How to Use Decorative Moldings to Dress Up a Plain Panel Door

Cadence Johansen

Plain panel doors are inexpensive. However, many homeowners long for the look of a more decorative door. The good news is that plain panel doors can be easily updated with some molding and a little bit of paint.

A plain panel door dressed up with decorative molding.

If you have plain panel doors in your home, knowing where to start will help you get the doors you have always wanted.

  1. Decide on the design for the door. Whether you want to create one large frame on the door or four small frames, you will need to decide on the size and scale of moldings. Once you have selected a design, measure it onto the door and mark it with a pencil. Use a carpenter's square to create straight marks on the door.

  2. Transfer the measurements to the molding, remembering to indicate the cut direction for each of the corners. Set the miter saw to a 45-degree angle and cut the molding to size on the saw.

  3. Prime the cut moldings. Once the primed moldings have dried, use a paint brush to paint the moldings. Allow the paint to dry completely.

  4. Attach the molding to the door. As you attach the molding, check the top molding to see if it is level. Attach the molding by applying wood glue to the back of the molding and then nailing it into place with a nail gun.

  5. Caulk any large joints or gaps in the moldings if necessary. After the caulk has dried, paint the entire door with latex paint. Do not caulk gaps smaller than 1/16th of an inch. These gaps will be filled with the paint when you paint the entire door.