Update Your Doors - From Slab to Fab

Let me just come right out and say it.
I HATE hollow core 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.
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 (4x8) 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.
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 the store, so I just ripped them out... sigh.
Step 3: Patch yo' jambs
If (like me) you rip off half your wall, you may need to patch.
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.
Dry fit the 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
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).
Install the stops, then caulked and paint white.
Here's the final product!!
Just in case you forgot, here is a before and after. :)
To see the full tutorial and how to measure your plywood strips for your door, 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 4 questions
  • Tanya
    on Apr 5, 2017

    Hi. Love this!! Is there a way to add panels to both sides of the door as well as making both sides of the door flush with the door frame? Thanks! Tanya
    • Karenann Keuper Duffy
      Karenann Keuper Duffy
      on Jul 17, 2017

      Detailed instructions above do both sides of door. Since door needs stops to close properly I know of no way to make door fish on both sides. Jamb is width between the walls and one would not have a door that thick.
  • Judy Burton
    Judy Burton
    on Apr 3, 2019

    I am also redoing alot of old slab doors. One catch....my husband wants to keep the stained look...can this be stained rather than painted?

    • Lee
      on May 28, 2020

      Hi Judy, Staining sounds lovely. The issue is to match the grain pattern and stain color. In addition to having a pic of your door when shopping, stores have strips of wood, 3-4” wide by 24+ “ available in pine, poplar etc. They may be helpful in matching the grain and also for testing and choosing a stain color. Happy DIY!


  • Lindsay
    on Apr 8, 2019

    So the doorknob goes back on without issue? Even though you are adding thickness on both sides? My doorknob hole is only measuring 1 inch and 5/8. Should I still use 2 1/2 hole saw? Thanks!

Join the conversation

2 of 74 comments
  • Bonnie Morris
    Bonnie Morris
    on Jul 28, 2017

    Love this! We have those old hollow flat slab doors too. This is a wonderful upgrade and not as expensive as replacing all the doors. How would this look if the final project was stained and not painted?
  • Ellie Baer Hill
    Ellie Baer Hill
    on Sep 6, 2020

    Fantastic post! Can't wait to red your blog!


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