8 practical tips for planing a door


The doors in your home see a lot of use (and wear) every day. Over time this wear can leave you with doors that need to be smoothed down so that they open and close as if they were new. Here are eight practical tips to help you refresh your doors.

  1. Before planing the edge of a door, you need to mark the cutting line. Run masking tape down the edge of the stile on the hinge side. Set a pencil tip and compass point 3 millimetres (1/8 inch) apart, then run the compass point along the stile. If you don’t have a compass, use a carpenter’s pencil trimmed to the right width. The masking tape makes the pencil line that you draw visible.
  2. Use a belt sander, hand plane or electric planer to sand the stile down to the pencil line. A hand plane will give you the most control. If you are using a belt sander, begin with an 80-grit sanding belt. When you are 1.5 millimetres (1/16 inch) away from the line, change to a 100-grit belt and sand to the line. Use a 120-grit belt to finish off.
  3. When planing or sanding the top or bottom edges of a door, always work from an edge or end towards the centre. Going in the other direction will chip the wood when the tool passes over the outer edge, resulting in damage that will be difficult to disguise.
  4. Always plane or sand along the grain of the wood. If you encounter resistance and see any raised wood fibres or chipping, you are working in the wrong direction.
  5. You don’t have to take a door off its hinges to plane or sand the top, latch and hinge sides. To stop the door swinging as you work on it, tap a pair of wedges in beneath the door. If you’re planing the latch side and there’s a chance your plane will strike the lock or latch, remove it.
  6. When using a saw to square the bottom of a door, use a straight edge to draw a cut line, then score the line with a utility knife to prevent the wood from splintering. Clamp a board along the line to guide the saw, placing wood scraps beneath each clamp to protect the door. If you’re using a circular saw with a fine carbide-tipped blade, place the most prominent side of the door down when cutting. If using a handsaw, place the prominent side up.
  7. A strip of carpet is useful for painting or sealing the bottom edge of a door if you want to avoid taking it off its hinges. Apply some paint or sealant to the pile side of the strip of carpet, slide it under the door and rub it back and forth to coat the bare wood.
  8. Over time, the weight and daily use of the door can combine to pull the screws out of the jamb. To give the old screws something to grip simply push a matchstick into the hole, and snap it off so that it’s flush with the edge of the hole.

Keep these eight practical tips in mind to help you refresh your doors.