How to update plain wooden sliding closet doors

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How to update plain wooden sliding closet doors
Panels on flat doors (kitchen doors image by willem169 from

Many homes built from the 1950s to 1980s had luan-finished doors. Luan is a type of thin plywood. This style of door was very minimal and flush, and often the doors were stained. Because the surface of the door was luan, some doors were rough to the touch and the pores of the plywood felt open. This type of door is easy to update by adding the appearance of panels to the door, and refinishing it in an updated colour.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Orbital sander
  • Tack cloth
  • Tape measure
  • 1/4-inch by 3-inch trim boards
  • Table saw
  • Sanding block
  • Wood clamps
  • Caulk

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  1. 1

    Remove the door from the closet. Place the door on sawhorses in a well-ventilated workspace. Sand the door on all sides using an orbital sander. Wipe clean with a tack cloth.

  2. 2

    Select a modern panel design for the door. Cut two pieces of 1/4-inch by 3-inch trim boards the width of the door. Position the trim at the top and bottom of the door. Measure between the pieces and cut two pieces to trim the sides of the door. Measure between the side pieces and cut two pieces. Dry fit your pieces. Your door should appear to have three panels of the same size. Lightly sand the edges of your pieces with a sanding block.

  3. 3

    Apply carpenter's glue to the back of each piece of wood. Install your top and bottom boards first. Install your side boards second and your boards inside last. Clamp with wood clamps to hold the trim in place for 24 hours.

  4. 4

    Caulk along the seams and gaps after both sides of the door have been panelled and then paint in an updated colour.

Tips and warnings

  • Faux raised panels are also easy to create for more traditional style homes. Keep the profile of the trim low if your doors bypass.

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