Building My Tiny House Door




Introduction: Building My Tiny House Door

About: I really just needed a place to pimp some of my projects. The only problem is I never seem to get enough pics of what I'm doing while I'm doing it!

My wife and I are in the process of building a tiny house and one of the things that was going to be an extreme expense ..................... a custom front door!! Most don't know but a tiny door comes with big problems? First, you can't just go to HomeDepot and buy a door that fits in any size rough opening! You can on the other hand have one made to order! And, that is where the second problem comes into play ......... The cost! We were looking at somewhere around $2300 to $3000 for a door like we wanted!!!!! This is obviously the point where I started reading up on how to build a door!

I guess most would call this somewhat of a shaker style door? But, to me its just a three panel design. From what I have read the idea is that if the door gets hot from outside temperatures the panels can freefloat within the frame of the structure! Therefore, the door doesn't warp like a solid structure would! After looking at how the door is built, I decided what tools and materials I needed.

Tablesaw-this is for accurately ripping boards to size and for cutting joints.

Compound Mitersaw-this is for cutting boards to length at consistent angles.

Cordless Drill-this is obviously for drilling but, also for use with the Kreg Jig and for augering the door handle holes.

Tabletop Planer-this is for getting the wood shaved down to accurate and consistent thicknesses.

Kreg Jig-this is a pocket hole jig for stengthening wood joints (they cost about $90 at HomeDepot)

Hand chisels-these are for recessing hinges and other door hardware.

Pipe Clamps-for holding the door together while screwing or gluing.

C-Clamps- also for holding the door together

Square-for alignment (needs to have 90 and 45 degrees).

Framing Square-""

Paddle Bits-these are drillbits that are flat for cutting up to 1 1/2" holes through wood.

2 1/8" Holesaw- for cutting the door handle hole.

Sanding Block- duhhh!!

Portable Belt Sander-this is optional but, can be used for truing a door into a slightly out of square opening (like mine!).

Big Flat Table-to work on.

Saw Horses-optional but, nice to have for stacking lumber as its being cut (plus, they are cheap at Harbor Freight).

I didn't mention too many of the little things you will need on a project like this because, if your planning on undertaking this you probably already have the basic hand tools!

Step 1: Materials

For materials I would say to look at all the available hardwoods locally. This isn't going to be easy because the builing chains rarely sell any hardwoods thicker than 3/4"! I had some luck with lumber yards and some lumber brokers online but, in the end I found an industrial trailer supply store that sold rough cuts of 2 1/4" x 8" x 12' cheaper than anyone by the board foot! I think the reason this wood was so cheap is that it was sold as heavy duty, flatbed trailer flooring. So, it was poor quality, beat up, cupped, and was weather beaten! I really didn't care because I fingered it wouldn't matter after running it through the planer!
For the door panels I used 3/4" hardwood plywood but, any 3/4" plywood will do. I would suggest a nicer quality plywood because if you stain the door cheap pine ply isn't going to take the stain very well. It will streak and be all together blotchy!
The door handle is obviously your choice as are the hinges. Although, I would suggest making sure you read the packaging of the hinges and make sure your getting the ones with removeable pins. This makes it a lot easier to remove the door (for painting the jam or moving furniture in the house) and not having to realign anything. We sprung for a simple peep hole but, thats just an extra step.
Be sure to get a small bottle of good quality wood glue. We used Titebond brand and it worked really well. Also, pick up some sandpaper of various grits to use with the sanding block. Pick up a bottom door seal to block the draft from coming through also. If you use the pocket hole jig you need to buy a 70 cent 3/8" dowel rod to fill the holes with.
I think the cost of this build should be somewhere around $300 to$350 after all hardware is taken into account. This figure DOES NOT INCLUDE COST OF TOOLS!!!

Step 2: Getting Started

The rough cut lumber will be bowed and cupped so the planer must be used to get the wood smooth and pretty! I chose to make my boards 1 3/4" thick. Unfortunately, the lumber had other ideas! After, planing the wood to that thickness there was still damage showing so, I had to plane another 1/8" making the boards 1 5/8". So, after buying 2 1/4" boards we ended up with 1 5/8" boards and a bag full of shavings! Hopefully we can use the shavings in our composting toilet!

