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DIY Tales: Repairing Solid Wood Doors

By Hudson Valley Handymom on Mar 08, 2014


If you have ever experienced solid hardwood doors, you know they can’t be beat in comparison to hollow doors. They really are more quiet, absolutely more sturdy, and if given the choice most people would pick solid wood doors over their counterparts.

If you don’t have solid hardwood doors and are looking for a way to repair your hollow doors, give this a try. I did use it on one hollow door, and it should still work for you. Just be careful when sanding because solid wood doors withstand a lot more than the less expensive doors.

If you were the unfortunate soul to purchase a home that may have been previously occupied by a person who didn’t seem to mind rodents chewing the doors, then you may be faced with the task of figuring out to repair them. Okay, not everyone has purchased a home previously occupied by someone who hoarded (through no fault of her own), but when I came to realize almost every door in the house had been chewed through, my heart dropped when I pictured the amount of money this could cost adding up in my head. I’ll never forget a real estate agent blowing it off saying, “Oh, don’t worry. You can replace these for $40 a piece.” REAL prices for solid wood doors can exceed $80. When there are over 15 doors in a house that need repair, your head starts rolling with, “Cha-ching…cha-ching…cha-ching….”

I was determined that I might find a way to repair the doors. However, the bottom of the doors were damaged from rodents, and some were damaged from dogs scratching on them. I knew a simple wood filler wouldn’t suffice at the bottom of the doors. After speaking with my mortgage broker (a man who had a lot in common with me regarding fixer uppers, spinal surgeries, etc.), he clued me in on a product that is super durable, sandable, and paintable. The name of the product is Durham’s Wood Putty, and I found it at my local hardware store. Just to be clear on this – Durham’s did not solicit me for writing any of this. When I believe in a product and know it can save people money, people deserve to learn about it.


This large container helped me repair quite a few doors. In fact, I purchased two and completed almost all with one. The cost was approximately $15 for BOTH containers. That’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying new doors.

The key to this whole process is patience. With every home repair, patience is everything.

Here is a before picture of some of doors we had in the home. I use opportunities of people coming to visit as motivation to complete projects. For the bedrooms, the motivation was Christmas when all of my girls were home for the holidays. The second motivation was to complete the rest of the doors when my youngest wanted a birthday party at home.

This one is the doggy door. A dog had been locked up in the bathroom and had enough time to chew up the vanity and claw the door up.


This was the kitchen pantry door. Most of the doors were chewed through on the bottom like this, and this was actually one of the milder ones. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was a bedroom door. The entire bottom had been chewed across. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There may have been one or two doors in the whole house that were spared, but almost every single door had severe damage. I repaired over 13 doors in the house.

Take your door that needs repair OFF OF THE HINGES. Trying to paint around door hardware is a nuisance, and it hardly takes any time to take it down. You can use a small screw driver and hammer to knock the pins out of the hinges. Then, you remove the doors. I took every hinge and doorknob off because they were worn out and looked like chipped gold.

Protect whatever surface where you’re doing repairs. This goes without saying, I’m sure, but do yourself a favor and take the time to prepare your working area. Saw horses would be great to prop a door up. Lay a painter’s cloth underneath, and you’ll be good to go.

I mixed the water putty with water, and carefully patched up the doors where they had been damaged. It wasn’t always possibly to put a large amount on the bottom of the doors and walk away. I would wait for the amount to dry that I put on the door and add more if it wasn’t filled in like I wanted. I mixed it in disposable plastic containers, but when it dries, you can actually knock it out of the container. Just don’t use something that you’re attached to if you’re trying this out for the first time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The doggy door is below:


I mixed water with the putty and filled in the damaged areas. I would add some water to smooth over with a putty knife. I would let the filled up parts of the door dry overnight. When the area needing repair was filled the way I wanted it filled, I used 60 grit sandpaper to sand it down. Then, I switched over to 100 or more to get it smooth for painting.

Sanding requires patience with doors, but if the damage is at the bottom, and you repair the door like this, you would be surprised to find out that, after you paint it and put it up, if you weren’t perfect, it really isn’t noticeable unless you lay on the floor to look at it or stick your nose on it.

I had to use three coats of paint on every door due to them not having been painted so long and just looking worn out. My advice would be to really allow your paint to dry between coats (patience, again). I used a semi-gloss paint that was rated well, but there was no getting around the fact that it took me three coats for complete coverage.

The final results – first, the unbelievably damaged doggy door. The only thing completed on this bathroom are the doors, so ignore the broken tiles and mess…..


The pantry doors:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The absolute worst door in the house (had over three inches chewed away on the bottom of the door:


I hope this will help you save some doors in your home. You’ll most likely come up with a lot of other uses for Durham’s Water Putty. I know I used it to repair furniture when wood filler just wouldn’t do the job. For the amount of doors I had to repair, the task was a little overwhelming, but just consider everything you’re doing in your home as being sweat equity, and changing your perspective on repairs like this will create a more patient outlook. Take your time. Do your best….and, a saying I created is this, “Perfectionism sometimes leads to procrastination.” Just because you don’t think you may be the best of something doesn’t mean you should quit trying.

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