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Customise a hollow core door with glass panel

I have done quite a few projects that look at how to dress up a plain hollow core door. These doors are bargains and you can pick them up for about R300 at your local Builders. Sometimes even cheaper than that if they are on special. But they are also pretty boring. I'm going to show you another way to dress up a standard hollow core door by cutting and fitting a frosted glass panel into the door.


I have a double-storey house and the passage on the lower level that connects all the bedrooms and the bathroom is dark, as there are no windows and no place to fit windows. After thinking through various options I finally decided to fit a glass panel to a standard hollow core door, and that would let in lots of natural light. The glass will be sprayed with Rust-Oleum Frosted Glass spray, so privacy won't be a problem.

1. Your standard hollow core doors are longer than the height of the door and you will need to cut away a section at the bottom of the door to fit. To do this, measure the height of the existing door and transfer this onto the new door. I am cutting away a section at the bottom using a circular saw.

Since it's only a small section the guide won't work, so ensure I cut a straight line I clamp a steel ruler as a guide. Make sure that the blade of the saw is in perfect alignment for cutting off the correct amount. You don't  want a huge gap at the bottom of the door.

2. The cheaper hollow core doors don't have as much timber support at the bottom, as would a more expensive door. When you cut away the bottom of the door you are left with cardboard supports. But to fix this problem you only need a length of 32 x 32mm PAR pine.

3. Cut the 32 x 32mm pine to fit snugly into the gap at the bottom of the door and use a hammer to tap this into position.

4. Squeeze in some Ponal wood glue between the pine and the door frame. Ponal is best because it has a runny consistency and a small nozzle that allows you to get into a small gap easily.

5. Wipe away any excess glue that oozes out before it has chance to dry. 

It's essential to clamp the bottom of the door until the glue has dried.

6. I measured in 200mm from the top, bottom and side edges on both sides of the door. This is where the glass panel will be fitted.

7.  I used my Dremel DSM20 to do this. You can use a Jigsaw if you don't have a DSM20, but only use a laminate cutting blade to avoid ripping the edges of the board. Line up the cutting blade with your mark and then clamp a straightedge or steel rule at the top and bottom to act as a guide for cutting a straight line. 

Using the Dremel DSM20 was quick and easy to door, and after finishing one side the door was turned over to do the other side. 

As with the bottom of the door, the inside is filled with cardboard supports. This doesn't give the door much strength and will need additional supports added.

8. For the bottom of the door and the centre frame I used a total of two 32 x32 x 1800mm lengths of pine. I cut pieces to fit inside the frame at the top and bottom, and to butt up against the corners down both sides.

9. Since I will be adding a frame around the centre opening, I used my Bosch Tacker to secure the frame to the pine supports. Any staples will be hidden out of sight by the framing. 

10. The frame consists of 3mm supawood that is 40mm wide and cut to length to fit the top, bottom and sides. These pieces were glued in place using Pattex No More Nails adhesive. If there are any gaps where there is no pine support it's important to apply glue along the panel edges.

Clamp the panels in place for about an hour.

11. To cover up the staples and add a decorative frame, more 3mm x 40mm strips were glued around the outside of the frame on the front and back of the door using Pattex No More Nails adhesive. 

12. To finish off the decorative effect, pine moulding was cut to fit around the outside edge of the frame. The corners were cut at a 45-degree angle to give a nice professional touch.

13. Although the moulding was glued down, the strips were slightly warped and I needed to add a few panel pins along the length.

14. To hold the glass panel in place, a frame was glued inside the cut out using 12mm quarter-rounds.

15. The door was sprayed using my Bosch PFS spray system and three coats of Plascon Polvin, finishing off with two coats of clear acrylic sealer. I used this because I already had some paint leftover, but you can substitute with Plascon Double Velvet, or roll on Plascon Velvaglo water-based enamel paint.

16. Because I don't want to be able to see through the glass panel, 3 coats of Rust-Oleum Frosted Glass spray - sea glass - were sprayed on one side of the glass panel.

If you are worried about safety, you have the option to use safety glass for this project, or to replace the frosted glass spray with a layer of transparent, self-adhesive vinyl that you can buy at your local Builders store or get in touch with to find a local stockist.

17. The glass was gently placed in the opening and a few small panel pins hammered in around the back to ensure that the glass was firmly placed.

To avoid scratching the glass with your hammer, pop a piece of paper on top of the glass where you hammer and slightly angle the pins to make it easier to hammer them in.

18. To finish off I used Pattex Sanitary Silicone - white - and a Pattex profiler to seal around the edge of the glass panel.

I love the new door, and the passage is so much lighter and brighter during the day.


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