Hey, ya’ll! Welcome back to Flawed yet Functional! I took last week off to focus on some backend improvements for FyF. Thank you for being patient! Since I took the first week of September off, I moved DIY Week to the second week. I’m so excited to share my latest project with you, a DIY computer desk. Our office/schoolroom was in need of a better, more functional workspace, so we built a desk from a door. I know it sounds crazy, but it turned out beautiful! Click through to make one yourself!
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links which just means if you purchase from the links provided, I may get a small commission at no additional cost to you! At Flawed yet Functional, I only reference products that have real value that I actually use.
Let’s start with a little back story on this project. We use a basement bedroom as our schoolroom (yep, we’re a homeschooling family!). In the last year, Dan has been working from home a lot more, so we threw a folding table against the wall and put a computer on it. While functional, it’s not too pretty.
A few months ago, Dan happened upon a listing on Craiglist for a solid core door for $5. Five dollars! He couldn’t pass it up. Since we needed a better work area in the schoolroom, the idea for a cheap DIY computer desk was born.
My desk is in our entryway, also not an ideal situation, so we’re hoping to knock out several issues with this desk:
- A more beautiful and functional desk for our schoolroom/office
- Get my workspace out of the entryway
- Create a more ergonomic workspace for Dan and me (the folding table is too tall for a desk)
Even though the room is not all the way set up yet, the desk is finished! If you are looking for a DIY computer desk, this tutorial is for you! Let me show you how to turn an industrial wood door into a beautiful desk!
Supplies for Building a Desk from a Door
- 7-foot solid core wood door
- Circular saw
- Table saw
- Wood glue
- Pipe clamps
- Hairpin legs
- Metal support beam
- Cordless drill
- Stainable wood filler
- Sandpaper (60 grit, 120 grit, and 800 grit)
- Wet/Dry vacuum
- Tack cloths
- Wood stain (I used General Finishes Gel Stain in Nutmeg)
- Topcoat (I used General Finishes High Performance Topcoat in Flat)
Determine the Depth and Width of the Desk
First up, determine what size you want your desk to be. Take into account the amount of space you have in your room (remember to leave breathing room around the desk. Don’t make it so large that the room is tight after you put it in.) and how much space you need for working.
The depth of an executive desk is typically 30in (the deepest a desk should be), and the minimum depth is 24in. If you plan to have a lot of paperwork or people sitting across from you who may want to set something on the desk, then err on the side of a deeper desk. Work within those parameters to determine the depth of your desk.
In my home, the bedroom we have converted into an office/schoolroom is quite small. The dimensions are only 9 ft by 10 ft. This room also holds a child-size table for my kids’ schooling, so I wanted a desk that was more narrow than deep.
Determine the proper width of your desk depending on the size of your space, how many people will work at the desk, and the type of work you will be doing at the desk. You don’t want to make furniture larger than your space will accommodate. So choose a width that is comfortable in your room. Also, determine if this is a single person or a double desk. A single desk fits the range of 20 inches to 36 inches, and a double desk needs a width 72 inches to 96 inches. Finally, a computer-only work area can be much narrower than one that will require paperwork to be filled out on the desk.
In our case, we wanted to make a double-width desk for both Dan and me to use. Our office area is quite small, so we erred on the side of a narrower width desk. Also, we are only putting computers in front of each person. So we don’t need much room for paper and writing.
With all that taken into consideration the final measurements we arrived at were 26 inches deep and 83.5 inches wide. The width was more determined by the height of the door than anything else. The optimum width of a desk for two people is 6 ft (72 inches) minimum and 8 ft (96 inches) for comfort. Our goal was comfort, but the door was only 83 and a half inches tall. So we ended up close to the 7-foot mark. Space-wise, I think this will be a good width.
Cut the Door
Lay the door on a work table and mark the dimensions of the desk. Make sure to avoid places like the holes from the handle and the hinges. Due to these two obstacles, we ended up cutting the desktop out of the middle of the door.
Once your lines are drawn, use a circular saw to cut out the top of the desk.
Cutting Tip: Instead of drawing a line on the door and trying to follow the line with the circular saw, use a straight piece of wood clamped to the door to guide the saw. Line up the board so that the saw can glide against the board and cut the proper amount off the board. This will result in a much straighter cut!
Make sure to wear proper safety gear. The dust created from the solid core particleboard was quite terrible in the nose. I don’t want to think about the chemicals we were inhaling! Wear goggles and a face mask. We had goggles, and I wish we had worn facemasks!
Finish the Cut Sides
When the long sides of the door are cut, it exposes the particleboard that is the solid core. It is not pretty to look at and flakes off easily. So you will need to cover the sides somehow. Our door was one and three-quarter inch thick which was not a standard trim height available at our local hardware stores. So we decided to get creative.
