Using Salvaged Doors in a Remodel: Part 1

One way to get immediate character in a house remodel is to use salvaged doors. Old doors can be beautiful, with great quality and craftsmanship. Depending on availability, it can also save you money. On the downside, using salvaged doors can take patience, planning, and elbow grease. Other downsides include the possibility of lead paint and dings/imperfections (although one girl’s dings/imperfections are another girl’s patina). Second Use Building Materials has great information on using salvaged doors on their do it yourself page on their website. Update! We love old doors so much that we’ve written yet another post here.

Where to Find Salvaged Doors:

We got all these doors from Second Use Building Materials in Seattle. We were able to find 15 matching 4 panel painted doors to use for all the room and closet doors. For the other larger/unusual openings we found some natural wood (cedar? fir?) doors that someone salvaged out of an old building. They had them stripped of paint and had them stored for use in a future home that was never built. Somehow they ended up at Second Use and we were ecstatic to find them there. I wish I could say we installed all these doors ourselves, but we hired a carpenter for this project. (That is probably why it got done.)

There are several ways to use salvaged doors in a house, whether it’s a remodel or new construction.

Barn Door Style Sliding Doors: 

The easiest method to use old doors is probably as sliders, with barn door style hardware. The doors don’t need to fit the opening perfectly so there is some wiggle room for size. We got this hardware from Second Use Building Materials, but you can also find new sets online.

Salvaged Doors used as Barn Doors

Barn Door Sliders with Old Track Hardware

Re-use Old Door Hardware

Detail of Old Track Hardware

Salvaged Doors as Bypass Sliders:

This is another relatively easy way to use old doors. Again, there is a little wiggle-room in the width because of the way the doors overlap. Also, it doesn’t matter if you get left/right swing doors because you will be filling the holes with a wood filler anyway. We filled the previously bored holes with wadded-up newspaper and then filled it with Bondo®, then sanded the heck out of it. Then primed and painted. (I warned you about the patience part.) The tracking for these doors came from Johnson Hardware.

Salvaged Doors as Bypass Closet Doors

Bypass Sliding Closet Doors

Recycled Doors as Bypass

Bypass Sliding Closet Doors

Salvaged Doors as Single Pocket Doors:  

This takes a little pre-planning as you need to build your wall with the pocket door track/frame encased inside, but you don’t need to worry about finding the correct left/right swing doors. Again, we filled the holes with newspaper and Bondo®, sanded, primed and painted.

Re-use Salvaged Door as Pocket Door

Closed Single Pocket Door

Design With Salvaged Doors

Open Single Pocket Door

Salvaged Doors as Converging Pocket Doors: 

These are really similar to the single pocket door –  also requiring pre-planning. You also need enough wall space on each side of the doors so when they are open they disappear into the wall.

Design With Salvaged Doors

Big Sister, jumping for joy that she can close the doors to Little Sister’s messy room.

Salvaged Doors as French Doors :

This set of doors was a happy accident. There were several long tall panels that were sold alongside the wooden doors at Second Use. We bought some (not knowing at the time what we’d use them for.) They ended up working perfectly for the linen closet at the top of the stairs because they are narrow and don’t take up much room when opened. We had the carpenter cut them to the correct height.

Design With Recycled Doors

Salvaged Door Hung in Jamb:

I would say hanging a door in a jamb is the most difficult way to use a salvaged door. When shopping for a door to hang, you need to look for which direction the door swings, as well as the thickness of the door.


Hung Door in Jamb

It is a good idea if you are thinking about using old doors to keep a list of measurements and a tape measure in your bag. You never know when you will run into a great door – sometimes people even leave them out at the curb. (Did I mention my family really doesn’t like it when I scavenge stuff off the side of the road?)

These doors are working great for us. A couple things we learned along the way is that all your doors don’t have to match exactly to have a cohesive look and imperfections are ok.

Oh, and I also learned never try to carry 15 painted doors in your Subaru by stacking them inside because they are really heavy and slippery and what may happen is that when you step on the brakes they may slide forward and press really forcefully against the gearshift, making it impossible to shift into first gear when you are at a red light with a big semi-truck behind you, causing you to burn out the clutch because you are in third gear and then pulling over and having to ask complete strangers to help you slide the really really heavy doors back and jamming a car seat to hold them there and meanwhile your 5 year old daughter is completely traumatized and crying in the back seat. (So don’t do that.)

See more of Heidi’s artwork at Old Stuff. New Stories.

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10 thoughts on “Using Salvaged Doors in a Remodel: Part 1

  1. Oh man, I’ll try not to laugh but your ending there is priceless. What I really appreciate about the home you’ve made is it’s so full of character and while things are collected from here and there, there’s is a general feel of co-hesiveness that screams personality. I’m pretty sure most people would be totally intimidated at a used door store but you’ve shown how glorious miss-matched can be. I like how you rocked the Bondo and newspaper too. If Bondo has a website, you really should link them up with your post, it might open their door to a whole new market (hehe…see how I worked that in?)

    I’m really liking the profile of your white by-pass closet doors and bathroom pocket door. It’s has that vintage appeal that I grave. I don’t know why they don’t use pocket doors more on new builds. I love them, they just make sense. Pinning a few things here….maybe you could just come build me a house, that’d be awesome!

    • Thanks Boomdee! I love the way your comment “hinged” on a great pun. (get it? it took me a really long time to work that one up.) I agree pocket doors are an awesome way to save space, my neighbor put some in that had frosted horizontal panel (modern look) and that was a great idea – really lets light into the room, but still has privacy. We’d love to come help you build a house (just as soon as we are done with ours, so see you when we are 75.)

  2. I laughed out loud when I read the ending to this post! All’s well that end’s well, I suppose. You really know how to make salvaged doors look beautiful. My favorite is the sliding barn door. That heavy duty hardware gives the door a really cool, unique look. Thanks for valuing salvage and shopping at Second Use. We love you!

    • Thanks Elena, we really were excited to find that hardware. The roller parts were in the front of the store but the disassembled track was in a bucket out in the yard. Mary Jean spotted the bucket and said “hey! I bet those are pieces for a track!” Score! I’m sure we will be visiting your store soon! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Hahhaha, tussah! BTW, I guess you figured out that I crave vintage not grave vintage..HA. I’ve always loved the idea of having a generous front entrance with sliding pocket doors to a home. It’s like “ta-da” drawing a curtain to something wonderful. Crumb, 75 hey? Well maybe I’ll need to re-decorate a condo by the sea…I know where you are, pen me in :D

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