Our greenest project yet

Rita and I have sort of been on the lookout for a coffee table for the upstairs living room. I say “sort of” because she really wanted one and I didn’t so much.

I like the open space. She wants a spot to put her tea. I often see a coffee table as a place to pile junk. She sees it as a useful spot to play games, put your feet up, etc. We have different ideas about it, for sure.

I wasn’t dead set against it. I knew I’d be OK with a coffee table if we found the right one. By “right” I mean something awesome. I couldn’t really tell her what an awesome coffee table would be, but I knew I’d know it when I saw it. Well, I saw it. And Rita pinned it. And then I had to make my own version.

coffee table made from salvaged door

Image via Sweet Pickins (formerly Show & Tell)

It was awesome because it was a cool reuse of an old door. I like recycled and re-purposed house parts. It was also awesome because it meant I could do a cool project, which I always like better than just throwing down money.

I thought it would be something we could do easy. I knew we could probably find the right door if we headed off to our favorite project-supply place, The Rebuilding Center, so that’s what we did.

Rita and I love to walk around this huge warehouse of recycled house parts and think about all the projects we’ll never get to.

They have rows and rows of old doors there.

Rita looking at salvage doors at rebuilding center

What we needed was a 5-panel door. In order to make the coffee table sides, you have to cut through cross rails right at the center point. With a 5-panel door, you have 3 panels for the tabletop, and 1 for each of the sides.

We waded through the rows and rows of doors looking for the 5-panel ones.After a bit of digging we found one that looked pretty good. By pretty good we mean it was way beat up. The paint looked 100 years old. It had nicks and scratches all over it.

It was perfect.

salvage door at the rebuilding center

There’s our door. It’s the green one.

It had a price tag of $45.00 on it. We thought we could negotiate a lower price because the door was missing a chunk of wood at the bottom. When we brought it up to the window to pay the guy at the cash register was flabbergasted that it was priced so high. He gave it to us for $10.00. That was a great score.

salvaged door

I got it home and stored it away until the weekend. I managed to get it outside on Friday night to clean it up a bit. I’m pretty sure it had dirt on it from the 50’s, but it cleaned up pretty well.

It had 2 great sides. One was the old school green (shown above). It’s cracking and peeling and has tons of character.

The other side is this gray color. It really looks like the gray paint has been on the door forever. It’s that age patina that antique hunters die for. I knew we’d have to use it as is. There was no way we were going to paint over that.

Before I started working, I gathered all the tools I knew I’d need:

  • Circular saw
  • Clamp down straight edge
  • Pocket hole jig
  • Drill with various bits
  • Wood glue
  • Brush on polyurethane
  • Disposable foam brush
  • Half inch and one and a quarter inch wood screws
  • Pocket joint screws
  • Set of 4 casters

Step One:  Cut the door into pieces

On Saturday morning I started work on the project. The first step was cutting the door into 3 pieces. My table saw crapped out a few weeks ago, so I had to use my circular saw. Thankfully this allowed me to get a new tool. :) I got a clamp on straight edge from Harbor Freight.

This worked great. I clamped the edge onto the door where I wanted to make my cut, and then used the circular saw to make it. This tool allowed me to make perfectly straight cuts with my circular saw.

cane cutting door with straight edge

Had to trim some off one end to make the side panels even.

Step Two:  Attach the sides to the top

With the pieces cut I needed to decide how to join the sides to the top. I didn’t want to drill down through the top of the door to screw into the sides. Because I wasn’t going to paint the door, filling screw holes wasn’t an option.

I dug out my Kreg pocket hole jig and decided to use it for this job. It’s perfect because I could drill holes on the inside of the sides to attach them to the top. This would make a very strong joint and would be invisible when the table was done. (A Kreg jig is easy to use; if you Google “how to use a kreg jig” you’ll find lots of resources to show you how.)

This is the pocket screw hole jig. A specially designed drill bit fits into the hole. A colar on the drill bit keeps it from drilling too far.

Pocket screw hole.

One side all done. I added a couple of support brackets I found in the deck parts section of the Depot. Not sure if I needed the extra support but our kids tend to sit on stuff so I wanted to make it sturdy.

3 pocket screws and 2 support brackets on each side. A good quality wood glue (Titebond II premium wood glue) sandwiched in between.

Should be sturdy enough.

Here’s a different view. You can see we decided on the gray side out. We think it will be more versatile. Wasn’t sure if the green color would clash with our stuff.

Time to make some decisions

Once I got the other side on we had some decisions to make. The table would have been perfectly fine–and like our original inspiration photos–as is. We were thinking, though, that we’d like to have a shelf on it, like this table (also pinned) does:

salvaged door table from killer b

Image via Killer B Designs

A shelf would add more storage and could be a structural element to make the table stronger. I first thought about plywood. It’s very strong and light. I was going to cut a piece and put it inside between the 2 sides and maybe put a decorative trim on the front.