A solid core door has real wood outlining the door. So that means the long sides of the door had a solid wood strip about 3/4 of an inch thick. The top and bottom of the door also have this 3/4″ strip of real wood. Since we ended up using the entire height of the door for the width of the desk, we did not need to cover the ends because they were already solid wood.
Dan thought the end-grain of that 3/4″ strip on the long sides of the door looked pretty great so we decided to shave off 1/4in. thick strips from the back of the door to glue to the cut sides of the door. He used our table saw to shave off two 1/4″ strips then we used wood glue to attach the strips to the front and back of the desktop.
Another option is to use the pieces of the door that you cut off with a circular saw cut them to the width of your door then use a chisel to peel off the laminate and glue the laminate to the exposed particleboard (Kristi did this on her desk). This actually was our first method, but we cut our board 1/8in. too short so we looked for another option as we ran out of laminate!
Here is a look at our desktop with the sides glued and clamped down with pipe clamps. The tricky part was adhering the trim because we thought finishing nails would split these thin pieces of wood. So we took a leap of faith and relied only on wood glue, pipe clamps, and packing tape to hold these strips on. Haha! Work with what you have!
Fill and Sand the Gaps
Whatever you decide to finish your long sides with, will inevitably not be perfectly flush with the side of your door. So fill the cracks or any other holes that are in the door with stainable sandable wood filler.
Give the wood filler sufficient time to dry per the packaging directions, then sand smooth. You may need to do another application or two with sanding in between to get a smooth finish. Don’t rush this step, because this is the key to a smooth desktop.
Since we opted to use the entire height of the door, we also had to fill the screw holes from the hydraulic door closer. We cut a dowel rod to the depth of the door, covered it in wood glue, then hammered the dowel into the holes. Next, we filled in around the dowels with sawdust mixed with wood glue. Then I made sure to sand it smooth when I sanded the rest of the desktop.
Sand the Entire Door
Now that your gaps and cracks are filled, sand the entire door to prep for staining. I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to finishing a wood project. I always opt for more sanding because I don’t want to get to the end of a project and not be happy with the finish because I took shortcuts in the prep stages. (So you will never find a “no sanding” project here! Sand and sand again, I say!)
Therefore, I chose to completely sand off the old finish on the laminate with 60 grit sandpaper then smooth out the finish with 120 grit sandpaper. I used General Finishes Gel Stain, and the manufacturer says to sand the surface with a 120 or 150 grit coarseness, no higher. You want to give the stain something to soak into, so don’t make it too smooth.
Clean the Dust from the Door
Finally, make sure to clean the door thoroughly to remove all dust before staining. I like to use a three-step process to clean my furniture after sanding.
- Vacuum the piece thoroughly with a Shop-Vac to remove the large pieces of dust and sawdust.
- Next, go over the entire surface with a microfiber cloth to pick up the majority of the visible dust still present.
- Finally, use a sticky tack cloth to pick up all the fine pieces of dust.
After going over the desktop 3 times, it was smooth and completely dust-free. Time for stain!
Apply the Stain
Follow the manufacturer’s directions for the stain you have chosen. Most stain though is applied with a clean rag, a sponge applicator, or even a paintbrush. Apply the stain to one area at a time, let rest, then wipe off. You do want to work in sections, but every flat surface needs to be stained at one time. This means that the entire tabletop should be applied at the same time to avoid striping in the stain. This may not be easy because it is so large, so work fast and try to time how long the stain rests on the wood to get the most even coverage.
Take your time with the edges though doing one at a time to make sure you get consistent coverage.
My process was as follows:
- Apply a liberal amount of stain to the top of the desk. Allow to sit for 3 minutes after the entire top is covered. Wipe the excess stain off with clean paper towels in the direction of the grain.
- Apply a liberal amount of stain to one of the sides. Wait 3 minutes then wipe off excess stain with clean paper towels.
- Repeat for the other 3 sides, one at a time, until all surfaces are stained.
Check your jar for dry times and recoat times. This was my first time using a gel stain, and I was shocked by how dark it looked in the can and how light it turned out on the desk. Perhaps I should have let it sit on the desk longer. Because I thought the color should be darker and deeper, I did a second coat using the same methodology after a 48-hour dry time.
Since the recoat time is so long, be sure to plan enough time in between coats if you choose to use this stain too!
Apply the Top Coat
When the stain is completely dry, you can apply an appropriate topcoat (after another 48-hour dry time). Per Addicted to Decorating’s recommendations, I used General Finishes High Performance Topcoat in flat. She claims the flat is closer to satin which was what I was hoping for. She was right! The finish is perfectly smooth with just the right amount of sheen.
