Building Doors for the Beach House

Every door in the beach house was different, most them were beat up, and there wasn’t one that I thought was worth saving. I decided I need to replace all of them, but I didn’t want to use the off-the-shelf, hollow core doors.

To buy solid doors was crazy expensive – I’d be spending at least $2000, which was way outside my budget for the house. The the only alternative was to build them myself.


For the frames, I bought 12 foot long, 2×6 pine tongue-and-groove decking from Home Depot. I found these boards to be dry, very straight, and good quality – and they only cost about $12 each.

I cut the edges off, then put a slot in them to receive a plywood panel. I used my table saw for slots, running the boards in one direction then the other, to ensure they were centered.

I cut the panels from 3/16″ (5mm) underlayment plywood. I also bought these from HD for $14 each. After cutting the panel, I sanded the edges so inserting them into the slots would be easier.


Lesson learned: Don’t make the groves too tight. The glue on these dries pretty fast and makes the wood swell a bit, so forcing a large panel into a tight grove can be difficult. A little extra width on the order of 1/16″ works well.

Once the panels were glued in, I put in a few blind staples to hold them (see below for details on that), then I clamped the frames so the joints would dry solidly.

Where the frames came together, I glued splines in. Is this fancy mortise-and-tenon or domino joinery? No. Is it solid? Yes, since the whole panel is glued.


Now some people may think that this method of gluing the panels tight into the frames is a bad idea – that expansion and contraction will make the door come apart over time. Maybe that’s true in some parts of the US, but not here. The worst case is a dry winter, where the wood contracts due to temperature and humidity, and then a wet summer giving you the extreme opposite. Here in western Oregon it’s not an issue. We have very wet winters and drier summers – so there is little overall change the size of a piece of wood. And these doors are on the coast, where the temperatures are very mild. So solid panel glue-ups are not much of a problem.

All the doors in the house have a unifying design, but each pair has a different detail. To make this, I planed pine to about 5/8″ and applied it to the door on each side. So I guess all the interior stiles are “fake”. If fake works well, I say go with it.


Here are the different patterns we came up with…


We’re going to paint the top panels with chalkboard paint for an ever changing art display at the house.

I built jigs for routing out the hinges and drilling the lock-sets. I also used them on the jambs. I think the key to this is just taking your time and making sure the hinge locations on the door are marked correctly on the jamb.

I have a couple sets of them installed already, with about 6 more doors to go.

Blind Staplingdownload

Disclaimer: I don’t suggest you modify your tools in this way, nor do I take any responsibility if you do. I’m only showing what has worked well for me. Proceed at your own risk.

By all rights, this staple gun shouldn’t exist:

  • I bought it for $20 at Harbor Freight 15 years ago
  • My most used gun – at least weekly since I bought it
  • I’ve probably shot 100,000 staples through it
  • It has never, ever jammed
  • I rarely oil it
  • It’s been dropped, kicked, used as a hammer, left out in the rain

It’s a freak of nature and a thing of beauty.


I ground the tip to 45 degrees on both sides so it would fit tight into corners. I needed to remove the safety, as it didn’t allow for this. So I do need to be careful with it, but after 15 years with no mishaps or close calls, I think I’m good to go.

It fits so tight into corners that the heads of the staples are below the surfaces, making them blind. You can’t use this method on the front of fine furniture, but on projects like these doors, it works nicely.

Time and Money – 4 Hours & $45 Per Door Installed

After 5 doors and 4 sets of jambs, I’ve got the process down. It’s takes about 4 hours start to finish, and they are enjoyable to make. 3 hours to build a door and jambs, and about an hour to install it.

The wood for the doors takes two T&G boards and half a sheet of plywood, totaling $31 for the slab. After jambs and hardware, I’m at about $45 a door. I bought all the knobs from Restore for $3 a set, or it would have been more. My total for house will be about $500, or 25% of what I could buy them for.



One comment

  1. I love them! But you forgot to mention that your wife was part of this creative process in that she insisted they all be different. And you acquiesced in letting me paint them with chalkboard paint because you love me so much!

    Liked by 1 person

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