Reply by Rich

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Posted on Prehung or slab door?

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3650 posts in 733 days

#1 posted 10-14-2017 04:14 AM

The previous posts nail it regarding slab versus pre-hung. Obviously you want slabs. Here’s where the fun starts for you. I went through this very same situation when we bought a custom home that inexplicably had white hollow doors.

We knew we had to do something, so we headed to a couple of door and window companies. Major sticker shock. The level of door we wanted was in the $900 and up range per door. Heading down to the handyman store, we found “solid wood” doors, but the guy that owns the place was quick to tell us that it’s solid wood, but the faces are veneer and the core is pine. It’s 3/16” veneer and they do use sequential pieces for the front and back, but it’s unnatural. No 1-3/8” thick board would be that close to identical on the front and back faces.

We bought one just to play with, and I routed out the panels and replaced them with obscured glass for a pantry door. That was when reality set in. These doors are mass produced in a Chilean factory using dowels for joinery. They are obviously run through a belt sander en masse because the sanding marks run down the stiles and across the rails. It took a lot of work to clean those up.

Utimately, I decided to build my own, and after replacing all of the doors in the house, that one really stood out as an eyesore. I just finished the door to replace it, pictured below.

So where am I heading with this blathering? Build your own. It’s easier than you think and, depending on the wood you choose, will cost you as little as $120 per door. That’s for knotty alder, which is my favorite. Fancy woods make fancy doors, but knotty woods mean that no two doors are alike, and you can have all sorts of fun with the patterns. For this one, I bookmatched the panels, and went with some crazy, wavy grain for the lock rail. The photo really doesn’t do it justice.

Bottom line is, based on my shopping here in Tucson, you can build your doors for at least 75 to 80% less than you’ll pay to buy them — and get better quality with zero engineered components that are so common as cost cutting steps these days.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

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