I have a solid wood entry door installed by the previous owner of the house. However, it doesn't match the mid-century style of the house and it doesn't have any windows; making the front entryway very dark. I would like to go back to the style of the home without breaking the bank.

I'm interested in a simple flush slab door in solid wood with a few narrow windows (lites). Like the door in the picture. I've looked at a few manufactures that make doors like this but the quotes I've got are all $1400-1700 range. This is quite a bit more than I was hoping to spend.

I was wondering if there is a DIY solution. I'm going to be painting the door so I don't need a beautiful stain grade finish. Can I get a 1 3/4" thick plywood sheet cut to size, install hinges, bore holes for the handles and cut out squares to install the glass lites? If 1 3/4" plywood doesn't exist can I laminate two or three sheets of thinner together with screws and/or glue? The door is under a carport and we live in a relatively mild climate but it will be subjected to some rain/freezing so I wan't something that will survive.

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  • 1
    you could cut holes in your existing door for the glass, that may make the thing cheaper if most of the quotes you got was for the materials Oct 28, 2014 at 20:25
  • The old door is a fairly ornate multi panel door with a much more traditional look. There isn't much space to cut the holes and it would look very funny. The quotes were for complete doors ready to hang.
    – s0rce
    Oct 28, 2014 at 20:38
  • 1
    you may be able to send you current door in for a trade and save yourself some money. one man's trash; another's treasure and all that Oct 28, 2014 at 20:43
  • The door pictured (with windows in it, next to the handle) offers absolutely no security, whatsoever.
    – Mazura
    Oct 29, 2014 at 1:04
  • What are the dimensions? Over-sized doors are much more expensive then a standard pre-hung door (an option if you're willing to lose space framing the opening) The door pictured does not strike me as out of the question costing 2k, installed. As noted in the answers, framing a door is not within your skill-set. (I only do pre-hung, too)
    – Mazura
    Oct 29, 2014 at 1:15

4 Answers 4


It is of course possible for an individual to make a door that provides a normal level of performance. The probability that a person without knack for or reasonable experience performing finish carpentry is, however, rather low.

To perform to a normal level, a door needs to fit within a tight tolerance and maintain dimensional stability without twisting or warping. Typically, doors which are not manufactured in a factory are fabricated in a professional carpenter's workshop. It's not really a do it yourselfer's project given the standard to that appears in the photograph.

As an alternative, a used doors from local building recyclers are a reasonable option if a person is patient and diligent. Modifying an existing used door is another option that requires less specialized knowledge.


Honestly, building an exterior door is not a DIY project. It's more complex than you would think, especially if your planning on having it be lighted (with windows). As for building it out of plywood, even if you had a way to press it up properly (a vacuum press) it would not stay flat long term.

Hands down your best bet is going to be finding an appropriate replacement at a salvage yard. Even if you can't find one that's exactly the right size, it's possible to re-size a solid core door (within reason). I bought both my front door and back entry door at our local building salvage yard for $45 each. The front door was 3 panel with a leaded glass window so it was a real find, but it just goes to show what you an find if you look. Cheers!


This would be only moderately difficult to reproduce on your own:

  1. Buy a slab exterior door. This will be $200-300. If you can't find it for that price, look harder.

  2. Frame the door plus the left panel. $50

  3. Cut out panels in door (probably jigsaw). Free

  4. Hang door. Free

  5. Add trim panels on outside surface. Might need something custom unless you want some rather thick trim. $50-150

  6. Buy glass. You can also have craigslist glass cut for you. Most places would make these cuts for probably $60-100 total. Probably double that to do it new, especially with frosted.

So you can get it as low as $350. But you have to buy the door. Unless you are a door maker or want to spend a year figuring out how to do it properly this part is non-negotiable. (Also buy the time you figure out how to make a door right, I am positive you will blow through more money on materials - not even counting your time)


Making a door isn't that bad. You want a uniform material to work with. I would suggest a 5 layer door made out of 5/8" oriented strand board, glued and screwed together. Set 1.25 x 3.5" (2x4 planed down) into each edge to handle hinge screws, and lock set.

Outer surface is 1/4" GIS fir or baltic birch. If you can find a 1/8 material you like, you can use 3/4" osb instead.

If you have worked with countertop laminates, do this the same way. Apply contact cement to both surfaces let dry to no tack. Put thin strips of wood on the core, (be sure they are clean. Doesn't take much of a piece of grit to muss up the bond) Position the top layer on the spreaders. Check your alignment, remove the end spreader and allow the glue faces to contact. Now remove the next spreader, and push into contact.

PRACTICE this without the glue twice before doing it for real.

Cut slightly oversize, then use a laminate trimmer router to bring the edge down to to the rest of the door. This will give you room to slip a 16th of an inch while doing the glue up.

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