Cutting the end off a solid wood interior door.

Door Modifications:

Cutting A Door Shorter

In This Article:

The cut line is carefully laid out and scored with a sharp knife. A metal cutting guide is clamped to the door to keep the circular saw cutting in a straight line.

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Skill Level: 2-3 (Basic to Intermediate) Time Taken: About 30 Minutes

By , Editor


While helping some friends remodel their old house, I re-framed a door opening to fit a wider door. I framed the header above the door at 82 inches above the finished floor, the standard dimension for today's 80 inch tall doors. But when I installed the door, it would barely open because the bottom of the door would hit the floor. D'oh! I forgot to account for the upward sloping floor when I framed-in the rough opening.

So I removed the hinge pins and took the door back to my garage so I could cut an inch off the bottom.

While the door shown here was a solid wood raised-panel door, trimming the end of a hollow-core door is similar... as long as you don't cut off too much.

I placed the door slab on a suitable work surface... the back of my utility trailer, which easily fits in my garage.

I used a couple of old rugs to protect the door from scratches.

Solid wood interior doorto be cut shorter.


Marking cut line on wood interior door. I measured carefully from the bottom of the door (one inch in my case), then I used a straight-edge and a mechanical pencil to mark the cut line.

The straight-edge shown here is half of an 8-foot long cutting guide, which I will use later.


I used a sharp knife to score the wood along the cut line.

Scoring the wood helps reduce splintering along the cut caused by the circular saw teeth pulling the wood fibers upward.

Scoring wood with knife to prevent splintering when cutting.

By The Way: Only the top surface needs to be scored... the bottom surface doesn't get splintered when cutting with a circular saw.

Adjusting circular saw depth of cut. I set the circular saw on the edge of the door and adjusted the cutting depth so the blade would penetrate the door by about 1/4 inch (red arrow).

(If I left the blade at full depth, the motor housing on the saw will hit the cutting guide.)


Blade Depth Makes A Difference:

I've noticed a lot of people. even professional carpenters, who simply leave the circular saw set to maximum depth for everything they cut. Over the years I've learned that I get better control when the blade depth is set so it's just penetrating the material. By keeping the blade depth to a minimum, it's easier to turn the saw slightly if the blade wanders away from the cut line.

Sometimes the circular saw gets lifted up slightly while cutting, and if the blade doesn't extend far enough below the material it might not cut completely through, so I adjust the blade about 1/4 inch deeper than the material.


I measured the distance from the left edge of the saw blade to the left edge of the saw foot.

In my case, this was about 5-1/8 inches.

Measuring base of saw to set up cutting guide.


Cutting guide clamped to door 5-1/8" away from cut line. Then I clamped the cutting guide 5-1/8 inches away from the cut line.

If a cutting guide is not available, I will use a good straight piece of thin wood, such as 1x4 or 1x6. The factory edge of a sheet of plywood also works well, but the material must be thin or the motor housing on the circular saw will hid the guide.


I placed the circular saw against the door to see if the cutting guide was adjusted properly.

The edge of the saw teeth (red arrow) was just slightly farther from the end of the door than I wanted, so I adjusted the position of the gutting guide by lightly tapping on it with a hammer.

Checking alignment of saw blade to cut line, to shorten a wood door.


It's important to do the step shown above to verify that the blade will cut exactly where needed. I find it's easy to get all these dimensions turned around in my head and have the blade cut on the wrong side of the line.


Cutting across bottom of wood door with circular saw.


After all these careful adjustments, I made the cut across the bottom of the door, keeping the saw pressed up against the cutting guide.


Since the door was a solid wood rail-and-stile type of construction, the off-cut broke apart at the finger joints between sections, which was not a problem. Excess piece of wood after trimming door with saw.

One advantage of using solid wood doors is the ability to trim them down to size. Hollow-core doors have only a narrow strip of solid wood around the perimeter, and if these doors are trimmed too much the structural part can be removed completely, leaving two thin layers of plywood or particle board with no backing.

Replacing Lost Structure In Hollow-Core Doors:

Replacing the solid wood perimeter is simply a matter of fastening an appropriate-sized piece of wood between the outer layers of the door. There are 3 issues:

Type of wood: The wood should have straight grain and be free of knots. Using any old piece of 2x4 framing lumber isn't the best idea, though you might find a knot-free straight section of wood within a piece of framing lumber.

Size: Cutting the wood to the proper thickness is best done on a table saw. Standard interior doors are 1-3/8 inches thick, and the facing material is typically about 1/8 inch thick, so the perimeter structure will be approximately 1-1/8 inch thick.

Fastening: The best way to fasten the structure is to glue it to the outer facing layers with wood glue or urethane construction adhesive and clamp the assembly for a day until the glue is completely dry. I've also driven small brad nails or one-inch staples through the outer facing (to eliminate waiting for the glue to dry), but this leaves holes that need to be filled.

Using belt sander to bevel the cut edge of door. After cutting off the end of the door, I ran a belt sander over the edges of the cut to break the sharp edge.


A close-up view of the slight bevel created with the belt sander.

This procedure can also be done with a sanding block and sandpaper.

Close-up view of bevelled edge on wood door.

Next, I fastened the hinge leaves to the door and placed it in the door opening to check the fit. When the door was open, the bottom of the door just barely cleared the floor.

More Info:

Tools Used:
  • Basic Carpentry Tools
  • Circular Saw
  • Cutting Guide, 4' Long
  • Precision Ruler
  • Utility Knife
  • Clamps
  • Belt Sander (Or Sanding Block)
Materials Used:
  • Door
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Written October 16, 2010