How to install a window in an interior door!

I told you...when I am trying to avoid ripping into a MAJOR project, I start little ones.

I haven't had a lot of time to "project" around the house. Between the apartments and the furniture makeovers for the flea market, I've been a bit swamped. But I keep walking into my kitchen with a tape measure and graph paper and that is dangerous!!! 

So I decided to tackle a small project I have been mulling over for some time. I checked Pinterest and there weren't any tutorials for this project so I had to make it up as I went!

I wanted to add a window to my laundry door. It is a small room and while I am RARELY in there with the door shut, I thought it might open up this hallway a bit. And honestly, if I really like it, I may do all the doors. (I painted my interior doors black and shared that project here. It has been over two years and I STILL love them!)

As with many projects, I mull and plan and think and draw. I finally just took the door into the garage and cut a big ole' hole in it with my skill saw and jig saw. Solved the big problem...procrastination. Now I kinda had to do something with! 

I did make one critical error on this project. I neglected to get an estimate for the reeded glass I had fallen in love with. When I did call (AFTER I cut the hole!) I found out the glass was going to cost me THREE TIMES more than I "guestimated." To the tune of $160. Lesson learned...before you fall in love with an "idea," FIRST make a plan and get estimates! I could have gone with a cheaper decorative glass, but I wanted THIS glass.

Reeded glass!

My interior doors are typical "builder grade" six-panel, hollow core doors. When you cut into them you will find they are exactly what they say they are...hollow. Truth is, the only real wood bracing is around the edges and where the hardware attaches. 

So after cutting a big ole' hole in the door, I had to install wood bracing for my window frame. 

The bracing needed to be 1 1/8" thick to fit between the "skins." If you are familiar with wood cuts, you know that is not a standard cut. I could have stopped in the local door shop and asked for some wood strips to use for bracing around the cutout but I decided to use some wood I had on hand and rip it down to the width I needed.

Therein lies one of the problems I have when DIYing. I don't own a table saw...and never will. My father (who grew up in construction!) had 3 brothers and a brother-in-law...and he was the only one of the 5 who managed to get through his life with all his fingers intact. And someone once told me that if the wood got bound up in the saw, it would kick back and hit you in the face. Now I have never been on the cover of People Magazine's "most beautiful woman" issue, but I kind of like my face. One time I stupidly tried to use a utility knife to cut through vinyl siding...the knife slipped and the blade whacked me square in the nose. At the time my daughter was in diapers so I drove to the ER with a diaper on my face and demanded to see a plastic surgeon. After inspection in the bathroom mirror, I determined that it was a fairly superficial cut (dang, noses can bleed a lot!) and quietly left the ER without ever seeing a doctor (I do still have a scar!)

So I won't use a table saw. When I build cabinets or shelving, I have the awesome guys at Lowe's cut my plywood. But I have found a way to cut fairly straight lines for most projects.

I drilled little holes in a large metal yard stick. I measure for my cut and mark the line on the board, then I secure the yard stick with screws 1 1/2" from the cut line...this basically creates a "guide" to run my skill saw along and allows me to cut a straight line. 

Problem solved! Now if I could just figure out a way to get a flat tire changed since my father is no longer around and my favorite tire shop closed. Thank God I haven't had a flat in 20 years! Cuz I don't do that either!

Anywho, after cutting 1 1/8" bracing strips, I cut four pieces the length I needed for the four sides of the opening. I applied wood glue and slipped the strips between the door "skins." A little trick...set a screw on each end of the board before putting it in the door...that way if it slips to far into the door, you can use the screws to make adjustments. Then just back the screw out when you have finished clamping.

I measured from the inside edge of my strips to the outside edge of the door...all the way around....and adjusted the bracing strip so that I had the same distance from edge to edge.  My cutout was NOT the exact distance from the edges, but the strips need to be since I would be attaching my "frame" to it. I also measured the opening to make sure it was the same width and height all the way around.

