A few weeks ago, I shared the details of one of our major DIY home improvement projects to date, upgrading our doors and hardware with paint. I was (and still am) pretty self-congratulatory. This project allowed us to turn our nine ugly old interior doors into fun and colorful features for only about $100 in materials and supplies. Awesome!
It really took our place from bland to exciting. I was counting on this punch of warm color to go along with the cool tones I picked for the rest of the house.
My how-to post included a whole lot (2400 words lot) of information about what we did and why we did it. So be sure to check that out if you’re interested in doing a similar project! But read this post, too, because what I DIDN’T talk about was what went wrong. Because, trust me, as with any first time DIY, stuff went wrong.
So here are my tips for what you should NOT do if you decide to do this yourself.
1. Don’t skimp on letting the paint cure, and plan to not have any doors for 2-4 weeks.
Given our work schedules, it’s hard to find time for a project like this: one that will take a lot of work and be totally disruptive to the house while it happens. Having no interior doors is a pain, so we planned to do it over a long weekend. We thought we could just let the doors sit for a week to dry, and then we’d easily throw them back up and it would all be over. How wrong we were!
You see, we forgot that drying is different than curing, which is when all of the water or solvents has evaporated out of it and the paint has reached maximum hardness. Even in ideal conditions water-based paints can take 14-30 days to cure!
When our weekend came it fortunately didn’t rain, but it was incredibly hot and humid for all three days and then sustained relatively high humidity for the weeks that followed.
Beyond the unpleasant working conditions, the real issue was that it made painting the doors difficult. The paint took forever to dry to the touch and remained subtly tacky for a very long time. We set them up in our garage to cure, but due to the humidity they were still nowhere near ready even a week later.
At that point we brought them into the house where it wasn’t quite as humid and let them sit for another two weeks before installing. These were better conditions, but it had other effects. Wherever we leaned the doors (up against our interior walls) they either left spots of yellow paint, or took off a little of the paint that was there. You can see one such spot on my freshly painted office wall that I had to go back and touch up. Boo!
Also, all this moving around before they were fully cured led to a few spots of damage in the finish on a few of the doors, where they had bumped into or leaned up against something before they were ready. Eventually I’ll have to go back around to touch this up, also.
Even with all this time, when we went to install it was still a little early, so on one of our doors we have had some paint transfer between the edge of the door and our trim. Not a huge deal, but a bummer given how much work we put into this project.
2. Don’t skip planing the doors.
Think about your doors at the most humid time of the year: do they expand and stick a bit? Ours did, so we knew that we were going to plane the doors (shave off the edges) when we did this project to avoid that problem in the future.
What we didn’t anticipate was that painting doors is actually adding width to them ever so slightly due to the thickness of the paint. We don’t usually think about that when it comes to painting a room because its such a minor difference, but for doors – especially old sticky ones – it can actually make a difference.
So even though
we Brad planed all the troublesome ones a little before painting, when we went to install a few of them they were clearly too tight or simply wouldn’t fit. So we had to haul them back down to the garage and plane off some of our pretty, fresh paint job.
We had to do this to two of the doors, both closets. It’s totally hidden when the doors are closed, and they’re rarely opened, but I know it’s there.
On one of the doors that was just a little tight, we didn’t re-plane, so we got some of the paint rubbing off from use. Not the look I was going for.
When I do my touch-ups I’ll re-paint these edges, but then we’ll have to leave these open for another 30 days to cure. I wish we had just planed a little more to begin with!
3. For the love of god, don’t lose any hardware, and be sure to label it clearly.
We were obsessive about labeling which doors went where, and which hardware went with which door. To the point that we even matched the screws to each hinge that they came from. (I don’t know why we went that far. We’re insane. Don’t bother.)
But it’s a good thing that we were so careful. Enough can go wrong with install without worrying about mismatched pieces, or trying to divine why something doesn’t fit the way it used to.
However, we did make one colossal error: we lost one of the hinges.
