Live in your home long enough and one of your interior doors is bound to get damaged. This usually happens when you are moving large furniture or when something falls on it but the end result is a hole that needs to be repaired.
Interior doors are relatively cheap and to keep the cost down manufacturers use a variety of different products. The edges of the door will be a pine or spruce frame to allow mounting of hardware like your door lock and hinges.
The main area of your door may be a luan plywood material which is often found in flat doors. This material is often stained to look like mahogany or cherry wood. Unfortunately repairing a hollow veneer stained door is rather difficult. It can be done but it will most likely take you longer then it is worth and you should probably just replace the door.
If the door is an older solid wood door and it has a scar or dent in it you can use a variety of fillers to repair it if you plan to paint it. Again stained doors can be repaired but you will need to match the wood and possibly use a router to install a large slug that can be glued and stained. Don’t expect perfection.
Finally you have a hollow core door that is made out of a pressed wood / heavy cardboard type material. This is very common in todays homes and this type of door is always painted. This is the easiest type of door to repair if you take your time. Most of your work can be hidden by the final coat of paint.
Hollow core painted doors can be flat or they can be raised panel like the one we will be repairing.
The material is a wood product so you will need to use brown carpenters glue for the best results. Don’t try to make the repair with superglue or epoxy the glue will not hold over time and it will be a mess dealing with epoxy as it takes an extended period of time to cure.
The important thing about fixing a hollow core pressed wood door is to make the door structurally sound so that continued use of the door over the next few years wont result in cracking where the repair was made.
Inspecting the Damage
First you will need to inspect the damage and decide if the door is repairable. If the damage is limited to the center of a single panel and you are able to push the cracks back into place then you will probably be in luck.
If the damage to the door extends to the frame of the door or if the door is not operating correctly you should purchase a new door. Don’t waste your time on a door that costs $60 to replace especially when you may be able to pick one up second hand for $10 at a local used building materials store.
If there is actually a hole in the door then you will need to find all the pieces to glue them back together. Normally if you have even a small hole like we do then you will have some pretty large cracks. Be careful when working with the cracked panel so that you do not break off additional pieces of the material.
Once you have decided to go ahead and attempt fixing the door you will need only a few tools.
A painters putty knife is good for prying between cracks but be careful when using it.
We are using two heavy duty utility knives with fresh blades. The blades must be brand new because you will need sharp cuts and you will later shave high spots with the length of the knife blade.
Clamps are also useful and since you can’t easily clamp the center of the door to press open cracks together for gluing we will use a painter’s roller extension rod that will be placed between a piece of heavy furniture and the door to provide pressure while the glue drys. A painter’s roller extension is also adjustable in length so you can make it slightly larger then the distance needed and force it gently into the surface to add pressure.
Masking tape is good and it can be used to hold pieces in place as they dry but it will not have a lot of clamping pressure so don’t expect to be able to pull joints closed with tape.
You will need a brush and paint to cover the area once you have completed the structural repair.
Making The Repair
Before you start gluing your door you need to align the cracked pieces to their original position. Gently pull on the panels to position them using too much force may cause additional damage.
If you can not position the pieces to their original position do your best to get the edges to touch for later gluing.
Using your utility knife you may need to shave the edges to provide better contact.
It is best to begin gluing the edges of cracks that do not need much clamping. Here we first glue the smaller cracks around the hole by using small clamps.
The longer cracks will require some pressure to hold them in place. This is where the painter’s roller rod will be used to force the edges together.
Place the roller rod in position after you glue the edges. The rod will need to be slightly larger then the distance between the door and bed mattress that is used to hold it in place. Then it is taped in position so it will not slip away.
Allow the glued areas to dry for at least an hour before removing clamps.
Finally you will glue and replace any large chunks of material. Hold these pieces in place with masking tape.
Once the door has been completely glued and has dried the edges of the repair will not be flush.
Using your utility knife blade in its fully open position shave the cracked edges to make them flush / flat. You can then use your carpenters glue to fill any small holes and reglue cracks.
Sanding can be performed if necessary but the shaving process should have resulted in a paintable surface.
Apply at least 2 coats of paint to finish the repair.
Making repairs of this type will take more then a few hours because of the drying time for the glue. It is better to take your time then to try to get all of the cracked edges and pieces glued in one shot.
You may also need to use wood filler or small pieces of press board to complete your repair. Most home stores sell these items and all of the other tools you need for this task.
Final paint should hide most of your repair but do not expect to make a repair that can not be seen. You are simply improving the damage to a point that it is livable.
After a week or so when the glue and paint has fully dried you may want to go back and do any touchups or you can wait until the next time you paint the room.