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An Easy & Inexpensive Way To Update Flush (Flat Panel) Interior Doors With Molding

The last decorative project I wanted to do in my niece’s bedroom was to address her flush (flat) hollow core doors. Neither my mom nor I wanted to spend the time or money replacing the doors, so I decided to dress up the existing doors with some simple molding.

how to update flush interior doors with molding - before and after

All of the doors on the second floor of my mom’s house are the original flush (flat panel) hollow core doors that my dad used when he added the second story just after I was born. They’re functional, but they’re not pretty.

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But if you have these doors and want something fancier, you don’t have to replace them. You can just add some decorative molding to dress them up.

I wanted to keep things simple and just add two concentric rectangles of molding. For the outside rectangle, I measured and marked 4.5 inches from the sides and top of the door, and 7 inches from the bottom. (For some reason, it looks better if the bottom border is wider rather than the spacing being equidistant on all four sides.) And for the inside rectangle, I measured and marked  7 inches from the sides and top and 9.5 inches from the bottom.

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And then I used those lines to measure and cut the molding. For the outside rectangle, I used this medium sized cabinet molding.

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And for the inside rectangle, I used this small cabinet molding.

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I originally tried to attach the strips of molding with just wood glue, held in place with painters tape. But the door was painted with semi-gloss paint, so the tape wouldn’t stick securely enough to hold the strips in place. Sometimes these strips are bowed a bit and need a little more force to hold them straight, so I ended up attaching them with wood glue and 3/4″ 18-gauge finishing nails.

I finished the door by using wood filler in all of the nail holes, sanding the wood filler smooth, and then priming the molding. Then I did some spot caulking to fill in any cracks where the molding didn’t sit perfectly flush against the door. And then I gave the entire door and door facing a new coat of paint (Behr Polar Bear).

How to update flush interior doors with molding

This easy update only required two pieces of each size of molding which cost just over $18. That’s far easier and less expensive than replacing the whole door, which would have cost $64 for a standard prehung 6-panel door, about $20 for new door casings, and a lot more time and effort for installation. And the thing I like about this option is that you can go beyond the ubiquitous 6-panel door and create a unique look for your house. I’ve gathered a few more ideas for you on this Pinterest board showing different configurations of molding that can be used on flush doors, or you can create your own unique look.

This room should be finished today, and I can’t wait to show you the complete before and after on Monday! My one remaining project is to replace the original ivory colored light switch and outlets with new white ones. My mom still needs to install the window blinds. And I think that’s it! It’s taken us a long time to get it finished, but this room has come a long way. It’s so cute and cheerful and colorful, and my niece loves it.



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  1. Thumbs up! This is a great idea! We have flat doors like your niece’s and I’ve been wondering what we can do to make them more interesting. Thanks! Can’t wait to see Monday’s post with the finished room. 🙂

  2. Instead of replacing the light switch and electric outlets, I think it would look great if your Mom could paint the ivory ones like she painted the letters for the bulletin board. Then you wouldn’t need new outlets.

    1. That would draw attention to the light and socket covers which are not really meant to be decorative accents. I wouldn’t favor this for that reason.

    2. I’m actually referring to switching out the actual switches and outlets (i.e. the parts that are wired to the electrical wiring), not the switch plates and outlet plates.

  3. Can’t wait to see the entire room. What a difference! It looks great and perfect for a young girl’s room. Great job.

  4. Love this framing! It’s different than most. When I see people that have updated their doors with molding, they are usually trying to mock a standard mould door like at the big box stores. Yours is very elegant!

  5. Agree with GILMERGAL – I have seen similar projects but I like that yours went a different direction with the layout. If you hadn’t shown the before I never would have guessed you had changed these at all. Looks like it was purchased that way. Beautiful work!

  6. “For some reason, it looks better if the bottom border is wider rather than the spacing being equidistant on all four sides.” This same principle is applied to mats for pictures. I would not have thought about applying it for molding on doors.

  7. Love this idea!!! Could I use the same method to change my plain front kitchen cabinets???? Also, is Polar Bear still white or a little off white???

    1. Yes, you can definitely use this technique to dress up plain kitchen cabinets. Polar Bear is the white that i use for all of my trim. It’s a light and bright creamy white without being stark (cold) white. I wouldn’t call it off white, though.

      1. Thank you 🙂 What color did you use on your top cabinets?? Every time i read your posts it makes me want to do something new in my house 🙂

  8. A million thanks for the tip re: placement of bottom moulding. I’ve been sketching up ideas for my doors and couldn’t figure out why said renderings just didn’t look “right”. Duh.

  9. You get me thinking creatively with this, such as painting the inside, with black board paint, for kids, or any color that would go with the decor, even mount your cork/batting/jute to the door. Lots of possibilities.

    You got me thinking, about my old hollow core doors! LOL! The are polyurathained[I think] and very red!

    I personally being a little bit]or a lot] redneck, would think about a faux wood barn door look, say with the underlayment like you used for your ceilings. Making it look like paneling with the z brace. I may have to give it a try!

  10. I’ve seen this done to good effect before, but this moulding in two sizes looks particularly nice. It proves that even simple detail can make a big difference. I may be a copycat and do this myself.

  11. I can’t wait for this reveal! Love everything so far.

    I did something similar to some ugly stained hollow core doors using molding and some beadboard wallpaper in a lake cabin. Such a huge difference. I’d post pics if I could figure out how!

  12. Sister, you just saved me a TON of cash! Was about to replace our doors because I was SICK of the plain old doors. This is awesome! I’m sure my husband will thank you!

  13. Ok i have a question about this; maybe you can help me. I really want to do this project but there are layers of paint on my doors that need to come off. That sounds like a huge job to me. Apparently my doors in this old house have been painted so what would i need to do? If i am going to do something like this, i don’t want to just repaint over old paint. Any ideas? I really need to know how to get paint off wood windowsills too.

  14. Wow this is incredible!! We just bought a 1970’s ranch and it has all the flat doors…we we’re going to replace all the doors with a 2 panel raised door, but they don’t make a 22×80 in that style so this is a beautiful solution! Can you tell me what size the door is that you put the Moulding on? Thank you for sharing this!

  15. They don’t have these strips at my local home depot but I found them online. Did you find the strips were warped at all or do they still attach well? I’m worried about ordering a bunch and finding half of them unusable since i’m not picking out the individual strips myself.

    1. I generally don’t find that any of the thicker ones are warped in the store. The small one, on the other hand, are often warped. But since they’re so thin, they’re very easy to straight out as you attach them.

  16. It looks wonderful! I’m worried about the seams cracking or the strips warping over time. Doors are being opened and closed daily unlike walls. Could you kindly update us on how they are holding up after a few months? Thanks!

    1. They look perfect. Those strips of molding are way too thin/small to warp on their own. Use wood glue, and they’ll move and shift to the shape of whatever they’re adhered to.

  17. Yours, is the best hollow door make over I’ve seen. I’m definitely doing this! Thanks for the measurements.