Someone punched my wooden door. Now it has a giant dent in it.
The dent is similar to this one. Fortunately, it's a bit less severe than this. How can I "pop" the dent back out?
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You can't. Wood doesn't "pop back out". The wood is actually broken.
If you just want to repair it structurally, then filling in with something like a suitable epoxy and sanding would work.
Getting it to look like the undamaged original will be impossible or very difficult at best. This is due to the grain, and no replacement piece of wood having the same matching grain pattern.
The best try would be to very carefully get the pieces of the wood back into their original positions. Then open the cracked areas again a little, carefully insert some wood glue, back to original position, and somehow clamp or hold in that position until the glue dries. Then you still have to sand the result to make it smooth, and hope the few inevitable interruptions in the grain won't be too noticeable.
Ditto what Olin said. But here is another option:
Hollow core doors are probably the cheapest thing that can be replaced in a home. Brand new from a big box home improvement store for approx. $40 or if you have any "Habitat for Humanity ReStore" stores in your area, for much less.
Even if you do patch the door, you will always see that patch.
Heck, if you go to a ReStore type place, you can even pick up a solid core door so the next time someone punches the door, the hand will be the issue. BTW and just throwing this out there, drywall is the cheapest thing to replace in a home.
I have successfully repaired a stain-grade hollow core door very much like the one you have pictured that received a jagged puncture about 3" in diameter. On close examination you can see that it was damaged but it's not noticeable to a casual observer in the room. You will need a can of low-expansion Right Stuff spray foam, some masking tape, a clear sealing acrylic finish and some permanent felt markers close to the color of the wood finish.
The first thing to do is to unmount the door and put it horizontally on sawhorses so you can work on it. Don't try to do this in place.
Next is to save or retrieve any loose pieces of door skin that blew out or into the interior of the door. You'll want them for the jigsaw-puzzle-like reassembly - the more original material the better. If they were marred by the impact clean them or sand off the scuff.
Next is to carefully pry up any still-attached pieces of the door skin so they are slightly convex relative to the door skin.
Now you will fully agitate the Right Stuff foam and carefully fill the area inside the door below the breaking point. You want to fill up an area of the door slightly larger in diameter than the hole but no so much that it is coming OUT of the hole. Be careful since the foam is nasty stuff and any excess will stick to everything - but sticking to the INSIDE of the door skin is what you want.
You must use the low expansion version of the Right Stuff product because you need some working time to fold the still-attached pieces of door skin back to a co-planar position with the door face, and as the foam slowly expands you will fill in as many of the broken shards of door skin as possible back into the foam in their original positions. BEFORE the foam has a chance to fully expand beyond the face of the door you are going to cover the entire area of the repair with masking tape. This holds the shards in place and prevents the foam from expanding outward beyond the door skin, instead expanding horizontally within the door. Wait for the foam to stop expanding and then cure.
Once the foam is cured, you can remove the masking tape, and all the broken pieces of door skin will be adhered to and fixed in place by the foam, hopefully coplanar with the door skin and with as few actual gaps of exposed foam as possible. Where the foam expanded beyond the cracks onto the face of the door you can carefully scrape or sand it off.
The foam is a yellowish color and hopefully close to the tone of the blonde wood shown in the photo (our door was clear birch.) This is now where you are going to use the permanent markers - one or two colors - to stain the foam closer to the actual wood color. It may be tricky to find markers of the correct color, but we had them around the house (graphic artists) - you may have to take a loose shard of the door skin to the art supply store to get a match. (Alternatively, you might be able to find a wood stain that matches.) We used the markers to match the color of the wood AND to actually draw in a bit of simulated darker wood grain.
Finally, brush the acrylic sealer over the area that was repaired to make the areas of foam and the sanded areas more uniform wth the rest of the door. Several coats may be required. You will need to match the existing finish - matte or glossy, which is more difficult - and it's entirely likely you'll have to put a coat on the entire face of the door if you don't get a good match. Let it cure FULLY and then rehang the door.
Good luck! :)
If you want to get really fancy, you could highlight the difference rather than trying to obscure it.
Fitting an inlay of contrasting wood could make the patch into artwork rather than the repair it is.
An inlay of different wood:
You would want to cut the punchhole out till its a clear and regular hole, a circle might be easiest. Then feed some backing wood in through the hole and glue it inside the void to provide support. Then from scrap timber cut a pattern to fill the hole. Finally glue it all in, sand and varnish the entire side of the door.
Or burninate the wood to show a picture and disguise the patch that way.
Images are ideas, not examples.
You cannot fix this door in the manner you describe. You can patch the hole but the patch will look almost as bad as the original hole. At that point the only aesthetically pleasing solution would be to paint the door.
This makes the door look good - but whether it looks good in the entire scheme of things is another question.
If its low-down, a kick rather than a punch, then you could skin the lower part with a kickplate which would cover the hole. This might be something you'd see on a door that gets a lot of use, like a school classroom or a restaurant kitchen door. Chromed steel or aluminium, or a thin piece of wood could do. RISK is if its the side that faces the jamb, you will have to leave space for the door to press against the jamb rather than being full-coverage.
