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One of the reasons I was really excited to replace the bifold doors on my pantry was so that I could add some storage to the inside of the doors for spices, medications, foil and plastic wrap, etc. I worked on these on and off over a week or two and I don’t feel like my pictures do a great job of explaining the process, but I was heavily influenced by this and this from Shanty-2-Chic so if you want to see how someone who actually knows what she’s doing made something similar you can click over there.

So I started with some 1×3 boards that I already had (they used to be slats for a bed that we no longer have, but I pried out the staples and saved the wood).

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The boards were 30″ long so I cut them down into a bunch of 10″ pieces (to fit nicely on our 13″ wide doors). Then I used a 1/2″ spade bit to drill two holes in eight of the pieces. I clamped them together and drilled several simultaneously both to save time and because the exit hole seemed to always get torn up really badly. By clamping them together I had fewer boards with a lot of damage to sand down.

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See how the top board on this stack is kind of messy but the one lower down has a nice clean hole? That’s why I clamped them together. Also in this photo you can see a 1/2″ wood cap (sold near the dowels at Lowe’s) that I later used to cover each hole.

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To assemble each unit, I put two drilled pieces perpendicular to the ends of a piece that had not been drilled, then secured it with nails and glue. Unfortunately the boards were too thick for the 3/4″ brads in my brad gun so I had to hammer them, which was kind of hard.

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Then I put a 1/2″ dowel that I’d cut to length through each set of holes and finished each end with a bit of glue and a wood cap. The piece pictured below was for foil/plastic wrap, but for the spice racks I added an additional shelf.

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I primed them, painted them, then attached some painted pieces of 1/4″ plywood (also from my scrap stash) to the back with more nails and glue. I also drilled two holes in the back of each for hanging.

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I attached them to the pantry doors with a screw through each of those holes I’d just drilled. It took some adjustment to get the positioning right so that they wouldn’t bump into each other while opening and closing, but once I had them in just the right spot my celebration was short-lived because I wasn’t pleased with the rough edge of the plywood.

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I couldn’t find any trim that was small enough at Lowe’s, so I picked up these wood sticks at the craft store and cut them using a pair of wire snips.

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I used them to trim out the edge of the plywood, attaching them with glue and the occasional nail and then applying wood filler to the edges.

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Then I just used a small brush to paint the trim and voila! My new pantry storage!

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I went through my spices as I moved them and ended up throwing most of them away because they were expired by a year or more. That’s okay because now we’re down to just the ones we use the most and it freed up room for some medications/vitamins that we take daily.

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Moving all of this stuff to the pantry doors was part of my master plan to make room for the cutting boards under the area where we actually prep food and to pave the way for the microwave in the pantry. I’ve still got a couple more projects to do in there, including possibly starting from scratch with the door hinges because the one on the left is still not closing properly–I guess the reason why doors come prehung is because it can be hard to get right!

My undergraduate studies took me through a wide range of the social sciences and liberal arts. I was an English major with a concentration in Secondary Ed, but I took sociology classes every chance I got and I even took five semesters of German (guten Tag!). Anyway, in one of my sociology classes I learned about the broken windows theory of criminology. It’s controversial and I’m not sure I agree with its implications, but the gist of it is that petty crime and disorder create an atmosphere conducive to more serious crime. One broken window that doesn’t get fixed leads to more broken windows, which leads to a sense that nobody really cares and that it’s okay to treat the neighborhood and the people who live in it with disrespect. This theory is great when it motivates people to clean up blighted neighborhoods, not so great when cops start cracking down on petty crime in the hopes that it’ll scare away the big fish (but that’s just my opinion). Anyway, I broke this pane of glass on our front door on Christmas Eve as we were rushing out of the house. We taped some cardboard up over it and figured we’d deal with it after the holidays.

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Super classy.

