It was in the 2000 big-screen blockbuster “Charlie’s Angels” that one angel, Alex, played by Lucy Liu, displayed her lack of baking skills. To woo her boyfriend, Alex whipped up blueberry muffins. The baked goods turned out to be better weapons than enticers. One of the angels hurled one across a room, only to have it lodge in a hollow-core door. The other angels appropriately dubbed Alex’s quick breads “Chinese Fighting Muffins.”
Muffins aside, if the doors in your home are hollow and you have kids, chances are you’ve had to, or someday will have to, repair a hole in a door. Besides its unsightly appearance, such a hole can be embarrassing.
Most post-World War II homes have hollow-core doors. The core of the door usually consists of pieces of cardboard crisscrossed on end for rigidity and modest acoustic value. The door is then finished on both sides with a one-eighth-inch layer of veneer plywood or hardboard.
The method used to repair a hole in a hollow-core door depends upon whether the door is painted or stained. Patching a painted door is easier because the paint does a better job of concealing the repair. That doesn’t mean, however, that patching a stained door is impossible. And although a replacement hollow-core door isn’t particularly expensive, replacing one (mortising for hinges and drilling holes for the hardware) can be complicated.
Thus, before tossing the damaged door, try repairing it first.
Begin by removing as much of the damaged material as possible. Use a utility knife with a sharp blade to trim the edge of the hole. Next, loop a cord through a piece of wire screen that is slightly larger that the size of the hole. Push the screen into the hole and use the cord to pull the screen flush to the inside of the door. Holding the cord taut, use a putty knife to apply a quick-drying patching compound to the surface of the screen. Trowel the material to just below the finished surface of the door. Tie the cord to a small wooden dowel or to a pencil that is long enough to bridge the patch. This will prevent the wire screen from moving.
Once the patching compound has dried, cut the cord and remove the dowel. Apply a coat of spackling compound over the base repair, allow it to dry, and then sand. Since spackling compound tends to shrink, a second coat usually is required. Sand the second coat smooth, spot-prime the area and paint the entire door.
Our second repair technique uses expandable foam in a can in place of the wire screening. Start by removing the damage, as described earlier. Shoot some minimum-expanding foam into the hole. Use enough to fill the hole, but don’t overdo it. Be prepared for some of the foam to ooze out. When the foam hardens, carefully use a sharp razor blade to trim away the excess so that the foam is slightly below the surface of the door. Finish the job by applying a coat or two of spackling compound over the foam. Sand, prime and paint.
Both of these repair methods can be used to repair a wood-veneer door that is stained ... with one exception. Instead of priming the patch and painting the entire door, spot-prime the patch with a primer tinted to match the stain color. Use a small artist’s brush to “faux finish” the patch to match the grain and stain of the existing finish. Also, wood filler can be used in place of spackling compound when patching a wood-veneer door. Wood filler, however, won’t take stain exactly like the wood around it.
If a door is badly damaged or you aren’t happy with your repair, apply a new veneer to the door. This is called “re-skinning” the door. Simply pop the door off the hinges and lay it on a couple of saw horses in your garage or workshop. Remove the hardware and hinges, rough-sand the damaged face, and apply contact cement to both the face of the door and the back side of the veneer. Allow the contact cement to become tacky and then place the veneer over the door. Cover the surface with some heavy books to allow the adhesive to set up, then trim the excess with a utility knife or pin router. Sand the edge smooth and stain to match the rest of the door.