We have some ultra-cheap hollow-core doors in our upstairs. They aren't real wood but this synthetic laminate with a raised wood-grain texture. Ugly things.

But, I'm cheap, and am trying to salvage them with paint before I throw in the towel and buy new ones. Any suggestions on the quickest way to smooth them down?

My first thought was to glop up on a thick coat of primer with a roller, let dry, sand (removing the primer from the raised part) then add a second coat, sand, then paint. Viable theory? Would a few coats of primer be enough to fill in a raised texture like that?

I was also thinking skim coating it with plaster, but I don't think the plaster would adhere to the plastic laminate surface. Plus, that sounds like more work that I wanted to invest in these things.

  • I wonder if a melamine paint would work...
    – Steven
    Aug 20, 2012 at 18:27
  • Interesting idea! It's self-leveling, so would fit the lazy factor perfectly. May not fit the cheap criteria, but it's definitely cheaper than new doors...
    – DA01
    Aug 20, 2012 at 18:35

5 Answers 5

  1. If it's the same door I'm thinking of, I don't think two coats of primer will do it. You'll need an actual crack filler.
  2. Bear in mind, if they're flat/slab doors, you can fully replace them with a luan veneer door pretty cheaply. Something like $45 per door last time I bought them. Not too far from the price of paint.
  3. Is the fake woodgrain so ugly that a nice coat of paint won't dress it up ok?
  • Well, the ultimate goal is to turn these into blackboards with blackboard paint (kid's room doors). If I can save them with paint, we'll keep them. Otherwise, I'll likely upgrade to real solid wood panel doors. For now, I'm thinking of 1) hitting the door with the orbital sander first, then primer, sand, primer. If the texture is still there, we'll just paint them white. Otherwise, they'll get the blackboard paint if it's smooth.
    – DA01
    Aug 20, 2012 at 18:54
  • You could cover one side of the door with white Masonite, and call it a dry-erase door...
    – Bob
    Aug 20, 2012 at 19:03
  • I gave up. the amount of sanding required to remove the grain leaves you with very little surface veneer left and ultimately still wasn't smooth enough. We opted for new $40-ish dollar mission style hollow-cores that look surprisingly nice.
    – DA01
    Sep 3, 2012 at 18:40

Melamine paints are self-leveling and create a durable, thick finish so I think it might work well in your scenario. That being said, they are not the cheapest paint and can be difficult to apply. I would imagine that you will need several coats to properly hide the grain.

Make sure that you have a good level surface to apply the paint and that you follow all of the directions as far as cleaning, priming, applying and drying.


You mentioned plaster in your question, however plaster is not an easy substance to use, but drywall compound is. You can easily smooth out those doors with a skim coat or two of compound. Clean the doors with an abrasive cleanser like Comet, Ajax, etc. Apply a thin coat of compound with a 8 to 12 inch knife. Two thin coats will work better than one thicker coat. Sand lightly between coats. Carefully and lightly sand the last coat smooth with 220 or 400 grit sandpaper on a block or DA sander. Seal the smooth surface with a PVA primer, then you can paint it with any regular latex paint you like. I have done this many times on old textured doors with good success. Good luck.


I would either use some body putty from an auto body garage. or buy some glass fibre resin and hardener... mix and pour the resin in the gaps. let it self level, then sand with a flat sanding block...

After the surface is smooth.. you can apply a coat of wood primer with a fine sponge roller then one or two coats of oil based paint..

thereafter you can apply your blackboard paint.

  • edit... if you can concerned that the resin will come off. maybe you could drill a few small holes into the grooved area, so that the resin can take a good hold.

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New, hollow-core interior doors are $22 from Home Depot. They will size them if you give them the dimensions (remove your old doors and measure), or you can trim them yourself. We did our whole house for the same reason you did - change wood grain to smooth.

  • This gets the answer! (oops, just noticed Bob beat you by one day). I tried various sanding/priming and all I did was waste a ton of time. We ended up at Lowes and found some rather nice Mission style hollow core doors pre-hung for $35. It's really hard to justify spending time fixing the old hollow core doors at that price. ;)
    – DA01
    Sep 3, 2012 at 18:37

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