust and put the miter box and saw away. No muss, no fuss.
I placed all the cut trim pieces on the door where I would be gluing them down like so. I used approximately four 8' trim pieces per door for making panels on both sides. For the smaller doors it will be less and for the four small pantry/closet doors I will only do the front of the door that faces out. So essentially I'm spending $20 or less a door. Much less than buying a solid wood paneled door from the store!
I then gathered my liquid nails, tape and a damp paper towel for any glue seepage. I put the glue on quite liberally since I really wanted the trim to stick well with no gaps. I simply placed the trim with the glue side down on my drawn out lines and taped it down for about 24 hours or so.
Depending on if your trim is warped or not you may have to apply more tape. This is a picture of Jackson's bathroom door and it needed twice the amount of tape as the guest bedroom door. After you have removed the tape all that's left to do is paint the trim to match the door and hang the door back up.
Here's a pic of just one door done with panels, one door just painted and one door untouched. You can see the difference it makes. It looks much more refined and "finished".
And here's the finished doors complete with my DIY spray painted doorknobs.
One more shot. I just love how these doors have turned out!!
Updating these doors has given me hope that my hollow core doors will stop bringing the value of my house down and possibly add some profit when we eventually move on to bigger and better things(sweat equity for sure!). Hope you become inspired to change your own hollow core doors into something you love! To see more pictures of the finished door (including close-ups), tips and tricks on painting trim or the complete tutorial visit my blog :)
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Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 82 questions
  • Lillie Carter Harris
    on Feb 9, 2020

    What size trim moulding did you use? 1” wide or smaller?

  • Nikki
    on May 4, 2020

    Hi! I totally feel the same way about all the hollow doors and frames in my house. They are all the same awful honey wood color. My question is, how did your paint stick without sanding? My daughters' bathroom vanity is the same and the paint just scratches off. I figure you would have to sand the doors and frames down.

  • Rea49241701
    on Aug 13, 2020

    what A transformation!! Did you have to do something to the doors prior painting? Like sanding them first?

Join the conversation

3 of 327 comments
  • Victoria gonzalez
    on Jun 12, 2020

    Thank you for your post, I am using all your tips. Door 2 of 7 now.

    • Rea49241701
      on Aug 13, 2020

      Hi.. did you have to sand your doors first? How did the paint hold? We have old honey wood color and wondering if you did something special prior painting?

  • Melissa Cipriani Eddington
    on Jul 10, 2020

    No question but wanted to share my doors. Thank you!

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