Our french doors into our office space are finally finished and in this post I break down EVERYTHING you need to know about DIY custom french doors! Keep reading to learn how to make your cheap, boring interior french doors look less builder grade!
A Look Back at Where We Started:
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Our office area was previously used as a small formal living room before we moved in. We always knew we would use this as an office and also knew how important it would be to close the office space off (think: 3 kids under four…)
Once we looked into it, it was obvious that due to supply chain issues and budget, we wouldn’t be able to BUY the custom doors I was dreaming of SO, I decided we were going to DIY custom french doors.
How To Beat The Supply Chain Issues:
Without getting into the ups and downs of the last 2 years, suffice it to say – this project has been a long time coming.
We had a contractor come look at the door way and he told us for basic, construction grade doors we were looking at at least 5K for materials + labor. He also said the wait time would be two months or more for the doors to come in. Custom or arched doors he quoted us at least 7K and up to a year wait due to the supply chain issues. INSANE.
After pricing a few options, we agreed on purchasing super basic doors and spending a little $ to add attractive hardware to make them look a bit more custom.
When my husband went to get the doors from Lowes (these were the most basic, builder grade pine doors they offered) they told him the doors would be over $1000.00 AND were backordered for two months. UGH.
SO, my husband hit up facebook marketplace and found a seller with these doors for $500 + $40 to deliver to our house. WHATTTTT. YES.
PRO TIP: ALWAYS check FB marketplace first. Always.
How to DIY Interior French Doors to Make Them Look Custom:
Instead of looking at these doors as boring and blah, I looked at them as a blank canvas. What could I add to them to put some charm into this doorway?
My husband suggested we do squared top doors and insert a transom space on top of the doors. I wanted the transom to add some charm so I immediately thought of a leaded glass window. Click HERE to read my post all about how I created a DIY leaded glass window for cheap and avoided wait times!
After creating the leaded glass transom window, I turned my attention to the hardware we’d use on the doors. Hardware is the easiest way to shake up the look of furniture and cabinetry without spending a fortune.
I googled a bunch of vintage doors/windows and decided on CREMONE BOLTS. Cremone bolts are those old timey metal rod things that are usually on windows or cabinets but work just as great on french doors! The price point is definetly higher than normal hardware BUT I think totally worth it, especially if you got your doors for cheap.
What You Need to Install DIY Custom French Doors:
- Miter Saw
- Table Saw
- Hack Saw
- Brad nailer
- Drill/ drill bits
- Orbitol sander
- Rubber mallet
- Pry Bar
- Chalk line
- Level/tape measure
- Set of interior french doors like THESE (I recommend pre-hung)
- 2×10 boards for jack studs (2)
- 2×10 board for header
- 1×10 boards for transom box (2)
- Wood filler
- Cremone bolts (linked at end of post)
- 1×10 MDF boards for jam extensions (3)
- Quarter round shoe molding (4)
- 1×4 boards for trim (4)
- 1×8 boards for trim (2)
- 1×2 for cap (2)
- 8 ft Cove molding (2)
- 8 ft Half round molding (2)
- 8×3.5 ornamental trim piece (2)
- Plexiglass sheet (for transom)
- Silicone sealant (for transom)
Step By Step Instructions for Installing DIY Custom French Doors:
We started by demo’ing this arch. Nate removed the plaster and sheet rock from the arch with a utility knife and pry bar/hammer. The upper corners of the door where the arch was simply had to be removed.
Once this step was done, we had a nice, clean, square door way.
The next step was installing the framing.
We used a 2×10 jack stud on each side, cut to 1/8 inch higher than the door jam of our doors.
Next, we cut a 2×10 board to size for the header. The header board sits on top of the jack studs. This completes the door framing.
We secured the doors into the jam.
Before nailing the doors in place, it is CRUCIAL to make sure your framing is perfectly square or the doors won’t close. I held the doors in place while my husband used shims to get the doors to sit perfectly square. This step was frustrating and took some time but it’s SO important. Don’t skimp on this.
After the doors are shutting perfectly, secure the door jam to your jack stud frame using brad nailer.
In the picture above you can see the jack stud frame we created and how we secured the doors in place.
Add jam extensions. We ripped a 1×8 piece of MDF to size measuring from the door jam to the outside edge of the drywall. This piece allows you to attach your trim piece later on. Do this on each side and on the top.
In the picture above you can see the primed MDF nailed in place. If you look at the top of the door you can see the transom window is already in place. Let’s back track a bit and talk about building the transom window box.
Build a box for your transom window. This box will sit on top of your header.
The first thing you want to do is measure from the top of the header to the top of your doorway opening. Now, cut a 2×10 to size to fit on either side as framing for your transom box. Nail these pieces in place just like you did with the jack studs earlier.