Step 3: Cutting the Planed Lumber Down to Build the Frame

Now that the lumber has been planed and trued you can start measuring the door opening. My door opening was rough to say the least! It was very narrow and shorter than any front door I had ever seen. First, I measured the length and width. Then, subtracted about an inch from both measurements. This is to account for door jam trimmings which will be added just before installation.
This is where personal preferences come in. Figure out how wide you want the vertical frame boards to be. Likewise with the horizontals. To make the door look somewhat traditional I made the bottom panel ( or kick-panel ) a few inches taller than the other horizontals. This is so a shiny metal plate can be fastened at the bottom or whatever, your choice!
Once you have the measurements recorded its time to cut and rip all of the boards. You will want to select from your lumber how your cuts should be taken from each piece. Meaning, try not waste any of that expensive wood and try to visually find all the flawed places so they can be cut out. Next, use the miter saw to cut each piece out. Take the time to label each piece for placement, direction, and also inside or outside. One last thing, BE SURE TO ADD AN EXTRA 2 INCHES TO THE HORIZONTAL BOARDS!!!!! This will guarantee you don't come up short on length from cutting the tongue of the joints!! Last, be sure to save all of the left over scraps.......they come in handy!
Now you can start ripping the piece widths. Set up your table saw to cut against the rip fence ( this is the adjustable guide that runs parallel with the saw blade) and cut your pieces. Being that some of the pieces have different widths, you will be moving the rip fence constantly. I would suggest taking your time and cutting all the like pieces at the same time before moving the fence again. This ensures that all like cuts are more consistent.

Step 4: Door Layout

The only reason I added this step is because it makes it a lot easier to visually examine how the pieces will look when they come together before rushing into the next steps! From here I pushed the pieces together and examined how they looked and which side should be placed where. Any existing marks should be erased and placement marks should be re-penciled. Be sure not to press very hard on the pencil ( you don't want to sand more than you have to!). Blah blah blah!

Step 5: Cutting the GROOVES of the Tongue and Groove Joints

While the boards are set up resembling a door mark each piece on the edge where a panel opening touches it. These marks will be the beginning of the joints being cut. To explain, the 2 long verticals will only have one long groove cut to the inside. The top and bottom horizontals will have one groove to the inside. And, the 2 inside pieces will have a groove cut on both of their long sides.
To get started first, take the thickness of your boards and subtract 3/4" or .75 from that number. Divide that number by 2 and you have the thickness of the material on both sides of the plywood panels. This number will be where you can set the rip fence frome the side of the blade closest to the fence. Be sure to crank the blade all the way up and measure the front and back of the blade. Do I really need to stress safety before cutting and making adjustments? If you didn't read the safety precautions.........your a fool! Now adjust the blade heighth down to about 1/2" . This is the depth that your tongues will fit into each groove. Take one of the scraps and run it through the saw and measure the distance between the cut and the outside edge. If the measurement is what you set the fence for, good! If not readjust the fence and try again. Now turn the scrap piece around and cut the other side of the groove. Again, check the measurement, but also check the width between each cut because this is where the plywood must ride. If your math was right everything should be kosher! Once the cut is ready, you can run all of the groove edges through one at a time. Word of advise, as you run a few pieces through try to check the diminsions of the cut ............. sometime the blade heighth can fall a bit while cutting!
Now that the main groove cuts are done, you can move the rip fence inward a blade's width and run the pieces through again. Wash, rinse, and repeat until all the wood is completely removed from the grooves! Consistency is important with this stuff because it makes for better fitting joints when everything comes together! Moving on!