This would also work if the hole could conceivably be covered by a hand push plate, but most internal doors wouldn't need this.
One option worth considering is to cut out a square around the damaged portion - the idea is instead of a jagged, irregular hole, you get a clean, regular hole. The wood used on hollow-core doors is likely to splinter, so be gentle - maybe use a dremel instead of a saw, and if you use a saw, more teeth is better.
Now find a piece of wood that fits - perhaps a small piece of dimensional lumber, or a piece of hardwood plywood. Cut a piece that fits the nice hole you just cut. The goal here is to build a "plug" that fits in that hole with a very tiny gap around it, just enough space to fill in with a thin layer of glue. Ideally, the wood grain would be vaguely similar, but it will be nearly impossible to find a perfect match.
Next, find a stain to use on that plug that matches the rest of the door as closely as possible. Stain the face of the plug that will be visible, plus a little extra around the edges. Once dry, use wood glue around the edges and put it in the hole. Wipe away any excess. If the plug is deep enough, you can actually glue it to the other side of the door for extra support.
You cannot get this to look brand new by repairing it, but you can likely get it close enough. If that is not satisfactory, then replacing the door slab is cheap and easy. The potential problem there is instead of a small portion of the door not matching the rest of the door, the entire door might not match the rest of the doors in the house.
This assumes that the door is wood-grain like in the picture: if it is a painted door, this is easy. Repair it like I said, then paint over the area with whatever paint matches the door. It might be worth expoxying and sanding the edges where the plug meets the door first, however, to get a smooth finish to the pain can truly hide it. For a wood-stained finish that is less important, but can still be done.
For a decent-looking, though far from invisible repair, I would recommend Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty. Just follow directions on the can. This will only cost a few dollars, look a lot better than a hole, and take no more than 15 minutes. While you're at the hardware store you might want to get a plastic putty knife a little wider than the hole. Both the putty and the knife will be reusable for future holes.
If you want to make it look like it never happened, I don't believe there is any method both cheap and easy. But if you do want to try to pull it back into place, I don't think a coat hanger is stiff enough. A small Allen wrench (about a 1/8") would probably be, since it's tool steel. Of course this will leave a hole at least the diameter of the Allen wrench (so you'll still need the putty). You'd need a pliers to grip the wrench adequately. Any wood glue would do but would require pulling on the Allen wrench for about a half hour while the glue sets. Clear 5-minute epoxy might work, if you can avoid getting it on the surface of the door -- excess won't wash off with water like fresh wood glue. And don't glue your Allen wrench in place.
A vise grips and a couple wooden wedges might hold the Allen wrench taut for you, making it feasible to use wood glue (even Elmer's)-- make sure you have everything within reach before you get started. Your wedges have to span the hole while fitting between the door and the vise grip jaws. If you can get it all set, then wipe excess glue with a wet cloth or sponge. This sounds delicate, so don't let anyone use the door during the dry time! When dry, sand very lightly only where needed with extra fine sand paper, so as not to spoil more finish than necessary, just enough to smooth the inevitable crack a bit.
How were your "friend's" knuckles after this incident?
I guess this is what Ed Beal suggested already, to reskin the door. If it truly looks like your photo, you can get a sheet of wood like that, about 1/4 in, and cover the entire side of the door. You might be able to get it cut to size at the store. Glue it and tack it. You can probably remove the tacks if you don't put them all the way in. It might fit tight if its on the closing side of the door.
Following the answers here, it is apparent that there will be no simple, quick, cheap repair that works well. Financially, it's a write-off.
Repair will always show, particularly with the grain as it is, it's impossible to match up, and if the 'missing' part is pulled out, the break will be there showing for ever.
A contrasting panel, as big as needed, can be glued on, perhaps with some tasteful quadrant round its edges. Or, a glass panel inset, straight through, or on the offending side. Or, a picture screwed onto the door - not hung. Most of these solutions will not involve taking off the door. If it has to come off, the time effort and money will be better spent on a replacement. Unless it has to match another door in the same room, when maybe two insets could be used - one on each door.
Hollow core doors are cheap first off, and any serious repair will most likely not be worth your time and money.
A patch for wood?
I'm sure such a thing exists but I doubt it's easy to use and getting it to set correctly on a hollow door would present its challenges due to only having access to one side. No doubt there is many other convoluted ways. Sometimes those are fun so I'm gonna discuss that as well. One that I considered briefly was laminate flooring held to each side of the door via some sort of suitable adhesive, and that would definitely be something cool if you wanted to change the appearance of the door. Perhaps with wood slats or squares or something else unique. This would present some challenges though I'm sure, such as not being able to cover the other sides of the door and it looking slightly funky on the top and sides.
In the end, if you want to fix it like a normal person your better off buying a new door. You can reuse the hinges and door knob as long as your sure to get the same size door.