To apply the topcoat, stir the can thoroughly before beginning then apply liberally, but without dripping, in the direction of the grain. I applied the topcoat with a sponge applicator. Allow 2-4 hours to dry (more for humid conditions). Sand lightly with 800 grit sandpaper and clean off dust with a tack cloth. Apply another coat of topcoat. Repeat at least 3 times or until your desired look and protection is achieved!
I chose to do 4 coats, and I do LOVE the sheen. The coverage looks more like an oil finish than polyurethane-like. By that, I mean the topcoat does not appear to be sitting on top of the wood but rather makes the wood look like it’s shining. It makes the wood look like a richer, glossier version of itself rather than wood wearing make-up. Do you know what I mean? It’s great. Simply perfect. I highly recommend this topcoat for your next project!
Measure and Attach The Hairpin Legs
After letting the desktop dry for 3 days in the garage, we carefully took it downstairs to attach the hairpin legs. See the curing notes below, the desktop was NOT cured. If you chose to follow our timeline, be very careful with the desktop until it is completely cured!
We used a quick square to line up the legs. After a bit of debate, we decided to put the legs 1″ from the edge of the desk. I wanted to put them further from the edge, 1.5″ looked good to me. Dan wanted to put them closer to the edge, .75″ looked best to him. So we compromised at 1 inch.
We read that hairpin legs should go about 2.5″ from the edge of the tabletop, but we thought it looked imbalanced. Note that the article referenced does state to use your own aesthetic preference for leg placement. There’s no hard and fast rule for hairpin leg placement. Place them where it looks best to you!
Screwing the hairpin legs directly into the particle board did concern us a bit. So we decided to dip the tip of the screws into Goop before screwing the legs in. This may have been overkill, but the particle board flaked off so easily when we cut down the desktop that we were worried the particle board wouldn’t hold the screws longterm.
Attach the Support Bar
I can’t find my source on this step of the desk build. There is a certain width of table/desk that you want to begin using a support bar, but I can’t remember what that width is! I’ll update this post when I find it!
We attached a metal support bar in the middle of the table to help support the weight in between the hairpin legs. The bar was very easy to install, and we followed the same procedure as the legs.
- Center the support bar on the underside of the desk.
- Mark screw holes.
- Pre-drill holes with a drill bit slightly smaller than the screws.
- Dip screw tip in Goop.
- Insert screw with a drill.
Again, we may be going overboard with gluing our screws in, but we are just trying an extra measure of security because the “solid core” of the door didn’t seem so solid to us!
Allow to Cure
Curing is an important step. Do not skip it! You have worked so hard for this desk, even if it came from a door! It would be heartbreaking to begin to use it and immediately create knicks and scratches because the topcoat has not cured.
Check with your manufacturer for the cure time for your particular product. General Finishes topcoat recommends a 21-day cure time for water-based products. Yep, that’s a long time, but again, with all the work you put into it, you don’t want to ruin it now, do you?
The desktop is not fully cured on my desk, so I don’t have any fantastic finished shots because it is hanging out in our basement for 16 more days!
If you need to do some moving or attaching legs on your desk, just give it a few days to dry then work quickly and carefully. The finish on my desk still looks great even after laying it on the floor to attach the legs!
Soon, very soon, our lovely new desk will be ready to use! I’ll share an update when it’s ready!
Desk From A Door Budget Breakdown
This whole project was spurred from a Craiglist ad my husband saw for $5 solid core doors. Five dollars! He couldn’t pass it up! So while that piece of the project was very cheap, others were a bit of an investment. All in, this mid-century modern writing desk with hairpin legs cost $155. Not bad!
- Used solid core door – $5
- General Finishes Gel Stain, Nutmeg – $28.50
- General Finishes Top Performance Topcoat – $18.50
- Support Bar – $23
- Hairpin Legs – $80
- Wood filler – already owned
- Sandpaper – already owned
- Tools – already owned
- Total – $155
Check out this similar desk for $200! Now there are cheaper hairpin leg desks out there, but most are made from MDF with plastic laminate tops and none are double width! Here’s a dining room table that is narrower than our desk and is on SALE for $480! So if $155 seems like a lot for a desk, it isn’t for the quality and size.
If you love DIY, then creating a desk from a door is a fun, fairly easy project. A hairpin leg writing desk adds a big punch to any office, and the price tag is not too bad! Do you need a new desk in your house? You should consider making a desk from a door. It is sturdy, strong and eliminates many of the expensive woodworking tools like planers and routers!