A lot of things accumulate around your home including keys and chargers in your junk drawer, or even Cheerios in every nook and cranny imaginable if you have children. Some of this junk can be useful, most importantly the spare hardware that could be hiding in every room or leaning up against the shed in the backyard. The old wooden door by the tool shed, loose nails, hooks, screws, doorknobs, and hinges, all of these are useful treasures that you can make repairs with in and around your home. For the purpose of this article I will use as an example the half door that my wife requested for Christmas, to keep the dogs out of the kitchen. Keep in mind the project described here will not be detailed because the goal is for you to figure out what you can do with your spare materials to improve your home without a big price tag and thin out the junk piles in the process.
My wife’s request
In our house we have three “fur babies” and although we love them, they stay underfoot. This is not normally a big deal, however the one place it really bugs my wife is in the kitchen. Leaving the house through the back door meant fighting back 3 fuzzy sharks attempting to escape when they smelled freedom. To remedy this, she requested a door to keep them out but did not want it to feel completely closed off. With that in mind we decided a half door was the only viable option. This simply meant cutting a door in half as if to make a Dutch door but leaving the top half off.
My wife and I live in a beautiful craftsman style house built in 1922 which means a lot of things with our own experiences differ from most. One perk is that a century of existence combined with solid concrete walls, (something unique for the age and style) has caused the dwelling to accrue a plethora of assorted hardware. To avoid special drill bits and mounting options, the owners over the years had opted to hang decor from the ceiling (or so I assume judging by the number of hooks in the tongue and groove). The windows and doors being original, had mix match pieces of locking mechanisms, which made for a rather interesting collection. I decided to tackle the project using the homes accumulated surplus not only for the satisfaction of building something for my wife, but also to keep cost down and preserve the style of our house. By the way yes, for those thinking it, I have been accused of being cheap many times.
I began with an old undersized door that had been removed years before and had taken up residence in my tool shed. All the original hardware was still attached with a few missing parts, so I removed them and soaked them in 50/50 white distilled vinegar and water to clean off paint and rust. I then turned my attention to the door. My wife wanted to keep some of the patina, so I sanded and Scraped off only the loose and flaking paint on both sides. The kitchen side received a clear coat to seal and preserve the weathered look, and the dining room side got the turquoise treatment that the rest of our dining room/ living room doors had been given by a previous owner. When it came to the desired height she simply stood in the door and showed me where she wanted it to be, I took a measurement and then cut the door to size.
The hinges I robbed from some old removed built-in doors. They were undersized but were adequate for the project and will eventually be upgraded. All of the hinges and other hardware were fastened using screws but for the top cap, made from spare wood, I used trim nails to avoid splitting. The next step after mounting was to install a knob. This part was simply cosmetic since it did not have the ability to latch, and to keep the door closed I repurposed a hook latch with a screw in eyelet. However, I turned to the doorknob collection once again provided by our house and chose one that was glass.
The door turned out great, and matched the style and color scheme of the house. My wife loved it and it kept the dogs out of the kitchen. The best part was discovered the next time we left the house, when we moved to block the fuzzy sharks from running out the door and remembered they weren’t there. That part she loved the most. As I mentioned, the project used spare hardware that was no longer being used therefore not everything was a perfect fit. At certain times during the build I had to backup and rethink, or alter parts. With common knowledge and a basic set of tools, however any obstacle encountered during the project can be overcome. Also parts that need upgrading can always be improved after completion.
Even if you don’t think you can take on building or fixing something because you don’t have the know how, countless books, and websites, have been created about taking on tasks around the house. There is a certain sense of accomplishment creating something, or repairing something for oneself, no matter how big or small. The goal of course is to learn as much as you can so you can do the job correctly if it’s something that can drastically affect the wellbeing and condition of your home. My wife’s door could have been constructed better with newer store bought materials but that door does not degrade the structure and operates as intended.
Wife approved, dogs restrained, mission accomplished. Good luck on your projects!
Timberline Inspections LLC
Greater Birmingham Area Home Inspector
I am a United States Army Veteran with over 10 years construction experience prior to my service. After my time in the military I enrolled in InterNACHI's rigorous course work to become a certified member and prepare for the National Home Inspectors Exam. I continue to push inspection courses and education, attaining and exceeding the required continuing education courses