How? you might ask. Well, do you remember this post Sage and I wrote sharing “the hole truth” about disasters in our home? I shared how we had removed some cheap industrial grates from our air system during the renovation, and have been living with the gaping holes while we figure out replacements.
This hasn’t caused us any problems, except for one time: While we were removing the hardware from one of our doors at the start of this project, one of the hinges went merrily down a vent.
Even after bravely sticking MY WHOLE ARM in there to try it get it back, it was still lost. So we had to halt progress and head out to buy a pair of replacement hinges for this door.
Which brings me to my next topic…
4. Did you know that hinges have “depth?” You should.
A hinge is a hinge is a hinge, right? Wrong. Any amateur should know that, so I clearly haven’t yet achieved even amateur status.
I went to our local hardware store and picked up their basic hinge set, which seemed to match up pretty well with our other hinges in terms of size and screw placement. I figured it would work fine, so I took it through the cleaning, sanding, and spray painting along with the other hardware. And it was easy to install the door, because the hinge and screws fit right into place.
NO. When it came to actually, oh I don’t know, close the door, the problems started. Apparently this hinge was just slightly smaller than the hinge it was replacing, so it couldn’t close all the way unless we pushed pretty hard.
Protip: if you find yourself in that situation, don’t try pushing hard to close the door. OF COURSE we did, and this is what happened to our door’s shiny new paint job:
Now, instead of just finding new hardware that fits, we’ll have to re-do this door, as well.
So if you do need to replace any hinges, be sure that you’re either re-doing the placement completely, or that you buy ones that will fit the depth you need perfectly. And check out this useful resource which can tell you a lot more about door hinges than I can, apparently.
5. Don’t be careless re-installing, or you’ll regret it.
This one is sort of obvious, but obvious things sometimes need to be said: You can do a lot of damage when re-installing the doors and hardware.
Be careful with the screwdriver, as any wrong move will scratch your nice, new spray painting job on the hardware. Small marks will be unavoidable on the screws themselves, so check that you have everything absolutely correct before screwing it in, because it will look 10x worse if you have to take them back out and screw them in again.
Also, be really gentle with the hinges, and finesse them into place rather than banging them with a hammer, or this will happen:
Yeah. Sometimes the obvious needs to be said. Of course, that is quite easy to fix with paint, so we’re not worried.
6. Avoid putting metal in contact with your pretty new door knobs.
I am thrilled to report that the spray paint jobs on all of the hinges and door knobs has held up great, even in high-use areas…. with one exception, which is entirely our fault.
With our ugly old hardware we had gotten in the habit of hanging clothes hangers off of the knobs to lay out our clothes or remember to bring something with us. We KNEW we had to stop this, but change is hard, and we messed up a few times with the door to our basement/garage. This place is just too insanely convenient if we need to remember to bring a blazer to work, or something like that.
Unfortunately, once we had a few nicks in the finish, it kept getting worse from there, and now we’re left with this:
I don’t feel like this is a problem with the paint or methodology because it only happened to this one door which doesn’t even get the most use. So once the weather warms up, I’m going to take this one down, give it a good cleaning and sanding, and re-paint. Hopefully that will solve the problem.
If this keeps happening, I’ll move to my Plan B for this whole project, which would involve giving all the doorknobs a few coats of a clear topcoat. I don’t want to do this because it will change the finish and make them look less authentically ORB, but at least I know it is an option. If you wear a lot of rings or you think your family will have trouble with the “no rubbing metal against the doorknobs” rule, then you might save yourself the heartache and do this from the beginning.
… and if you do, tell me how it works.
So now you think
I am this project was a total failure. That just goes to show how you can present a home DIY project two different ways – perfect and successful, and an utter disaster.
The reality is usually somewhere in between. I’m totally in love with the results of this project and I’m glad we did it. But I also learned a lot and would do some things differently if given the chance to start over. And I still have a few things to do to make up for my mistakes.
Hopefully if you take this on you can learn from what I did wrong and not make the same mistakes. Good luck!