One problem with this is that we were thinking of putting casters on the bottom of the table and this shelf configuration would put a lot of stress on the spot where the shelf connected to the sides. I didn’t think it would be strong enough.

salvaged door table with wheels

We liked the look of the wheels on this one, but we decided to go with smaller ones for our table.

Image via French By Design

That left us with running the plywood all the way across and attaching it to the bottom of the sides. This would be very strong and casters wouldn’t be a problem. I really wasn’t thinking that I’d like the way plywood would look, though. I wanted something that looked a bit more retro.

Off to the Depot I went. I thought that maybe I could get away with getting some 3 or 4 inch wide boards and lining them up across the bottom. The board edge would look way better than a plywood edge. I bought six 3-inch boards, which was enough to cover the bottom just fine. Thankfully the math worked out so that I didn’t have to rip any to width to make them fit perfectly across. Here’s the pine boards all cut and dry fit.

Step 3: Attach the shelf/base and the casters.

Dry fitting the casters on the bottom. Everything looked good so I took the boards off and laid down a bead of glue on the bottom of the sides.

After placing the boards on the glue, I drilled some pilot holes for wood screws. The pilot holes keep the boards from cracking when you screw them to the sides. It was quick work to put 2 screws in each board end and then screw in the casters.

Casters screwed on after the boards were screwed in.

Step 4: Put finish on the table.

Here she is ready for finish. I needed to sand some edges a bit to prevent splinters first.

I started with a Krylon clear acrylic spray. Used the whole can. It didn’t leave a finish that I liked. It wasn’t even. There were some spots that were dull and other spots that were shiny.

I went over the whole surface with a 220 grit sandpaper to smooth it out and create a bit of tooth for a different top coat. I decided to use a brush-on polyurethane in clear semi gloss (that we already  had). It says fast-drying on the can, but after several hours it was still tacky. I waited until the next morning to put on a second coat, and I was happy with the result of that. This should be a good durable finish.

can of polyurethane

Here’s the sheen you get from a semi gloss clear finish. We think it looks good!

Budget Breakdown

Here’s the total amount we spent on our new coffee/storage table:

Door: $10.00
Polyurethane: $5.50
Foam Brush: $00.75
Wood Screws: $3.75
Support Brackets: 2 @ $1.75 each
Casters: 4 @ $1.83 each

Total Cost for materials: $30.83

Helpful Tools

We’re not including the cost of these tools in the cost of our table, because they are tools that many already own, and we know we’ll use all of them for many more projects.

Straight edge clamp tool: $11.99 at Harbor Freight
Pocket hole jig: $20.00 at Home Depot
Saw horse: $30.00 a pair at Harbor Freight

Compare  our measly 30 bucks to the cost of these doors on Etsy. Pretty much can’t get one for less than $200, and some run in the $400 range.  We’re more than happy with the cost of our table.

In Retrospect

After living with it for a couple of days we do have one big do-over wish:

We didn’t think to measure the height of the side panels with the height of the wheels, and the table is a bit taller than we’d like for a coffee table.  Don’t think it’s a deal breaker but I would have trimmed the side panels down a bit if I had known the height was going to be an issue.  It’s also pretty big, and we’re not sure it’s the right scale for our living room.


We really like the table, and we’re inclined to figure out what other changes we might make to the living room so that the table works better in there.

Working on this project was fun, economical, and easy to do in small steps (presenting no challenges to our work/life flow). It fills a practical need and our desire to create.  We’re definitely listing this one in the win column and want to spread the word about what a great project it is.

So, we’re hooking up today to the Pinterest Challenge.


This edition of the challenge is a joint project of Young House Love, Bower Power, The Great Indoors, and Hi Sugarplum!. Click on over to one of those to see tons of pinspired projects.

We’ll also be linking to WhisperWood Cottage’s Flea Market Transformations Talent Scouting Party–another source of great green projects.

And to Your Green Resource at Sorta Crunchy, Live Renewed, A Delightful Home, and The Greenbacks Gal.

And:  The RRR Transformation Party at The Rooster and the Hen:

And finally:  It’s Overflowing’s Overflowing with Creativity #13:

It's Overflowing


We’re really excited to be featured with some other great projects at WhisperWood Cottage this weekend!  Click here to see 11 great upcycling projects using everything from tea towels to chicken feeders to the bottom of a Radio Flyer wagon.


Now we’re beyond excited:


Now it’s gotten crazy (in a really good way) around here:

And guest judge Linda from It All Started with Paint gave our little table the nod over at Rooster and the Hen’s Repurpose-Remodel-Reveal event. There are so many great projects there–be sure to click on over and check them out. (Thanks, Linda!)

And yet another update (7.7.12)!

Susan Emory saw our article in Cottages & Bungalows and modified our design.  We love what she did–and that she shared it with us! And look at that cool crate made from old rulers–perfect place to store magazines. You can check out more of her work on her blog Swirly Girls.

Coffee Table from Doors

How about you?

We’d love to hear about your “greenest” project–something that’s a great use of materials or that saved you some money.

And don’t miss out on future great stuff!

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