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DIY: Update Your Flat Panel Doors

We often underestimate the design impact of doors. We handle them all day long and view them as more utilitarian than design. But when done right, doors can become a focal point.

One of the greatest compliments I received in House 1 was about the hallway doors. Many were surprised to learn that the doors were not new doors, they were an easy affordable DIY facelift. I took my ugly 1950s flat panel doors and upgraded them to three panel shaker style doors. The project (though time consuming) was relatively easy and made a huge impact! The design was inspired by a tutorial I saw on Jenna Sue's Blog and the price was right!

DIY flat panel door (left)

I had to draw up some sketches because I lost all my pictures in an old iPhone that never backed up my photos (lesson learned)! Now, on to the materials and tools list.

Materials Needed:

  • (2) 4’ x 8’ plywood board I purchased enough to do 5 doors
  • (1) box of finishing nails
  • (3) tubes of liquid nails Medium grit sanding paper

Tools Needed:

  • Hammer or nail gun
  • Table saw for ripping boards (or get the boards ripped at your local hardware store)
  • Hand sander (or sanding block)
  • Bench to work on
  • Chisel (depending on door stopper)
Warning: there are two steps that can make or break this project. I want to warn you now, so you have time to pause.

First, the 4'x8' boards have to ripped down to 4” pieces (yes, the whole thing). If you don't have a way to rip the boards, you can seek an alternative. Home Depot ripped the boards for us but not all hardware stores offer this service. Please confirm before proceeding.

The second part of the warning is that this project requires removing the “door stopper” (the frame that keeps your door from swinging through the opening) and moving it .25” to accommodate the added width of the new door. Depending on the style of that frame, this project can get long! We hadn’t realized how important this step was and ended up having to chip the frame away. Took us about a week (on and off). We only realized that we had to chip the "door stopper" away after we'd finished the doors and tried to put them back up. Alright, now on to the doors.

Updated living room closet door (painted navy)

Upgrading Your Flat Panel Doors

  1. It’s simple: Rip your 4’x8’ boards into 4” strips the long way (so they’d be 4” x 8’)
  2. Lay the cut boards on the door to your desired design. If you’re doing a multi panel shaker style design, lay the top and bottom board first, and measure the space between those two board to figure out how much you have to space out the rest of the boards.
  3. Once you’ve determined design and spacing, it’s time to sand the doors Take your medium grit sand paper and you just have to sand it down enough to make any sheen dull. The idea is to allow the paint to stick to it, but you don’t want to sand so hard you leave sanding marks. Once it’s sanded, it’s time to liquid glue the boards down. Glue them down in the same design you decided on.
  4. After gluing them down, secure the boards with a finish nail. Take the sanding paper to the door again (including the boards) to eliminate any sheen. Let it all dry overnight. The liquid nails needs time to cure or it will lift.
  5. The last step is to paint the door a color of your choice (make sure it will adhere well to the environment it will live in (bathroom, exterior, etc...) and let dry over night.
The one step I didn’t review is the process to "move" the door stopper. You can try to pry it out and if it comes off, move it forward or backwards .25" (depending on how your door swings). If your door stopper is part of the door frame, you’ll have to chip” it away .25" all the way around with a chisel. 

Updated bedroom closet door (painted white) 

Our only option was to pick up a chisel and chip away the frame until the doors fit (and closed properly). Not fun. But man, these doors turned out so good! And nothing beats a cheap DIY.

If you try this tutorial, I would love to see them! Tag us at #sherwoodDIY


Oh, My Sherwood

After owning two houses (one old and one newer), my biggest Real Estate takeaway is that I love old homes in well-established neighborhoods. There’s just something about a perfectly imperfect house in a mature setting that sets my soul on fire. So, it was no surprise that I fell head-over-heels for House 3 the minute we arrived at the open house.

House Three

When we decided to put in an offer (and after the offer had been accepted), we visited the neighborhood frequently. Due to past experiences, we wanted to make sure this neighborhood was right for us. We visited the neighborhood when it rained, during heavy traffic times, at off-peak hours, at night, and in the morning. Sounds a bit excessive but we wanted to see the neighborhood at its “worst”. And with every visit I fell more and more in love with it!

Love at First Sherwood

So what makes Sherwood neighborhood so special? For me, it was the pulse of the neighborhood; the kids riding their bikes, families and friends walking around, and the sense of community. Every time we visited the neighborhood there was “movement”. It felt just like my hometown neighborhood. I also loved the mature trees lining the streets and pride of ownership throughout. Our house is one of the few, smaller, outdated houses. 

We also love the town. The proximity to Boston and the overall quality of life is top-tier (in my biased opinion). This town is pretty special. We tried to buy here when we bought our first house in 2014 but the market was competitive and houses would receive multiple, above ask offers. We decided to revisit purchasing a house in this town when we were ready to set down roots. So we did. And were happy to be part of this community!

Now that you know why we love this neighborhood, here are some fun facts we picked up during the house buying process.

A Little Sherwood History
  • The neighborhood was developed in the 40s/50s (our house was built in 1950)
  • The neighborhood is split by two main roads and is close to major routes to Boston and Worcester
  • The neighborhood is pedestrian friendly with extra wide roads and sidewalks on both sides (sidewalks and roads were completely replaced in 2018)
  • Sherwood is about a mile to all major shopping and restaurants in town
  • The houses are “cookie cutter” colonials and originally built with varying facades; vinyl on top with brick or stone on the lower half
  • A “starter” Sherwood Colonial was approximately 1,300 SF and included 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, living room, dining room, kitchen and one attached garage without direct access to the house
  • A quarter of an acre is the standard lot size, anything else was considered an upgrade
  • Your building options in the 40s/50s included: your color choice of linoleum and tile (hello, pink bathroom!), metal door frame upgrade (yes, we have metal door frames), and steel beam construction.
  • Building a Sherwood Colonial gave you exclusive membership to the local country club
  • Building in Sherwood came with deed restrictions; you couldn’t build or place a structure on your property that was worth less than $4,000 (in 1950s terms).
Oh, how things have changed since the 50s! The seller’s agent had the original 1950s Sherwood ad and I asked if I could get a copy of it. If I get a copy, I’ll be sure to share it.

Now-- let’s move on to the house, shall we?

Our Sherwood Colonial

Our house was built in 1950. It’s a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home, just shy of 1800 SF. We have a finished basement (not included in the square footage), and a two car attached garage. This is our house as we saw it at the open house (original listing pictures).

Living Area

Family Room (Future Library)

Dining Room

Tiny Kitchen (Common in Sherwood Colonials)

Office Area

First Floor Bathroom


Master Bedroom

Bedroom Four (Smallest)

Second Floor Bathroom

Bedroom Two

Bedroom Three

Back Yard

Back of House (two floor addition)

Our house is a "cosmetic fixer-upper". Meaning, the house is livable and we can renovate it over time, so we focused on the extras. We lucked out and our house had undergone a few additions over the years. Giving us an extra bedroom, an extra bathroom, one more garage bay, a family room, and a designated office area.

Many would run at the sight of having to do all this work, but the neighborhood and house felt like home. We’ve already begun making it our own and are so excited to raise our family here.

If you're in the area and have more facts about the neighborhood, please do share!

- XO