Project details Skill 3 out of 5 Moderate Cut and measure carefully for a seamless installation. So when This Old House general contractor Tom Silva set out to conceal the landing to homeowner Angela Daigle’s basement on the current season of TOH TV, the project seemed a perfect choice for her 1850 brick rowhouse.
Tom used butler-door hardware and chamfered notches to make a swinging door that disappears seamlessly into its surroundings when it’s closed. Similar to shown: Masonite Smooth Flush Hardwood Solid Core Interior Slab Door, about $65; homedepot.com.
Stops on factory-made jambs aren’t easily removed, so instead use ½-inch-thick furring strips to pad out the jamb on either side of the stop, then simply buy a narrower door to fit. Either way, make sure to fill any gaps or cracks with wood filler and sand the jamb smooth before beginning the project.
Use a Forstner bit to drill overlapping holes, and press the socket in place. The socket placement will move your door over by ½ inch, so you may need to rip it down to get it to fit in the jamb. Trace an outline for the spring hardware on the bottom corner of the door and use a jigsaw to cut out a notch.
Drop a plumb bob from the pin hole in the socket and mark the floor.
Position the door, slipping the pin into the socket and centering the spring hardware on the mark. The spring hardware stands proud of the door, so you’ll need to make a recess in the back of the board; to mark it, hold the baseboard in place and tap it with a hammer, creating an impression on the back.
Trace the outline for the recess and clamp the baseboard to your work surface, facedown. To allow the side stiles to butt against the baseboard, you’ll need to notch the base cap molding on the adjacent walls using a sharp chisel or an oscillating multitool fitted with a flush-cutting blade.
Hold a ½× scrap against the door wall, and use it as a guide to make the cut, as shown.
Now, measure from the top edge of your baseboard to the ceiling, and cut the stiles to length. Mark the head jamb where one side stile should cross it—concealing the gap but allowing the door to swing freely. Take a board that’s wider than necessary, plumb it against the wall, and make a second mark on the head jamb along its edge.
Re-plumb the board, and use the compass to scribe the wall-side edge, as shown. Cut along the line with a jigsaw or circular saw, creating the correct contour and width in one go. Use a level as a straightedge to trace the pattern for paneling onto the door and wall. This design calls for a center stile and four sets of intersecting rails. Adjust the depth so that the bit stops just shy of cutting through the face of the stile. Use a 1-inch wood chisel to clean up the notches, removing the material in the corners that the router bit can’t reach, as shown.
Run a bead of wood glue along the edge of the left-hand doorjamb and on the back of the stile. Press the stile into place, concealing the gap at the jamb, and tack it down, as shown.
Glue the back of the right rail, rest it on the strips, and tack it to the door, as shown. Measure and cut the ½×4 center stile to fit between the baseboard and the top of the door.
Apply wood glue to its back side, and press it onto the door, nestled against the two installed rails and butted against the baseboard. Measure, cut, and install a ½×6 rail to fit between the side stiles along the ceiling.
In this case, the top rail dies into a newel post, and a notched piece connects it on a diagonal to the right-hand side stile. Measure and cut the uppermost section of the center stile so that it extends below the jamb—allowing just enough clearance for the door to open. To do that, start by cutting the rail a little long, then dry-fit the piece with its corner overlapping the diagonal board.
Align a straightedge with the intersecting slope, and use it as a guide to mark your cutline with a utility knife, as shown. Glue and tack the rail with its bottom edge aligned with the end of the center stile you just installed, concealing the gap above the door.