I'm restoring the door to my dumb waiter. The door is 1" thick, plywood core, tin exterior (1/32"); the door is original and dates back to 1939. I want to make the door completely flat, then paint it, but I'm not sure how to fill in the recessed panel such that is does'nt warp or crack later. The panel is 36" x 7", 7/8" deep.

My first thought was to use something solid, like MDF, to fill in most of the space, then use fiberglass or metal-reinforced bondo to fill in whatever space remained; apply another coat of fiberglass/bondo on the entire face of the door, sand, paint, done. Is that a good solution?

enter image description here

UPDATE 11/02/2020

I never filled the recessed panel. I left the door as-is and just refinished it. Sanded down to bare metal, filled holes with metal-reinforced Bondo, and cut-out a section to installed a recessed pull. Before priming, I cleaned the metal with Klean-Strip Prep-All, then primed with SEM High Build Primer Surfacer. Lightly sanded primer before spraying with Rustoluem Metallic Bronze and Metallic Rust (the recessed panel is Rust). Waited two days to cure, then sanded very lightly, removed dust with tack cloth, then sprayed clear coat using USC Spraymax Matte Clearcoat 3680065. It's a two-part clear coat that you mix in the can before using. I've had issues using Rustoleum Crystal Clear Enamel as it tends to lift the color coat if too much is applied. Spraymax does not have that issue.

The finished door with surrounding aluminum/pine molding and trim for a completely finished and professional look.

enter image description here

  • 8
    I think it makes more sense to construct a replacement door and store this beautiful antique for potential use by the next occupant. A sheet of MDF with several coats of paint will probably not warp. Nov 5, 2017 at 2:53
  • 4
    @A.I.Breveleri I agree 100%. Please make a new door rather than attempting to alter this one.
    – jqning
    Nov 5, 2017 at 4:07
  • Did you ever get this resolved? If so, please give a check-mark to the answer or write up your own answer explaining what you did to get it fixed and give yourself a check mark. That will help others with this kind of problem know that this has a resolution and is a good place to look for their answer. (Please tell me this is in storage and you've made a new, flat plain door...)
    – FreeMan
    Aug 6, 2020 at 20:08
  • Well, he had to let the paint dry. Nov 3, 2020 at 5:39
  • 1
    That's an excellent Answer you posted as an "update". Please move it to the answer box then give yourself a check mark once the system allows it (24 hours, I think). Well done and thanks for coming back!
    – FreeMan
    Nov 3, 2020 at 13:36

1 Answer 1


Something to keep in mind with this dumb waiter door is that because of the vertical shaft and what terrible things vertical shafts can do with fire; that is why the metal door is installed there, to forestall the spread of fire.

You could over-lay this door with good quality 1/8" or 3/16" plywood, say Baltic Birch or Mahogany. Install ribs in the void to fill; or you could use a filler panel the right size. No need for bondo, the plywood can easily span an inch.
Use the proper adhesive compatible with the substrates. Weight the whole thing for 24-hours for the glue to set. You will need to adjust your hinges slightly to accommodate the difference in depth. Then paint to you hearts content.

  • For some reason this question came up in the first page of questions again. I was sitting pondering how to answer it, coming up with replacement wood doors. Fire did not come anywhere into my mind. Really good thought!! +1 Aug 20, 2023 at 18:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.