Step 6: Cutting the TONGUES of the Tongue and Groove Joints

Things should start coming together for you now! From here you will want to lay the pieces down again and mark where each edge needs to have a tongue cut into it. This step is done with a Miter Gauge. This is a piece of equipment that usually comes with your tablesaw and rides in the recessed tracks on the table.
Please note that there are several ways to cut these type of joints. But, with limited resources doing it this way works just fine as long as you are careful.
First, set the rip fence 1/2" from the blade. This time measure from the fence to outside of the blade. Be sure to crank the blade all the way up to keep the fence square to the blade. Set the blade heighth the same measurement as you used on the first rip made on the groove. This was the math crap you did in the beginning! Now, take a scrap piece and rest it perpendicular to the blade on the miter gauge. Then, cut while keeping the board against the gauge and the rip fence. Flip the board over and run another pass. You can hold the scrap up to a groove piece and tell if it is right. It should be the right depth and should line up without sitting too high or low. Once your jig is set you can cut the tongues on one end of each board?
Once the first tongues are cut, you can cut the horizontal boards to length on the mitersaw. Measure the pieces from the inside edge of the tongue and mark the length. Now, add 1/2" and cut it off. This allows for the tongue. Now, you can cut the tongues on these ends.
All thats left is to remove the rest of the wood from the tongue. To do this just remove the rip fence from the saw. Now, pass each piece through the saw on the miter gauge until there is nothing but the tongue left!
The explainations for this stuff sound complicated but, once you have used the saw enough it becomes second nature and it gets much easier to visualize how the cuts need to be!

Step 7: Dry Fitting the Door Frame

At this point you can fit all the pieces together and hopefully see the end nearing........... unless you screwed up a cut or two or three! Now is where the KregJig comes into play. If you have one of these and have read the directions carefully then, you should have an idea of how this is going to work..........if not, read them again!!
First you will need to center 2 holes on every joint that touches the long verticals. Thee is no need to use this on the interior pieces because they don't really support any weight. I set mine up for joining 1 5/8" material then instead of using the clamp thing, I used a c-clamp to hold the jig onto the door. I set the end of the jig 1 3/4" from the seam line of the joint and drilled each one.
After all the pocket holes are drilled you can take some 2" screws and sink the frame together. This helps with final alignment while gluing and all!
With the frame screwed together you can easily take measurements for the plywood panels. My prefered method for plywood cutting is to oversize cut the panels on a factory edge then finish cut the small panels on the tablesaw. But, how ever you want to cut them is fine because all the dirty edges will be covered anyway! Another tip, be sure to pay attention to the grain of the plywood! I didn't and cut two panals with the grain flowing the wrong way! Had to recut..sasa frassa.......ring rong raza!¥€£€. Be careful is all I'm screaming! Uhh, now you can start putting it together!

Step 8: Gluing and Screwing Everything Together

Lets break out the sanding block with some heavy grit on it and get to sanding everything! After you have gone over everything well enough start with some finer grit. Try not to use anything lower than 150 grit on the plywood. Once you have sanded everything with 220 grit it should be fine.
Before I go any farther, let me just say that I skipped an important step when I built my door and wanted to give a heads up! When you glue two pieces of wood together the glue oozes out and gets everywhere. The glue I used will will will get into the grain of the wood!! If you are planning to stain and varnish the door don't let glue get on the exposed wood!! I spent a lot of extra time learning about sanding ..........allllllll day to make it right!! To correct this take some masking tape and run it on both sides of every seam.............even on the top and bottom edges! Then put some on the plywood where it gets close to a joint. Believe me, plywood is worse with glue! I think its because the veneers are so thin that the glue gets absorbed faster.
If your using the tape method do so now. I'll wait!! Tapping my foot.... . . . . . .! now use plenty of glue and get that thing together!

Step 9: Finishing the Little Things Before Moving On

After the door has set up overnight you can fill the pocket holes with dowels. The KregJig thing uses a 3/8" drill bit so the leftover holes can be plugged with a 3/8" dowel rod. tape the area around the holes off and squirt some glue into them. Push the dowel rod in, then use a pull saw or a hack saw blade to cut the rod off flush with the door. After they dry you can sand them smooth ( just remember to sand in the direction of the grain on the door!).
This is optional stuff.
I wanted a peep hole on my door so had to install one. Because its so much hassle to look through the window 6 inches to the left! What I didn't think aboot was that the door has to to be at least an 1 1/4" thick where the peep is mounted..... So, I had to add some scraps on both sides of the door to make the plywood thicker. Then, using a paddle bit, drilled the hole and glued the scraps to the plywood. I used the peep as a vise by tightening it up!
The edges of my door looked plain to me so I decided to decorate a bit. I took some of the left over cuts of oak and ripped them down (using the rip fence ....of course!) to 1/4"x1/4". Then, I set the miter saw at a 45 degree angle and cut them to fit in the panels. This (to me) gave the door a nice effect! I used a brad nailer to do this but I guess it could be glued too.
I also had a lot of flaws in the wood that needed to be filled. So, I got some wood putty and filled all the littleholes and cracks. Then sanded them down.

