Most builders are creatures of habit and convenience when it comes to the selection of building materials for new homes. Unless a customer is pressing for something special, they will always go with the most affordable, easiest to find, tried, and true products for a home, and this is especially true when it comes to interior doors.
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In the 1970s, most builders used flush wood lauan doors with a clear clam shell casing in probably 90 percent or more of the homes constructed. These doors were plain, light in weight, and easy to hang but flimsy.
Many older people may have seen a lauan wood interior door in which a hole was punched through the top skin from a mad spouse. It was common to stain the doors and moulding to match the wood paneling on the wall, which created a drab and dark interior décor.
As the 1980s came along, and through the early 2000s, hardboard doors were developed by Masonite Doors, which were more durable, and the skins could be molded to give the appearance of a 6-panel wood style door. A 6-panel door along with a 2 ¼ inch colonial casing provided a huge change in appearance.
The huge advantage of 6-panel hardboard doors was the improved look. These doors were made to be painted using finger-joint and composite wood materials that lowered the cost and made the door more durable to daily wear and tear, not to mention an angry spouse.
In both cases, the decades of using lauan doors and 6-panel hardboard doors in countless millions of homes created homes with very little style differences and, by most accounts, what I call boring doors and moulding. Over the last decade or so, with the advent of do-it-yourself fixer-up shows, homebuyers and remodelers have decided that boring and commonplace interior doors and moulding are not acceptable, and they want alternatives.
Since the mid-2000s, companies like Masonite have realized that this desire by consumers for improved and different styles has led to an evolution in interior door selections, these door manufacturers created new presses that could create a variety of door skins that had varying combinations in style and rail. In addition, they could make the doors smooth or woodgrain, along with doors that were taller and designed to reduce noise.
For a homeowner that owns one of those decades-old homes with boring doors, what can be done to replace the doors with a new style without breaking the bank in carpentry costs? The solution is very easy, and most homeowners can change these old doors without a carpenter.
First, find a specialty door shop in your town that offers interior door varieties that can do mill hinge and doorknob placement. Most have new machines that can do it in a matter of moments.
Next, unpin the hinge of your interior door and bring a sample to the door plant near you, or if you are very competent in precise measuring, get the measurement of the hinge placement from the top inside of the door to the top of each hinge. You will also have to measure the center of the doorknob placement from the top of the door and the side. Often, these door shops will have someone come to your house to measure but taking the door down to the shop is usually the most precise way.
If you have multiple doors to replace in your home, you can take one down as the example for the door plant but verify all the other interior doors in your home are precisely hinged as the sample brought to the door plant.
Once the door plant has milled your new door selection, simply take the new door back home with half the hinge in place and re-pin the door. One tip — if the door is very old, the hinge may look rough with years of paint and stain, the door plant can put a new hinge on the door, but you will then be required to screw in the new hinge in existing holes. It is not a big job, but it will take an extra minute.
If you don’t like the moulding on your interior doors, that could require a little more skill and work, but many times the door plant can cut mouldings to match your existing sizes. You will need the tools and skills to reattach the trim to your interior door jambs.
The biggest savings you will encounter by doing these types of quick interior door replacements are that you don’t need to pay a carpenter, and you don’t have to buy a new door jamb which can cost as much or more than the door itself. The other part of this that most homeowners don’t understand is that many of these specialty doors are very close in price as door manufacturers have expanded offerings and technology in production has improved.
If you want to change your boring doors to something new and modern, find a local door shop, and you may discover it is easier than you think.
Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and the host of the “Around the House” Show, which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.