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We put off fixing it for three months and in that time:

  • our washing machine broke
  • our new washing machine broke and we waited more than a month for the part to repair it
  • our pipes froze and sprung a leak
  • unrelated to the freeze, the pipe that drains from our kitchen sink corroded and the plumber had to cut away a section of our exterior to replace the whole operation (which was really peculiarly installed and prone to clogs, so it’s much better now but that didn’t make it any easier to drop $700 on something we can’t even see)

The good news is that this is a part of the house that nobody ever sees. I actually had to walk around to the alley and between two fences to get here. Literally nobody can see this unless they are in this difficult-to-access spot on purpose. The bad news is that the plumber just temporarily put everything back in place and it’s up to us to actually repair the siding.

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Two different types of siding meet just a few feet away from here. Note additional chaos: weeds and filth (algae? mildew?). And I see another spot of messed up siding over there in the corner.

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Old houses are so charming and full of character, but you’ve got to stay on top of them. One neglected problem can quickly snowball, just like disorder in a troubled neighborhood. Things seem to have been getting away from us lately and to distract ourselves from the expensive new roof that’s looming in our future we decided to finally tackle the front door. It was actually so much cheaper and easier than we’d anticipated! The glass was only about $4 and cut to size for free at Lowe’s. Not pictured: a hammer to help us use the flathead screwdriver as a chisel and remove old nails.

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Step one: use a utility knife to score the paint over the moldings. This is about as far as Nick got before I kicked him out and took over.

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Next, I used a screwdriver and a hammer to gently, carefully chisel the very old wood molding loose. I tried not to let it get too torn up but a certain amount of damage was inevitable. I’m pretty sure these doors are original to the house and thus nearly a century old.

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The nails holding them in stayed in the frame even after I’d tugged the moldings free. I waited until I had all the moldings and glass out to use the claw of my hammer to pull them.

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Bam. Moldings gone and we could carefully remove the broken glass. This was surprisingly satisfying.

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I could lie and say that I popped my new glass in and replaced the moldings and it was so easy! But actually even though I’d told the lady at Lowe’s “Well, I measured the opening to be six and a quarter by twelve and a quarter but it probably needs to be a little bigger to fit properly,” it turns out I should’ve been more specific because she cut it to exactly 6.25″x12.25″ and it was too small. I had to go back to Lowe’s but luckily they let me return it with no problem and I was back home in no time with a new piece. This time I asked them to cut it to 6.75″ by 12.75″ and it fit so perfectly that I had to carefully coax it into the frame, diligently removing any splinters or scraps that stood in its way.

Also, a piece of molding near the bottom right had always been missing (disguised previously with paint on the glass) so Nick cut a tiny piece of scrap beadboard to length and it was just right. I used some caulk and my brad gun to carefully tack all the molding to the frame and then filled all the gaps and cracks with caulk.

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After the caulk had dried I touched up the paint (luckily I just painted this door last summer) and still had the paint on hand). Now it looks not good as new, but old and charming and not broken.

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So, now that my front door no longer screams DISREPAIR maybe the rest of the house will get its act together? We’re working on the kitchen currently but next is fixing up the deck, then cleaning and repairing the siding, replacing the roof (gulp), and hopefully if things go well repainting the exterior trim. Home ownership is bittersweet.

I realize that this is a rather uncommon problem and that a tutorial on how I resolved it is unlikely to benefit many of my regular readers, but since I had such a hard time figuring it out and couldn’t find any guidance online I figured that maybe somebody out there might find it helpful. In the photo below you can see that the undersides of the two upper cabinets in my kitchen were left unfinished. This probably wouldn’t be a big deal except for A) the cork-like surface that was exposed was kind of gross and B) I have an under-cabinet stemware rack that can only be installed on a more sturdy surface. When we first moved into this house I rigged it up with a piece of scrap wood but it never looked right and so I took it down when I started working on the kitchen a few months ago.

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It’s taken me that long to figure out what to do here. My first thought was to install some 3/4″ plywood using pocket holes to attach it to the frame. When I bought plywood for the DIY pantry doors I had Nick cut a couple of pieces to fit under the cabinets, but it turned out that it was actually too thick. I wasn’t devastated because I don’t know how to drill pocket holes anyway.

Once I decided to use thinner plywood, I needed to figure out how to attach it. I was thrilled when I came up with the idea to screw a small block cut from scrap wood into each corner and use it to attach the plywood.