Step 10: Door Handle, Lock, and Hinges

From here its up to you to choose the hardware. When you buy a latch and deadbolt it will come with plenty of directions and templates for drilling. Measure carefully and cut the holes for the deadbolt and handle. You can also use a chisel to recess the latch plate and deadbolt plate. Measure the center lines for your hinges and chisel the recesses out for them.
Once the hardware is installed you can get the door into place. Mine was a new install so I had to build the door jam to keep working. After getting the door jam done I was able to shim the door into place. You may have to true the door up to fit the jam.... .. .....I did! I used the belt sander to sand the sides slightly.
With the door shimmed into place mark where the hinges rest on the jam and recess the jam to accept them. With that done you can now screw the hinges in and hang the door. All thats left is to install the latch striker plate and deadbolt plate.

Step 11: Staining and Polyurethane

After all the sanding you might want to go over the whole door with a fine tooth comb. Fix any little place that could ruin the finish. When you are ready clean the door with a tack cloth and stain. I could go into the staining but instead I will just say to follow the directions! After letting the stain set up for an entire day put your favorite varnish on or poly or whatever!
You can now put the door back up and re-install the locks and peep or whatever else you added. Now would be a good time to install the bottom door seal or sweep or whatever you call it!

Step 12: Finished Product!!

I only did this instructable because of the difficulty I had trying to find free info about building these type doors. This was my first door and I learned a lot from the build. My wife loves it because she got exactly what she wanted for about $2500 less than a custom builder would have charged! And, it blows a foam core HomeDepot door (eewwe!!) right out of the water!! Kaboom!!

If you would like to see more of our tiny house visit []!!! Or, you can read about us in Tiny House Magazine this month!

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    14 Discussions


    Reply 5 years ago

    Yes, we had open-cell bio foam sprayed into the wall ceiling and floor. This type of foam doesn't have the R-value that closed-cell foam does but, it emits way less VOCs. We also ran all the electrical over the wall covering to reduce drafts and make it easier to change the electrical system later on.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    That's a beautiful door and you did a fine job on making it. My only apprehension is that with such a narrow door, would you feel that you can actually move your furniture in without disassembling it? What about a sink or replacement toilet (in their crates)?

    Also, are you going to build a screen door for summer ventalition?


    Reply 5 years ago

    We checked and the furniture and appliances should go through the door but if not then it will have to be slightly disassembled. It is a tiny house so a 24" door gives us more floor space.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Glad to hear that you checked everything.

    I get the more space idea. My wife and I are seriously considering a tiny (or tinier) house. They make more sense sustainability and economic wise.


    Reply 5 years ago

    Yes I already have an idea for a 2x4 built screen door. I'll try to do an ible on it.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Maybe a bit off-topic, but why a tiny house? Nice job on the door. Makes me want to try my hand at a door for the shed. Oh, how necessary is a chop saw? Would a circular saw basically do the same thing? I've been eyeing a lot of tools, but sadly, workshop space and finances keeps me from getting everything I want.


    Reply 5 years ago

    The why for us is freedom from financial burden. Not having to live our lives trying to pay for somewhere to live and having less worry.

    Yes a regular circular saw would work but you may want to use a speed square to keep it on lined up. I have seen a really cool tool that Kreg makes just for that. Not trying to pimp them or anything.


    5 years ago

    Nice job on the door.


    Reply 5 years ago



    Reply 5 years ago

    Again, I appreciate the it! I actually built this last year but had a bunch of pictures and had a lot of fun with the first ible. Plus, it helps our blog get some attention! :-)