A desk made from a flat-surfaced door gives you a quick way to create a place to study or work without breaking the bank. If you purchase premade wood or metal legs, the desk doesn't take that long to make. Or you can secure the door to two half-height filing cabinets for drawer storage on either end. The options you choose all depend on the finished look you're after. Most anyone can build a desk from a door if they have some mechanical aptitude and do-it-yourself skills.
Things You'll Need
- Flat-head screwdriver
- Scrap wood
- Circular saw
- Auto-body filler material
- Putty knife
- Throwaway plastic container or used can
- Tape measure
- Wooden or metal legs
- Four lengths of one-by-fours
- Keyboard tray hardware
- 18-inch-wide pine board
- Drill and bit
- Wood screws
- Wood bit
- Screw bit
- Metal bit
- Screws with nuts
- Open-end wrench
- Two file cabinets
- Glass or acrylic plastic top (optional)
Old Door Prep
Remove old hinges and hardware from a used door. If you purchased a brand-new door or found an unfinished one, skip this entire section.
Fill holes created by the door handle and any hardware with pieces of scrap wood, measured and cut to fit the holes.
Add the auto-body filler to a small plastic container or used can. Apply it to the surface of the door over the areas you filled with scrap wood and to the screw holes where the hinges were. Make it as smooth as possible, removing excess, and then let it dry, which can take several hours.
Reapply extra coats of the auto-body filler, as needed, after drying -- the material shrinks during the drying phase.
Sand the filler material smooth with the surface of the door using rough-grit sandpaper. Start with 220-grit, finishing the final sanding with 60-grit.
Remove flaking paint on the door's surface with the putty knife. Sand the rest of the door smooth.
Add the Legs
Measure the thickness of the door. You need to know this measurement so you get metal or wooden legs of the correct height. Desktop height frames from 27 to 32 inches, depending on whether you add a keyboard sliding tray beneath the desk top or not.
Attach one of the four legs to the side of the door that faces the floor. If you have metal legs, attach the screws through the solid part of the door roughly 1/2 inch to 1 inch in from each corner with screws sized just below the door's thickness. For wood legs, secure the leg to the door top with screws.
Measure and cut the one-by-fours to serve as an apron beneath the door and to add additional support to the wooden legs. The apron creates a rectangle around the legs at the top, with the longer boards overlapping the ends of the shorter boards. Attach the boards, forming a rectangle with the wood and securing it with screws through the legs and in the corners to attach the sides to the back and front.
Cut the 18-inch-wide board to the desired width and secure it to the keyboard tray in the slots provided for screws.
Secure the keyboard tray to the underside of the door in the desired location -- to one side or centered midway. Verify, first, that the screws are not too long to pierce the door's thickness.
Paint, stain or finish the desk as desired. If you used a door with panels, add a solid sheet of glass or acrylic plastic of the same width and length to make sure the desk's surface is flat.
File Cabinet Supported Desk
Set the door with its keyboard tray already attached onto the two half-height file cabinets, as per the method in the previous section.
Measure and mark the locations on the door to secure the file cabinets to the door. Ideally, secure the door to the file cabinets with two screws centered in the middle of the top of the file cabinet about 1 foot apart. Remove the door from the file cabinets. Drill holes with the wood bit all the way through the door, a bit larger than the screw diameter.
Transfer the measurements to the file cabinet top to securethe door through the file cabinet with screws.
Drill holes in the file cabinet at the marked locations with a metal bit to allow the insertion of screws, washers and nuts.
Set the door back on the file cabinets. Remove the top drawer on each file cabinet to get access inside. Align the holes in the door to the holes in the file cabinet.
Thread each screw with the washer attached through the hole in the door and file cabinet. Attach the nuts inside on the screw shank, securing them with an open-end wrench.
Replace the drawers in the file cabinet.
Tips & Warnings
- For a shabby chic look, after removing the hardware from an old door, remove loose bits and cover the door with a polyurethane, varnish or shellac.
- Optionally, you can add legs to one side of the door and the file cabinet to the other.
- Use your imagination to come up with different ideas for legs. Two sawhorses on either end work just as well, or you can add a two-by-two piece of lumber at the desired height horizontally on the wall, secured with screws through wall studs as a ledge to support the door to make it appear built-in. Just add legs to the front, or slide file cabinets beneath to add needed support for the front.
- A pair of old sewing machine treadle legs can also be repurposed as desk legs.
- The screws in the desktop through the file cabinet are simply meant to keep the door desktop from moving atop the file cabinets. Do not try to move the file cabinet desk as one piece -- detach the screws that hold the door to the file cabinets and reinstall them when you have the final location for the desk.
- Wear the appropriate safety gear, such as safety goggles and gloves, when sanding and cutting the wood.
- When painting, staining or finishing the door-desk, ensure the room you work in has adequate ventilation.
- Photo Credit Gary Ombler/Dorling Kindersley RF/Getty Images