Next, build the box itself. We measured the dimensions of the space above the header and built a box about 1/8th of an inch smaller on all sides.
We used 1×10’s and a brad nailer to create this box. Nail all your pieces together.
Next cut your quarter round shoe molding to create a frame that will sit WITHIN your transom box. This frame will hold the window. Nail the molding pieces into the center of the box with your brad nailer.
Next we secured the transom box into the transom window opening. We used shims to make sure the box was flush and level in the opening.
If you are using an acrylic glass for your transom window, you can cut the glass to size with your table saw. Next, place the glass in the window opening and secure it in place with silicone adhesive sealant. Click HERE to read about how I created a DIY transom leaded glass window for our doors.
Next, you can install your framing on the opposite side of the window. Be careful to nail it at an angle so the nails don’t hit the glass.
OK, you still with me? Doors are in place, transom box is installed, transom glass is installed into the middle of your transom window box… It should look something like this:
Let’s add some TRIM!
Cut plinth pieces for the bottom of your door jam. These are those weird little square pieces you see nailed in at the base of the door jam in the picture above. You can buy actual plinth pieces, but we just cut some 1×4 MDF to create these pieces. (It’s important to note this was EXACT 1×4. You want it to appear slightly wider/thicker than your other trim pieces).
The plinth should have 1/8th of an inch REVEAL. What does this mean? It’s easier to SHOW you.
(You can determine how much of a reveal you want. We decided to do 1/8th of an inch for the plinth and 1/4 of an inch for the side trim pieces.)
Next, measure from the top of the plinth to the top of the dry wall. Cut two 1×4 boards to fit either side. These are your side trim pieces. Secure these in place with brad nailer.
Next, measure from outer edge of the side trim to the opposite outer edge of side trim. Cut your 1×8 board to this measurment. This will be your top trim piece. Secure this in place with brad nailer.
OK, your side trim pieces and top trim piece are nailed in place. The rest of your trim pieces are mainly decorative.
The next step is to attach your cap trim piece. Using a 1×2 board, measure your top trim piece and add 1.5 inches so that your cap overlaps 3/4 inch per side. Attach this piece with brad nailer.
Under the cap piece, you will install your cove molding. The cove molding can be cut to the exact measurement of your top trim piece, however make your cuts 45 degrees off center.
Next attach the half round molding piece. You will cut this the same way you cut your cove molding. This piece will be nailed in right above the actual window. See the picture above.
Install your decorative molding piece. This is the piece that sits between the door frame and the transom window box frame.
After all your trim pieces are attached, fill ALL those nail holes!
Then, give everything a good sand with your orbitol sander to create a nice smooth finish. Once everything is sanded down, wipe the whole door frame situation down with a damp cloth.
The next step is to caulk all your seams so the doors look finished and cohesive.
Next, prime those doors!
PRO TIP: If your doors have plastic covering the window, leave it on! Then you don’t have to worry about getting paint on the window panes. If no plastic is in place, you can use THIS to make the painting process easier!
After your primer is dry, go ahead and paint your doors/trim! I used Sherwin Williams accessible beige in a semi gloss sheen. Two coats later and my doors looked fantastic!
It’s Time to Install your Cremone Bolts!
HERE are the bolts we used. I bought these from an Etsy seller and the quality is amazing! They are cast iron and heavy/good quality. The iron rod fits doors up to 9 ft but can be trimmed to size.
The other comment I would add is that this seller did not provide any instructions on installation. It may seem pretty straight forward but as we all know, anything DIY NEVER is. We watched a few youtube videos and finally got the idea of how to do it. The second one went on much faster!
Here is a bit pricier option from Signiture Hardware.
From an Etsy seller- this is an excellant unlacquered brass option!
And lastly, a lever handle option!
We popped a chalk line down the center of each door and made sure the line was perfectly level/centered. Then we started by installing the handles first. We didn’t put the handles perfectly in the center of the doors because it looked unnaturally high.
After installing the handles, we measured the rod lengths we needed. Add 1/4th of an inch to your total length because each end of the rod needs 1/8th of an inch extra length in order to bolt shut. We cut the rods with a hack saw. We then inserted the rods through the handles.
The last step was to install the decorative guide pieces. If you have issues figuring out how to get your doors to bolt, youtube has a lot of great videos on this.
Custom DIY French Doors with Character and Charm:
Just in summary:
We were quoted $7,000.00 or more for custom french doors including installation.
We bought builder grade french doors and added a DIY transom window, shaker style trim and antique style cremone bolts.
This entire project cost less than $2000.00!
Thanks for reading this far!
This was such a huge DIY and hard to remember every step and challenge we came up with while installing. If you have any questions while installing your own doors comment below! We are more than happy to share any info we gained along the way!