How To Repair a Splintered Doorway Frame at No Cost

Cheap? You bet. Repairing the splintered bathroom doorway frame was the only real option. How to do it was the question. Wait. Why not just replace the splintered framing boards? It couldn’t be that hard, could it?

Yes. Yes, it could.

This dandy Deer Lodge, Montana, domicile happens to be a vintage double wide mobile home manufactured in 1972. Boards milled exactly like the 3/8″ thick pieces originally used are not easy to find, especially with the little 3/8″ trim “lip” on one side. Replacing them with entirely different boards could work; in one case, that has already been done. But it was Sunday, the local building supply store wasn’t open, and I wanted to fix that doorway without delay. It’s part of the overall facelift being given to the home’s interior. The doorway had to be fixed before the hallway wall was repainted, so…why not simply repair it, using materials already on hand?

Why not, indeed?

Note: The doorway needed fixing, but no door is involved. When I moved into this house last year, one of the first things I did was remove the bathroom door and send it to the landfill. No, not from any desire to abandon privacy. Privacy is good. But the old door was not. For one thing, it was in mighty rough shape anyway. For another, the hinge screws were more than loose; they were literally ripping right out of the splintered wall board that was supposed to hold them firmly. Most significantly, the bathroom is, shall we say, “space conservative.” When the door opened (inwardly), it would slam right up against the toilet if you weren’t careful. My wife was still living with me then, before we had to get her a rental back in Arizona for health reasons. Did I want one of us to head into the bathroom and knock the door into the other’s knee by accident? Not a good plan.

So an old curtain was dug out of our stuff and hung in place of the absent door.

Now it was time to spiffy up the doorway and hang a nicer curtain. The old fabric wasn’t a great color match for either area (hallway on one side, bathroom on the other). It was also too short, by a good foot or more. Hence the doorway repair plan, coupled with a curtain replacement plan.

Since this is a “how to” post, we need Before, During, and After photos, right? Let’s take a look at Before….

The splintered hinge-side doorway framing board.

The above photo gets the general idea across, but to really understand just how badly this board is damaged, let’s zoom in a little.

It’s possible this damage was done by…what?

There appeared to several possible suspects for the damage done to the doorway board:

1. The place had gone through numerous owners prior to my purchase of the property in May of 2017. Judging from various bits of wall and cupboard door problems, at least one person had indulged in domestic domicile abuse. Translation: Violence against wood.

2. Strangely, the hinges for the interior doors, until I began changing some of them out, were of a design that lined three screws up in a vertical column. Carpentry insanity; that’s asking for a split.

3. It’s impossible to comprehend why, but somebody had installed several big-diameter, coarse-thread, plastic screws in the board. Those plastic screws are designed for use in sheetrock walls, or at least I think they are–having never used one myself–and are clearly unsuited for use in any sort of wood.

Onward, then, to a higher-up-the-board portion of the massive split.

Repair that? Ri-ight.

The first step, just like in surgery on the human body, was to cut away the hopelessly damaged portion of wood. Before that could happen, I had to sharpen a well used wood chisel, removing the nicks from the leading edge and producing a nice, clean woodcutter. That was amazingly enjoyable, sitting on an upturned plastic bucket, running the blade back and forth across the grinder wheel, loving the sparks.

The hopeless upper portion of the outside splinter has been cut away to allow the board to be fixed.

Having a super sharp wood chisel carried multiple benefits. Several “bumps” in the remaining board were smoothed down a bit, the chisel acting as a mighty fine, gets-in-corners block plane. After the “bed” was ready, it was time to mill a “fixit sick” with the help of the table saw. I had never touched a table saw since high school shop class nearly 60 years ago, but the one I bought last year is paying its way, big time. Frankly, I sometimes wonder how on Earth I managed to build an entire house (circa 2010) using nothing fancier than a circular saw. The fixit stick needed to be 3/8″ by 3/8″ in cross section and 13 1/4″ in length.

Making the final cut on the “fixit stick.”

The finished fixit stick.

The fixit stick had to be nailed in place, but carefully. Even the smallest finish nail could split such a tiny stick. The nails were kept well away from the ends.

The fixit board is in place.

Next, the opposite doorway board, where the old “latch hole” requires a round plug. Happily, I’d saved an old rake handle that happened to be just the right diameter. A short plug was cut from one end and installed with a healthy dollop of Elmer’s glue. Then it was time to apply spackle to cracks and holes.

This hole has to go.

The perfect plug.

Round plug side, spackled and ready to paint.

Split-board side, spackled and ready to paint once the spackle dries.

In these final photos, only one coat of paint has been applied. It will look better with a second coat.

Only the first coat of paint applied and the “plug hole” is already nearly invisible, even up close.

Longer view.

The split board repair side. Slight imperfections in the finish are still visible if you’re looking for them. These will be lessened a bit more with the second coat of paint and rendered utterly invisible (covered) when the curtain is hung.

And that’s the name of that tune: One truly messed up, splintered doorway frame repaired well enough to do the job and look good for years to come, at zero cost.

UPDATE: A timely comment (below) just reminded me to post the curtain photos. The curtain has been “done and hung” for a while. It took me three shifts of four hours each to hand stitch the twenty feet of hemming. When the curtain was finished and installed in its pride of place, I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing a tangle of snarled brown thread for another three days. It was worth it.

View of the new bathroom curtain from the angle across the hall in my bedroom doorway.

Closer up, with bathroom light turned off.