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I secured each block to the frame of the cabinet with two screws. The bright light from the window makes it difficult to see, but the trim around the edge of the cabinet comes down a little further than the frame so the blocks are kind of hidden up there.

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This created a perfect setup to attach some 1/2″ thick plywood with a screw into each block! On this particular cabinet I added an additional screw in the center since there was a piece of the frame available. The other cabinet has no center support but it’s not as wide so I’m confident that the four corners will suffice.

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I think that the 4′x2′ piece of plywood was about $17 at Lowe’s.

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Now that they’re painted white they blend right in, which is exactly what I was going for.

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The stemware rack used to hang on the right side, but I’m planning to mount it between the refrigerator and the paper towels this time. We’ve rearranged some things as part of the recent changes and all of our drinking glasses are now in that cabinet. Makes sense to keep like with like, right? Plus I like having the knives and mixer over on the other side where they’re adjacent to the main food prep area. Once I finish up another project I’m working on in the pantry I’ll have room for the microwave in there and the wine glasses can go back to hanging neatly instead of sitting out on the counter.

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It’s so funny that I spent so long trying to figure out this solution and making it way more complicated than it needed to be, but when I finally came up with a good idea it took me only a couple of hours to knock it out by myself. It’s one of those little things that nobody would ever notice but the cabinets look much nicer and higher-end now (though in reality they are very, very old).

Last week I began a somewhat ambitious project–replacing the old bifold doors on our pantry with a pair of Shaker-style doors. Remember how the old doors were too small and difficult to operate? We honestly just left them open most of the time because they were such a pain.

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In Part 1 of this project Nick cut some 3/4″ plywood to size and then together we trimmed it out with some lattice strips.

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Next I filled all the nail holes and joints with wood filler and sanded it smooth.

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I also filled and sanded the sides to help smooth them out and even any low spots.

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Then I set up a painting station, conveniently located so that I could catch up on my DVR while I worked.

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I put two coats of primer all over, then two coats of white paint on just the backs and the sides. I left the fronts primed but unpainted so that I wouldn’t stress about the paint getting messed up while we were hanging them. I always use Olympic no-VOC primer and paint.

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Since we made these doors ourselves they are not quite perfect and if the doors get switched or turned upside down they won’t line up properly. To make sure we kept them oriented correctly I marked the tops with two small arrows using a sharpie. I’d intended to paint over them once they were hung but it’s too high for even Nick to see so I haven’t yet. I laid the doors face-down on the kitchen floors with the arrows pointing together to attach the hinges.

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We went with an aged brass finish to match some of the older hinges in our kitchen.

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Then we used some scrap wood to prop them in place and, after checking to make sure they were level, we marked, drilled, and screwed the hinges to the frame of the pantry.

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I was seriously holding my breath as Nick tightened the final screw and removed the scrap wood. It was kind of a letdown when I saw that the door on the left wouldn’t lay flat!

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But no worries. I took the opportunity to finish painting and drill holes for the knobs, then went back to Lowe’s the next morning and picked up a pair of these magnetic door catches.

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We just attached the magnets to the top frame of the opening and a metal plate to each door. Now the doors stay closed but are still easy to open.

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I attached the knobs and–voila–mission accomplished!

DIY Pantry Doors

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I’m worried they look a little plain and am actually thinking about adding some more trim across the middle near the knobs–sort of like this. It would be really easy to do but I’m going to live with them a little while before deciding.

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I was surprised to feel a little underwhelmed when they were complete, but when I look back at the photo of the old bifold doors I’m reminded that they are a massive improvement. And now I have an opportunity to create some storage on the insides of the doors–like this and this. It’s hard to say exactly how much we spent on these doors since we used only part of a huge piece of plywood, but I’d say it’s probably around $50. I have been keeping track of how much we’ve spent in total on the kitchen so far and am proud to say that it’s still under $500. That’s not a lot of money for the huge functional and visual impact that the we’ve made. Just take a look back at this “before” photo:

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We’re definitely moving now into some of the more functional/less glamorous changes, like finding a new home for the microwave, updating the range vent, possibly adding some new lighting, and organizing, but I do have some fun and easy ideas for decorating and DIY art that will help round out the scary and expensive stuff. Excited!