Door Shaving
January 4, 2005 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Home Improvement: I have a door which isn't fitting into its frame. Basically, the top part is a little too tall, probably 1 cm or so. Is there a tool or method which will allow me to shave the top cm from the door?
posted by chaz to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Usually you'd use a plane for that sort of thing, but 1cm seems like it's in saw territory to me. Also, be sure it's a solid wood door — a hollow door might not have that much to cut off.
posted by mendel at 2:07 PM on January 4, 2005

1 cm is a big shift. Did this suddenly happen? If so, I'd have the house looked at by an engineer, it's possible your house has sunk and/or shifted. If it's been gradual, it also means the house has sunk and/or shifted but it's not as worrisome.

Anyway, there's two things you can do. First, if the top is too high and there's a big gap at the bottom, you could simply relocate the door on its hinges so it's 1 cm lower. If the problem is just at the top, try shaving wood a little at a time until it fits. Keep in mind that in winter, most homes are a little dry (in the Northern Hemisphere, that is) and the door will grow a bit in the warmer weather.

You can shave the wood using a plane, but if you don't have one or the idea of a large sharp blade is not to your liking, try a Stanley Surform tool, which is less dangerous to use.
posted by tommasz at 2:07 PM on January 4, 2005

A hand plane will do it, but it can be tricky if you haven't ever used one, especially on the end of a door that has a combination of end grain and side grain. You can also splinter off little pieces by planing end grain improperly.
posted by caddis at 2:09 PM on January 4, 2005

My first impulse was just to say "Umm...a _plane_?", but the other comments are definitely right that it's not necessarily that simple. Especially if it's one of those lightweight kind of doors that's really two veneer panels with furring strips across the top and bottom, it may not be the best answer.

Another option to consider, though, is a power sander--if you don't have one, maybe you could borrow one or even rent one for a few bucks for a day. It's a little easier to handle than a plane, and more forgiving with the grain issue caddis mentioned. With a coarse-grit belt, it can easily take off 1cm of wood pretty evenly.
posted by LairBob at 2:14 PM on January 4, 2005

Be sure to check the hinges as well, before you go hacking at the door. Mendel is right, doors don't just get "too tall" overnight, and for no good reason. Sometimes hinges will pull out at the screws and what is really needed is putty in the screwholes and re-hanging the door.
Also check the door frame/jamb to ensure nothing hinky is going on there. Oh, by "check" I mean with a level (top and sides), this will tell you exactly where the problem is.
posted by dbmcd at 2:16 PM on January 4, 2005

If you do decide to plane it, you may want to take 1/2 from the top and 1/2 from the bottom, so you don't run into problems on a hollow door (especially if someone has already done it before). You then would need to readjusting the hinges as mentioned above.
posted by blackkar at 4:06 PM on January 4, 2005

If it is hollow, you can always cut off the top cm, peel away the veneer from the edge piece, and then reinsert it into the door at the new edge with some wood glue to hold it in. i've done it and it works fine. I was taking off a lot more than 1 cm though...the inside edge piece was more like 2 or 3 cm wide so you might be ok just sawing through it. Put some masking tape on it to keep the veneer from splintering too much and use a fine-toothed blade.

I agree with the notion that the first thing to do is to look into the root causes though...
posted by jacobsee at 8:32 PM on January 4, 2005

Or you could use a small portable electric planer, which will be easier to find than a hand plane. The linked supplier is definitely not known for quality, but they're good for cheap tools you're only planning to use once.

I am under the impression that the pros generally use a tool like this, unless they're making more of a custom door, in which case they'll probably have measured better :) and if not use a hand plane. A coarse-grit sanding belt would work too, somewhat slower but not too bad if you're patient. The planer is easier to leave a straight, flat edge than the sander will be--they can be pretty hard to control.

On preview: definitely agree with the sentiments of being careful of hollowness and determining root causes. The OP didn't mention if this happened all at once; if it did you likely have serious problems. I'm thinking (hoping?) this was a preexisting condition or resulted from a DIY door replacement.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:06 PM on January 4, 2005

i've planed the top of a door with an electric planer and it worked fine for shaving a few mm off (though I did run into problems splintering the end pieces by going against the end grain. I think a cm is way too much to do with a planer though, or a sander. i wouldn't have that much patience.
posted by jacobsee at 10:53 AM on January 5, 2005

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