How to Build Custom Interior Doors!

The ceilings in my basement are lower than normal. Because of this I cannot fit a standard 6’8” door down there. When you order a “custom” size door from the big box store they do not custom build them to your size, they take a standard door and cut off the bottom. In my case, if I was to do that then my doors would have 2” rails at the top and bottom. Because I wanted proportional doors I decided I would build them myself. Over the years I have built many doors. They are expensive and labor intensive. In the time it would have taken me to joint and plane the lumber for custom hardwood doors, I was able to complete these. I started the process by purchasing standard flush hollow core doors. These cost around $25 each. I also bought a few sheets of 1/2” mdf which cost around $20 each. I also used a few boards of poplar that I had laying around the shop. All together each door cost less than $75 and I built all 10 in a day.


I started off by cutting the doors to length and re-coring the bottoms. I then laid out the panel pattern I wanted on the doors and carefully used my track saw to cut out the panels, being careful not to cut past the corners. After finishing the cuts on the front side, I used my Vaughan pull saw to finish the cuts on the opposite side. Once the panels were removed I measured the thickness of the hollow of the door and milled some 2x2 poplar down to fit exactly. I then glued the poplar into the hollow of the door being careful to make it flush with the cuts in the door skin. It took every clamp I had in the shop to clamp the doors up that day and I couldn’t have done it if it weren’t for my harbor freight clamps. They are the best bang for your buck when it comes to 6-12” bar clamps. Once the glue had dried I used a 1/2” rabbet bit in my router to make a rabbet along the back side of the panel holes. I made a few passes until my final depths was 2/3 the way through the door. I then cut panels from the 1/2” mdf to fit inside each rabbeted panel hole. To secure the panel to the door, I cut 1/2”x1/2” square stop and pin nailed it into the door behind the panel. I used my block plane to flush up the stop to the door. At this point all that was left was to hang the doors and then prime and paint.