About a Door, Or, What Home Depot Doesn’t Want You to Know about Hollow-Core Interior Slabs

They don’t make good pocket doors. It’s true. I was at Home Depot last night, returning a Masonite Hollow-Core Interior Door Slab that had buckled under its first coat of primer. It’s the third door that has buckled, although it’s only the second one that had to go back. The first buckled after the handyman installed it but before we painted it; he swapped it out for a new one. That second one buckled after a coat of primer, but straightened up as it dried. This third one buckled after a coat of primer and didn’t straighten up. So I wanted a different kind of door. The Home Depot customer service guy said that I could have a store credit for a malfunctioning product. So then I went to the door area, where a different Home Depot guy told me that he could show me where the specific doors were. Then when I asked him a question about different kinds of doors and which ones would stand up under the brutal treatment that we inflict on them with our pocket slots and our primer, he admitted he didn’t know that much about doors. Can you believe it? Do you know what he did? He called the Home Depot Door Guy.

Home Depot Door Guy came over and talked about what we had done to the door and what we had experienced. He first said that 1 3/8 inches is the thinnest door that they make, dashing my dreams of getting a narrower door that might still slide into the pocket slot even if it buckled in the future. Then he pointed out that the doors were already primered, so we could skip the step of primering, which maybe introduced too much water into the system and made the thin veneer of wood warp. He suggested that we paint directly to the door with an oil-based paint or latex enamel. Then he enumerated the advantages and disadvantages of the different kinds of paint. We’ve been using latex enamel, so we already one it (advantage the first). A big disadvantage of oil-based paint is that it takes a month to fully cure, he said, which means that fingerprints and handprints from messing with the door in the meantime will get solidified in the paint. Well, that’s out. These are sliding doors between Fella and Filly’s bedrooms and their playrooms. Latex enamel or nothing. He expressed some concern on my behalf about installing and removing pocket doors, and the necessity of ripping up walls, but we’ve pulled two doors off of their tracks now with hardly any effort at all. They were set up either perfectly or inadequately, but my nightmares about undoing pocket doors generated by what I read online have not come to pass.

Then Home Depot Door Guy pulled the rug right out from under my feet. He questioned the wisdom of us selecting a Masonite door slab for a pocket door because they are completely inadequate. He showed me how the top and bottom of the door are cardboard, unlike the side edges, which are still made with wood. A hollow-core door is basically wood veneer with a honeycomb or stripes of cardboard in between to give it a shape. The styles and railings (new words! I’m not sure which are horizontal and which are vertical, though) used to be made of all wood, but now some doors are cardboard at the tops and some–this is worse to me–pre-hung doors are cardboard at all edges. The door we have is cardboard at the top, so he warned us that eventually the weight of the door will pull it off the screws attaching it to the brackets at the top that fit into the tracks. So now we can anticipate this problem, but I wasn’t going to leave the store with a door from the same line that had buckled under paint and that would fall off its screws within a year. Then, as an object lesson, he showed me the rows of pre-hung doors with cardboard edges. He said those are always falling off their hinges. Having seen now how relatively easy it is to rehang our pocket doors, I can say that it would be a much bigger hassle to hand a new door on old hinges to sit in a door frame. As for the painted pocket door that buckled and then straightened, I am not really worried about it falling off the track. It could be a month; it could be five years. Who knows? Besides, it was a $20 door.

So Home Depot Door Guy suggested that I get a door from a different manufacturer. The problem was that Home Depot only carries this one brand. So you know what Home Depot doesn’t want you to know about hollow-core interior door slabs? That you can probably buy a better one for not that much more money at Dixieline. If that should come to naught, Home Depot Door Guy gave me the name of an independent lumber yard locally that will definitely have what I want, but probably for more money.

