Sunday, January 10, 2016

My birthday present

Ever since we first bought this house, seven and a half years ago, there's been one thing about it that drives me completely nuts. The office closet has a pair of sliding doors, and they're incredibly awkward to use.

First of all, like all sliding doors, they only allow you access to half the closet at a time. That means that if you want to put something large in there (like the box we use to store Christmas presents before wrapping), you have to open one side completely, stick the box in as far as it will go, and then sort of maneuver it into place.

But I could live with that if it weren't so bloody difficult to get one door open in the first place. As you can see from the picture, they don't have real handles, only tiny little finger holes. So to open one, you have to sort of poke the tip of one finger into this shallow little hole and pull as hard as you can with just that one finger, and the door resists and resists until you finally manage to squeeeeeeze it open just a half inch or so, at which point you can stick your hand in the gap and push it open from the other side. (Brian maintains that it's actually easier to squeeze your fingers in around the edge of the door, close to the top, and pry it open—but Brian's a foot taller than I am.)

It used to be even harder, because the doors are secured to a track at the top, but the bottoms were just dangling loose about an inch above the floor (like all the other doors on the main level of the house after the removal of the old, thick carpeting). So they would just wobble all over the place whenever you tried to pull or push them. Eventually, Brian added a little dingus at the bottom (I believe that's its technical name) to keep them loosely aligned, but they're still not at all cooperative.

Fixing these doors has been on our to-do list for over seven years, but it kept getting put off because other things were more urgent, and so the doors just stayed as they were, continuing to annoy me every single time I attempted to open or close them. Things came to a head one morning when I was trying to wrestle these doors open so I could retrieve the laundry basket we keep in there on an upper shelf, and the whole mess kept bumping and shifting, and it somehow managed to jar the laundry basket loose so that it came down on my head. After hurling it into the bedroom with perhaps unnecessary force, I managed to tell Brian very calmly that what I wanted for my birthday this year was a new set of closet doors.

I figured replacing the sliding doors with new sliding doors wouldn't really help matters, since there would still be no good way to keep them aligned, and it would still be impossible to open more than half the closet at once. A pair of French-style double doors, hinge-mounted on opposite sides, would give us access to the whole closet, but we'd have to leave a lot of room for the swing of the door on both sides, and we'd have to completely redo the doorframe to accommodate the new hardware. So we decided compact bifold doors looked like our best bet, and we headed down to the big-box stores to see what types they had available.

One requirement for both of us was that they had to be real wood. Neither of us could stand the idea of putting up a huge hunk of plastic in our house, even plastic etched with fake wood-grain to make it look (from a distance) like real wood. Besides, with the off-white walls, we thought a pair of plain white doors would leave that whole wall looking too flat and blank. With wood, we could stain the closet doors to match the rest of the interior doors on the main level, so they'd blend in with the rest of the house.

That requirement narrowed our choices down to two:
  1. A solid-core, six-panel door in unfinished pine, for $89 apiece (marked down from $99), or about $180 for the pair.
  2. A much cheaper hollow-core door with no trim of any kind, covered in "lauan" (which my dictionary informed me was "another term for Philippine mahogany"), for about $28 each.
Despite the high price tag, the first door looked like a better bet. A more solid door would not only hold up better, it would also have more weight, which would probably enable it to hang better and not flop around like the original sliding doors. (We also considered trying to make our own doors out of plywood, but a trip through the lumber aisle showed that this would cost nearly as much as buying the nicer doors, and it would be a lot more work.)

The main problem with the nicer doors wasn't actually their price; it was, as Brian put it, that hanging them in our office would make it clear just how shabby the rest of the room was. In the seven years we've owned the house, we've redone all of the downstairs rooms, but most of the upstairs ones haven't even been touched; the office still has its original unmatched wall outlets, wrinkled corner tape, painted-over wall hardware, a small section of patched wall that's never been painted over, and a badly damaged (and inexpertly patched) outer door with a mismatched knob. By buying these nice closet doors, we'd basically be throwing our caps over the wall, forcing ourselves to tackle a complete top-to-bottom makeover of this room.

But as you can see from the picture, we went ahead and got them anyway. So getting these stained and finished and installed is going to be our next project—and presumably, it will also be the first phase of the much larger project of redoing this entire room. Fortunately, the floors are okay, and we have decent furnishings and window treatments—but all the little things, from entrance door to wall sockets to paint and trim, will have to be redone. We're hoping that we've learned enough from our experience stripping and painting the guest room to get this one done a bit in a bit less than the three months we spent on that one.
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