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How Make Paneled Doors from Boring Flat Doors

A quick and easy cosmetic facelift turned these old flat doors into beautiful panel doors. This is such an easy makeover that makes cheap hallow doors look expensive!

Plain, flat doors on left; upgraded, paneled doors on the right.

Closet doors don’t just hide the occasional wardrobe clutter or Santa’s Christmas presents for your kids. They make a statement – elegant, dependable but always practical.

They greet you warmly as you wake up or encourage you as you make a dozen frantic outfit changes before heading out a big event.

I was not happy with my plain flat, hallow closet doors! Originally, I had several quotes to replace them but since they were custom-made (5-ft non standard height), new doors were going to set me back close to $400!

Then, one day, I was strolling around Lowe’s (isn’t that where we all hang out on the weekends?!). I was looking at trim for a DIY mirror project when I came across some ¼” thick trim.  It made me think of several ideas I’d come across on Pinterest.  

Without even as much as measurements, I bought 15 pieces of the ¼” trim and took it home. The next five hours flew by as I measured, cut and painted….and finally, stared in amazement at my beautiful ‘new’ doors, for a fraction of retail price!

Here’s how you can make this happen:

What you will need:

  • ¼” wood trim boards 
  • Brad Nails 
  • Handles for door (your choice of style) 
  • Optional – longer screws for installing handles 
  • Measuring tape 
  • Compound miter saw 
  • Wood Glue 

Step 1: Measure the door panels

Measure the height of your door panels to get the length of the vertical trim.  

To calculate the width of the horizontal trim panels, measure the width of the door panel; then, subtract the total width of both of the vertical trims. 

Step 2: Choose the layout of the panels

Decide how many square/rectangle “panels” you want on each door.  If you’re really detailed, you would do some math here.

I was too lazy and just eyeballed where I wanted them to go. 

Step 3: Cut the trim pieces

Cut lengths of the trim to match the measurements of your door with the miter saw. 

Step 4: Apply trim pieces to the plain doors

Using wood glue and some brad nails, secure the vertical strips in place.

The basic frame is up - 2 vertical and 2 horizontal pieces on one door panel

Then, attach the horizontal pieces with the layout you planned. 

A close-up of the horizontal trim  meeting the vertical sides

Repeat the above steps for all doors. 

Continue applying the horizontal trim according to the pattern you wanted - frame is shown here with a few horizontal trim pieces attached.

Step 5: Sand and finish the door panels

Use wood filler or some caulk to fill in any spaces that you may have.

The trim pieces are attached to the doors, still unpainted. The makeover is almost complete!

Sand down the caulked areas if necessary. Paint with two coats of primer (I used Benjamin Moore Fresh Start primer). Let dry for 24 hours.

Then, paint.

Don’t forget – no matter what you’ve read or photos you’ve seen online, it’s really important to sample paint colors in your home before committing!

Samplize provides real paint samples that are easy to move around your home, and cheaper than buying a gazillion paint pots! It’s the only way I buy paint samples.

Try Samplize For Yourself Here

Almost done! The doors and new trim are painted with primer and semi-gloss paint.

Step 6: Install new handles

Before we wrap up this plain door makeover, we need to attach some fancy new hardware.  You’ll most likely need to buy longer screws than what is supplied with the hardware, since they are meant for cabinets.  I used these screws:

32x2 round screws used for attaching the handles to the doors (longer than screws included with handles)

If you are not good at installing door hardware, make yourself a template using painter’s tape.  Put the tape on the hardware and punch through the holes with a pencil – instant template!

A quick tip to make a painter's tape template for aligning the door handles onto the closet doors

Drill from the outside of the door to prevent the wood from splintering.

And that’s it! Sit back and enjoy your plain door makeover with these updated closet doors!

I’m so glad I didn’t spend money to replace these doors – a few hours of work transformed them into doors that look a lot more expensive than simply repurposed old doors!

Plain closet doors no more! The white closet doors are finished - panels installed, sanded and painted and the handles attached.

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Closet Door Makeover - from Plain to Panel

Closet Door Makeover - from Plain to Panel

Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 5 hours
Difficulty: Intermediate

Don't waste money replacing your closet doors - upgrade them with simple wood trim!

Materials

  • ¼” wood trim boards
  • Brad Nails
  • Handles for door (your choice of style)
  • Optional – longer screws for installing handles

Tools

  • Measuring tape
  • Compound miter saw
  • Wood Glue

Instructions

    1. Measure the height of your door panels to get the length of the vertical trim.  
    2. To calculate the width of the horizontal trim panels, measure the width of the door panel; then, subtract the total width of both of the vertical trims. 
    3. Decide how many square/rectangle "panels" you want on each door.  If you're really detailed, you would do some math here. I was too lazy and just eyeballed where I wanted them to go. 
    4. Cut lengths of the trim to match the length of your door with the miter saw. 
    5. Using wood glue and some brad nails, secure the vertical strips in place. Then, attach the horizontal pieces with the layout you planned. 
    6. Repeat the above steps for all doors. 
    7. Use wood filler or some caulk to fill in any spaces that you may have. Sand down the caulked areas if necessary.  
    8. Paint with two coats of primer (I used Benjamin Moore Fresh Start primer). Let dry for 24 hours.  
    9. Finish with a semi-gloss white paint. 
    10. Attach some fancy new hardware. You'll most likely need to buy longer screws that what is supplied with the hardware.   
    11. If you are not good at installing door hardware, make yourself a template using painter’s tape. Put the tape on the hardware and punch through the holes with a pencil - instant template!
    12. Drill from the outside of the door to prevent the wood from splintering. 
    13. Sit back and enjoy your new closet doors! 

*UPDATE* If you enjoyed this post, check out how I converted my bedroom closet bi-folds to french doors! 

Later project - the same closet doors have been converted to french doors that swing out.


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36 Comments

  1. Can the trim pieces be easily cut to size with a hand saw? I don’t have a power saw. Wondering if I could get clean, even cuts with a hand saw.

    1. Absolutely! We used to only have a little miter saw box (hand saw) and we would just sand the edges so that they were smooth :-)

  2. I’ve thought about replacing these kind of closet doors, but never would have thought to add onto them the way you did. They look awesome! Pinning for later :)

    1. Thanks Katie! We had quotes done to replace them but since they are custom sizes the quotes came back at $300 per pair..YIKES! This was definitely the more affordable way to go :-)

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