Things You Will Need
- Tape measure
- Two door hinges
- Two sawhorses
- Wood filler
- Straight edge
- Circular saw
- 3/8-inch rabbeting bit
- Safety glasses
- Length of 3/8-by-3/8 lumber
- Wood glue
- Finish nails
- Weather stripping
- Copper nails
- Barrel latch
A dutch door can provide some old-world charm for your house, as well as extra ventilation, and making one from your existing single- or double-panel exterior door is a straightforward task. The procedure is not much more complicated than removing the old door, cutting it in half and re-hanging it.
You'll need to seal the gap between the two halves of the modified door, especially if you live in a cold climate, and if the old door has ornate trim, plan to spend some time matching this to give the converted door an integrated look.
Installing New Hinges
- Close the door and, working from inside, use a level to draw a line across the middle of the door where you plan to cut it. This line should be perfectly horizontal and at least 3 inches above the existing doorknob.
- Remove the central hinge with a screwdriver if the door has three hinges. Then mark positions for four new hinges, two for the top half and two for the bottom. Use the existing hinges if they are positioned near the top and bottom of the door and make marks for two new hinges near the middle. If the old hinges are centrally located, make marks for four new hinges above and below the old ones.
- Place hinges on the marks and draw their outlines on the edge of the door and the door jamb. Then remove the door from the jamb, lay it on sawhorses and chisel out mortises for the hinges. If you need to change the positions of the existing hinges, unscrew them from the door and jamb and fill the old mortises with wood filler, then sand the filler when it dries.
- Remove the pins from the four hinges and screw one half of each hinge to the door and one half to the door jamb. Then hang the door by fitting the hinges together and dropping the pins back in place. Make sure the door swings freely.
Cutting the Door
- Remove the hinge pins and door hardware and take the door down. Lay it on the sawhorses so that the line you made in Step 1 is facing you. Draw another line 1/4 inch from this line with a straight edge, then cut along both lines with a circular saw, separating the door into a top and bottom half and creating a small gap between them.
- Use a router to make a 3/8-inch rabbet, or groove, that is 1/4 inch deep in the top edge of the bottom door. Cut a piece of 3/8-by-3/8-inch lumber about 1/4 inch shorter than the door width to function as a door stop. When the door is closed, it will fit into the rabbet and prevent the top door from swinging the wrong way.
- Attach the door stop to the bottom edge of the top half by spreading glue on it, then placing it so each end is 1/8 inch from the edge of the door and nailing it with finish nails. When the glue dries, round the edges of the door stop with sandpaper, then nail weatherstripping to the bottom edge of the top door, behind the door stop, with copper nails.
- Hang the two halves of the door and replace the doorknob. Attach a barrel latch to the inside of the door to lock the two sections together when the door is locked.
If you need to re-position the doorknob, use the cut-out from the new hole to fill the old one. Fit it into the hole, then fill around it with wood filler.
Wear safety glasses when using the circular saw and router, and keep your hands away from the cutting edge of both tools while the are operating.