Headboard From an Old Door

My daughter saw a post on the web about making a headboard out of an old door.
Here is how it turned out, after a LOT of work.

She started by applying a chemical stripper to remove the old layers of paint off the door. I insisted she use a less toxic Citri-based product even though it requires more applications. Read the cautionary warnings on the products and decide for yourself. She counted about 5 different colors on top of the original base coat.

We found that after the stripper loosened the old paint, we could quickly remove several layers at a time by using a paint scrapper. I sharpened the blade frequently as it would quickly dull.

As old as the door was, we had to assume that some of the paint layers used lead based paint. We found that the oldest paint layers were very tough and very resistant to the stripper. We used dust masks when sanding, which was about the only way to penetrate the bottom layer of paint. Paint would not build-up on 60 grit sandpaper on the orbital sander unless a lot of pressure was used.

Here we have finally made it down to bare wood on the one side. I made plugs to fill in up the cavities left by deadbolts and the door knobs, etc. Rockhard putty was used to fill in smaller screw holes and cracks at joints. The outer surface of the lowest door panel was buckled from water damage. I removed it by cutting around the edge of the panel trim with a utility knife. I made a new layer by planing down 5mm plywood to the required 3/32 inch thickness.

The most tedious part of the re-finishing process was removing the paint from the grooves in the molding profile around the recessed door panels. Scrapers were too aggressive for the hemlock that the door was made from. We found that the triangular sanding pads on a multi-tool worked well, but the pads had to be replaced often because of paint build-up.

I decided to take the backside of the door down to bare wood instead of sealing it as the internet post suggested. I was concerned about not getting a good bond with a sealer and having it flake off, or not doing a good job of containing the “old wood” smell. Rather than take the time to do the requisite detail sanding on the molding profile, I used my router with a cove bit to quickly cut through the profile into bare wood. I then used a 1/2 straight bit to quickly remove the paint from the panel adjacent to the edges. I clamped straight edge guides to the door for both operations to get a straight smooth cut.

I used the orbital sander with 60 grit sandpaper to quickly (about 10 minutes per panel) remove the paint in the interior spaces of the recessed panels.

All that remained was to use the sanding attachment of the multi-tool to remove the paint from the corners where the 5 inch radius of the orbital sander could not reach.

I had to extend the top side of the door so that the crown molding would not extend over the recessed panels and to balance the width of the visible portions of the top and bottom door rails. I did this by ripping a 2×4 to a width just under that which would be covered by the crown molding, and then planing it to match the door thickness. I ripped the edge of the door to provide a straight and square mating surface for the extension and glued and screwed it into place.

Now all surfaces of the headboard were painted with two coats primer. An oil base primer may work better than latex for blocking odor of the underlying door.

A special fence was made for the miter saw to hold the crown molding upright in its installed orientation – but upside down. This allows 45 degree corners to be cut and safely holds the crown molding while the cut is made. The distance to the raised part of the fence matches the horizontal offset required by the bottom of the crown molding.

I cut one 45 degree angle on the long front section of the crown molding and then another on a short side section, to gauge the amount of overlap needed on the top, which was temporarily clamped to the top side of the headboard.

Now I could cut the length of the 1×6 top of the headboard to match the requirement of the crown molding. A 1×6 was used because the headboard would be mounted to the bed frame with two vertical 2x4s, and I wanted the back edge of top to extend over them, so they would not be visible. The top as glued and screwed to the extension, and Rockhard putty was used to fill the recessed screw holes.

Now the crown molding could be fastened to the top of the head board with crown staples. I clamped small blocks on each end of the headboard at the required distance from the top. This provided a stable surface against which the bottom edge of the crown molding could rest while being fastened. I then used longer staples to secure to top edge of the crown molding to the top of the headboard.

After priming the top and crown molding, the final two coats of paint were applied. A paint conditioner was added to the paint to thin it out to eliminate brush marks. An exterior/interior base was used because it dries harder and should stand up better.

Here is the finished headboard attached to the bed frame.

3 thoughts on “Headboard From an Old Door

  1. My wife and I have an old door similar to the one you transformed and we want to do the same treatment to it. I’m curious to know how you fastened the vertical 2x4s to the back of the door that were used to mount the headboard to the bedframe? Were there any dilemmas, challenges, or lessons learned?

  2. No big problems or challenges. Just screwed it to the back of the headboard. I didn’t use any glue so that they could be removed to allow the headboard to be mounted to the wall instead of the bed frame.

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