This doesn’t even start to describe what I learned from the guy at Lamps Plus, about taking a wall-mount sconce that is supposed to be hardwired into an electrical box in the wall and cutting up a cheap extension cord to expose the wires and hooking everything up with wirenuts and drilling holes in the light base and installing a switch and hanging it on the wall like a swing-arm lamp by the beds at motels instead of getting swing-arm lamp for Fella and Filly to hang from. I’m not going to do it, but I know how now. I was rather surprised to learn that they just don’t make a lot of wall lights with cords anymore (although not really, now that everyone is a DIYer and wiring instructions are all over the Internet). Cords are unseemly, especially when dangling from heights. But our new wall is strictly a partition and has no electrical wiring in it, and I am not cutting another hold in wallboard for the rest of the year. We need lights on the wall, and I am content to hide the cord behind one of those white metal tube things. I will be rethinking the lamp selection at IKEA. They were all perfectly adequate. They all have cords. I hope. But you know what I hate about IKEA? When I go to their website, I have to search for “United States” on an alphabetized list instead of having it appear at the top of the list. It’s inconvenient and lame, so double offensive. Eurocentric bastards.

With a well-placed cord track, the IKEA light looks just fine! And we’ve had no more problems with the Home Depot or the Dixieline pocket doors, but the Dixieline door slides a lot better. If you want to see pictures of the room all done (and a little over-messy and under-decorated), I’ve posted them in another entry.

Fella's Room

Fella's Room

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  • Jack  On September 16, 2008 at 11:22 am

    I couldn’t agree more with the IKEA county search

  • Megan  On September 16, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    It is super annoying to go a website and for them to not automatically assume I’m American. Or to not put it at the top of an alphabetical list.

  • George  On September 17, 2008 at 12:09 am

    It is too bad you had such a problem with your door. The problem you are having is that the door has been mis-manufactured. That is, the door was made under too dry conditions. When you painted the door with water based primer, it absorbed the moisture and grew, resulting in the buckling.

    Hundreds of thousands of similar doors are used across the country in pocket door situations without a problem. All of those doors are 1-3/8 inch thick and do not have an issue.

    Go to Dixiline and order the door. You can specify that you want the stiles and rails made from all wood rather than Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF, not cardboard) if that is a concern. They may have it in stock, or they may have to order it, but you can get what you want and then paint it with the same water based paint you have been using before.

    Ask for a CraftMaster door and you will have fewer problems. They have better quality control and so do not have the kind of problems you ae experiencing.

    Good luck!

  • Karen  On September 22, 2008 at 8:48 am

    CraftMaster Door FTW!

    It looks great, it works great, it was in stock, and it was a dollar more at Dixieline.

  • Glen  On December 17, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    Did you ever think that Ikea is global, and you are a stereotypical American egocentric person shopping the WORLDWIDE web (www?) I have a high end house FULL of Masonite doors and they all look great at 10 years of abuse. I didn’t pick em, bought it this way.

  • Canuck Warrior  On March 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Aww, you poor babies. Having to find United States of American alphabetically in a list.

    Doesn’t IKEA know that you are the greatest group of people that you have every met? They should be more considerate.

    Perhaps if you all weren’t so freaking iliterate, it wouldn’t be such a problem.

  • Bryan  On February 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    By the way, Canuck Warrior, it is “illiterate”, not “iliterate”.
    And the following is not a complete sentence: “Having to find United States of American alphabetically in a list”. And we are not the “United States of American”, we are the “United States of America”. You should have put all of your first paragraph in one sentence, saying “Aww, you poor babies, having to find United States of America alphabetically in a list”.
    And no, I don’t think “IKEA knows that you are the greatest group of people that you have every met”, but we might be “the greatest group of people that THEY have EVER met”. So, though I don’t agree with the blogger’s “Eurocentric bastards” comment, I must take issue with YOUR freaking illiteracy.

  • Garrett  On March 3, 2011 at 7:20 am

    I know this is an older post, but I wanted to mention something I did last week with a Home Depot hollow core door.

    I have a finished attic, with stairs leading to it, but the entry way is lower, and has an angle at the top where the roof slants, so I bought a hollow core door at the Home Depot. It was easy to cut, and when I looked at the top and bottom, they looked like cardboard (actually, MDF). I then sanded these pieces down and found that they were actually wood coated with MDF, so they only looked like they were made of just MDF. I fit the now clean wood into the openings with the angle, sanded it down smooth, and now it looks like it was meant to be that way (it does have a break in the wood on the angle because of the lengths of the extra, but that’s not a big deal).

    I was disappointed that both faces were wood veneer over MDF, but you get what you pay for. It works fine for the attic.

    Thanks for the blog.

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