Behind closed doors

by Stephanie Gray
MyOld house interior doors

It was time to give a fresh look to our tired-looking interior doors

Interior doors are like shoes – when you have on a good pair, all you notice is where you're going. But as soon as they get scuffed up, the laces fray or the heel cracks, you're ready to swap them for something new. That's essentially how we felt about our interior doors. They were like an old pair of leather boots in dire need of a cobbler.

With a total of eight interior doors, it didn't take long to notice their quirks. Besides needing a fresh coat of paint, the biggest issue with our doors was that they didn't shut properly. They had either slide barrel bolt locks or magnetic catches (sometimes both) installed to ensure they didn't swing open. The worst part being the loud snap and vibration when the magnet released the door.

Arguably, we could have replaced all of our doors with modern ones instead of going through the trouble of refinishing them and figuring out how to get them to close. They weren't even the original doors, but we've placed them around the 1920s or '30s, and they're solid wood (bonus!). But we liked the idea of keeping the integrity of the home, not to mention it would be a cheaper option to do it ourselves.

The first door we tackled was the entryway closet door, as the new tile would raise the floor slightly, so the bottom would need to be trimmed with a skill saw to fit properly. After the door was removed and cut down to its new size, the old paint needed to be stripped off, which we did with an eco-friendly paint stripper. There were at least a couple of layers of paint underneath, but we didn't strip right down to the wood in case lead paint had been used (it wasn't banned in Canada until 1990).

Interior door

After all the paint was scraped off, we filled in all of the dents and holes using Minwax High Performance Wood Filler. The product smells quite strong, but because it was too cold outside, we had to do the work in a wellventilated area inside. Once everything was filled, we sanded the door by hand using 120-grit sandpaper.

Then it was finally time to paint. We primed the door twice using Benjamin Moore Superspec, with the final coat being Benjamin Moore Regal, Pearl Finish in Simply White. We also wanted to update the hinges from stainless steel to black, so we sanded and spray painted them in Tremclad flat black. For the handle, we chose Halifax Square Rose in a matte black finish by Weiser.

The most challenging solution was figuring out a latch system for the doors to shut. The original doors would have had a rim latch set, which are much different from the latch systems that modern doors have. With a rim latch set, the latch is placed on the exterior of the door. The other issue was that we couldn't just order any latch. Older doors come in various widths, and ours are much more narrow than what's standard now. The search was on. The UK came to the rescue (it makes sense since they have much older buildings than we do here in North America), and we were able to order internal latches that fit the narrow width of our doors. Using a drill and chisel, we installed the new latch.

Refinishing the doors turned out to be a more time-consuming process than expected, so much so we haven't completed all the doors yet. But in the meantime, we're enjoying the doors that do open and close with ease. Who would have thought something so simple could be so gratifying?

SOURCES: Benjamin Moore. | Tremclad. | Miniwax. | Weiser.