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Closet Door With Recessed Mirror


This project started with a salvaged Ikea mirror. This was a freebie that my wife got off of a facebook "buy nothing" group. It looked like a really nice big mirror. We grabbed it for my son's room. He wanted to have a sliding mirror door on his closet.

There were, unfortunately, two major problems that prevented us from using this mirror as-is. The first problem was that it was water damaged. The previous owner had dumped it outside where it got rained on before we were able to come by and get it. The body of the frame is mostly particle board, which does NOT react well to getting wet. The next two photos show some of the damage. The first photo shows how the particle board was swelling (top right and bottom left of the photo). After I removed the front of one of the sides I could see how the particle board was coming apart (second photo)

The other problem was that the mirror was about eight inches too short to proper cover the door opening. I thought briefly about trying to fix up the water damage, but I did not think I could really add eight inches to the length and have it still look okay.

So instead, I took apart the Ikea door, threw out all the particle board, and just kept the glass mirror. I then designed a plan to go with the mirror. The idea is to make a type of hollow core door. Hollow core doors are basically a form of torsion box, which would mean that it should stay flat. I wanted to be sure that the door I built would stay flat.

We wanted the mirror to be recessed, much as it was in the original mirror, so I designed the door to match. These plans show the three layers of the door. On the left is the back of the door. Then in the middle is shown the grid of wood that would be layed on top of the back. And finally, at the right is shown the panels that go over the grid to make the front of the door.

The front and back plywood that I bought were each a bit under 1/4" thick, together totalling just over 3/8" of thickness. I was aiming for a door of about 1-1/2" thick, so I needed to rip 1-1/8" strips of wood to make up the grid that would form the insides of my door.

I used some hardwood to make up the two outside edges -- I thought it was good for those to be strong. For the rest of the "innards" I used pine.

I started with clamping on the two outside strips of wood to the back of the plywood. This is going to be a painted project, so I used lots of glue and did not worry much about being neat.

I used a combination of long reach clamps, brad nails, and other creative clamping methods to glue in the inner pieces of wood.

I drew out the outline of the opening for the mirror, and was very careful to use straight wood and make sure that it followed the layout lines. The front pieces were then nailed and glued to the front of the door.

I did not film the painting process, as I did not think it would be that interesting for the video that I was making. Painting revealed a huge problem. I used inexpensive "underlay" plywood for the door skins, and it turned out to have extremely thin top veneer and my piece had a number of hidden voids. After applying the first coat of primer I found a number of spots where the wood appeared to "ripple". when I touched those spots the paper-thin veneer simply tore, revealing a void underneath. I had to do a number of rounds of patching/filling/painting to finally end up with a satisfactory finish. In hindsight I should have just paid a bit more to by some actual furniture grade 1/4" plywood or similar.

The other huge mistake I made was to forget to add a slot to the bottom of the door before I built it. The hardware kit that I bought includes a floor mounted door guide that was meant to slide through a slot in the middle of the door bottom. I completley forgot about this and had to figure out a way to add it to the finished door. (If I had remembered, I could have simply run the appropriate piece of wood over the tablesaw to make a slot before building the door.)

I ended up using my biscuit joiner to fix this. I placed the biscuit joiner on a piece of plywood to raise up the blade to be roughly at the center of the door. I then repeatedly plunged the blade into the door all the way along the bottom. At the end I positioned the tool at one side of the door, plunged the blade into the door bottom, and then carefully slid it along the bottom of the door to clear out the slot.

It's confusing to describe, but it did work.

The sliding hardware was then mounted to the door. One thing to note is that I was careful to add solid wood blocking to the inside of the door at both spots along the top where the hardware would be mounted. This can be seen in one of the previous photos. I wanted to be sure that there was enough substance in the door at those points to allow for bolts to be run through the door without worry that the door might crush when the bolts were tightened down.

Here is one detail that I did NOT document in the build video. As you can see, the bolts from the hardware protrude from the back of the door. However, when I mounted my door in place, these bolts hit the closet door trim/casing.

To solve that, I removed the bolts, cut them 1/4" shorter, and then drilled out the back of the door so that I could recess the bolt heads flush with the surface of the door. The door now slides without striking the closet trim.

I think this was unique to our installation, but it is something you might need to be aware of in your build.

The mirror was then fitted into the door. I first placed in a layer of corrugated cardboard behind the mirror. My thought was that the cardboard would provide a bit of "cushion" to the back of the mirror. I used thin strips of wood and screwed them into the inner frame of the door. These strips pin the mirro in place. (You can see one in the foreground of the photo)

The next two photos show the closet door installed. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to install the mounting/sliding rail absolutely perfectly level. If you get it wrong, the door will "roll downhill". I thought we had it right, but the door was not staying closed -- I had to adjust the rail installation to get it to work properly.

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)

My hardware kit was bought from (Link Here)

For my USA readers, these two kits from appear to be identical to the one that I used: First Link and Second Link

Or just search amazon for "barn door hardware" and find something else that suits your goals.

Stanley Leverlocks -- love these tape measures
Other auto-locking tape measures
Ridgid compact 12V drill
Irwin Quick Grip XP600 Clamps
Bessey small 4" clamps
Bessey VarioClippix, Adjustable Spring Clamps
Painter's Pyramids

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See Also:

A Recycled Mirror

Under-The-Stairs Rolling Storage Cart