Transform Your Door into a Dutch Door

Lead Image
  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 100-300

A Dutch door is an unusual and attractive option for an exterior door. This unique addition will serve functional purposes as well as provide a decorative touch to your home.

You can create this split door from an existing exterior door in your home, creating your own unique, decorative look. This project works best with a solid wood exterior door, particularly one with a four-panel design.

This task does require advanced woodworking skills but can produce a charming and decorative result.

Remove Door
First set up sawhorses in your workspace. You’ll then remove the old door from the door frame by unscrewing the hinges.

Put the door carefully on the sawhorses, then remove the remaining hardware including hinges, latch, deadbolt, handle, and so on.

At this point, fill any holes or scratches with wood putty. You’ll want to wait for the painting, but the repairs are more easily made early on.

Overfill the holes, then sand them smooth.

Mark New Hinges
There should be two hinges evenly spaced on the top half of the door, then two on the bottom.

Mark the position of the new hinges first, then install them on the door and on the door jamb. Reinstall the door temporarily to be sure the hinges are correctly installed and measured so the door swings freely.

It is much easier to make adjustments before you cut the door, so align the hinges and get them set before the next step.

Cut the Door
Remove the door from the hinges again. Lay it across the sawhorses. Decide where you want to make the cut; often on the center rail of a solid wood door, but not necessarily.

Using a straightedge, carefully measure a straight line across the door, then draw another 1/4” away. You will need 4 sawhorses all together as you cut on each of these lines with a circular saw. This ¼ inch will allow the door top and bottom to swing freely.

Using a router or a table saw, cut a rabbet 3/8” wide and 1/4” deep on the top edge of the bottom section of the door. Install a 1/8” aluminum bar in the rabbet so that it just extends past the edges of the door. Secure with stainless steel screws.

This provides the weather stripping a smooth contact surface. Apply caulk to the edges that extend past the edges of the door.

Door Stop
On the upper section door, install a doorstop to the bottom of the section. This stop should extend approximately 1/4” below the edge of the top section on the inside of the home to prevent the door from swinging freely the opposite direction and causing damage to the weather stripping.

Paint the door or finish with a stain to create the look you’d like. After the door has dried completely, then install the hinges onto the door.

Rehang the Door
Using the previously drilled holes to align the hinges in the proper places, rehang the door. On the exterior of the upper door section, install a decorative wood strip to provide a finished look.

Wait until the door is rehung before installing this strip, and be sure it doesn’t impede the opening and closing of the door.