After making adjustments to each strip and making sure each was in the proper position, I clamped them and let the glue dry.  

No need for nails...wood glue will do the trick if you let it dry well!

After the glue dried, it was time to add the "inside" framing. Fortunately the width of the strip and the skins combined was 1 1/2". That worked out perfectly for  1/4" x 2 (really 1 1/2") craft board (available at Lowe's) as my frame! 

I measured and cut them with my chop saw. I pre-primed my trim pieces with Kilz and sanded and then I installed them with glue and trim nails. 

Yes, I noticed the bottom frame piece was a tad bad. I ended up "lifting" it, removing the nails and repositioning it so it was flush with the side piece!!! One of the many stupid frustrations of DIYing...the dreaded "oops."

I wanted a very simple and small trim since the real focal point of the entire project is the window! I thought I could use the 1/4" x 2 craft boards but they only came in 3' lengths and the height of the window was over 36". I ended up buying what is called "door stop" material....the piece of trim on the inside jamb of a door that actually stops the door. It is 1 1/2" wide and 1/4" thick and it comes with or without a decorative profile on one edge. I ended buying the one with a little decorative edge, just for a tiny bit of detailing! I trimmed both sides of the opening. (Forgot to take a picture after the trim was placed, but you can see it in the next picture! I secured it with glue and trim nails). 

I found a teeny tiny little decorative trim to use as a "frame" for the window. It's really tiny...1/4 wide. Since my frame is 1 1/2 wide, I marked the center (3/4") and then 1/8" on each side since glass inserts are usually 3/8 to 1/4" thick.

I cut and CAREFULLY glued and tacked the tiny trim on one line. 

I went ahead and caulked everything, puttied the holes, gave it a light sanding and painted it all. I did this so I would only have to tape off and paint one side of the window trim after I got the window set in place! (Mistake alert! I didn't prepaint the backside of the tiny trim I put on you can see the white primer through the window now that it is installed! Paint the backside of your trim before you put it on!)

(Then I had to wait a week because I didn't think about the fact that they might just have to order the glass...which took "3-5 business days." Then I had to wait ANOTHER "3-5 business days" because they ordered the glass wrong...delays are inevitable!)

After the paint dried (and the glass FINALLY came in!) I applied a SMALL bead of silicone caulk all the way around the inside of the tiny trim and set the window in place. The silicone is important because it holds the glass in place and creates a "soft bed" for the glass so it won't rattle around in the frame.  Then I glued and tacked the tiny trim on the other side of the window. (Do this VERY carefully...if you hit the glass with a nail it WILL shatter!)

TA DA!!!! I absolutely LOVE it. The glass (reeded it!) is absolutely perfect. But it was NOT cheap. 

This is "rain" glass and it is about 1/3 the cost....

...a very pretty glass and a much cheaper option. But it wasn't the look I fell in love with so I paid the price for the glass I wanted. However, the odds of me doing the other doors is slim!

If you are installing glass in a door, I would strongly recommend getting a piece that is "tempered." It is about 4x stronger than "plain" glass and if shattered, it breaks into a bunch of tiny, relatively harmless pieces vs. the super sharp shards of regular glass!

Tempered glass really isn't that much more expensive...especially when you consider the safety factor! 

Also, the glass will be much heavier than the "hollow" this is the time to replace the short hinge screws with longer screws that actually go into the framing of the door. You can buy longer hinge screws, but I just used black sheetrock screws. I will probably change them out next time I make a run to Lowe's. This is important because the weight can cause the door to "drag" or stick on the knob side. For that matter, if you have a door that drags or sticks, try replacing a few of the short hinge screws with longer ones! This door was sticking even before the new glass and using the longer screws worked like a charm! (In the picture above you can actually see where the black paint rubbed off on the door jamb!)

There you have it. A tutorial for dressing up an otherwise boring interior door! There are so many other things you could do with this same process...maybe a chalkboard insert or fabric or even a MUCH less expensive glass! 

You are only limited by your imagination!