Instructions for DIY Ornate Pilasters and Door Surrounds

Supplementing my post about our dining room pilasters, here is the break down and the instructions for the door surrounds. The material list below is what we used, but (of course!) adjust to your taste, architecture and level of complexity with which you are comfortable. Also, we have 8′ tall doors, which aren’t the norm, so please make sure to measure your doors prior to buying any materials or “ready-made” door pilaster kits.

The dinkiest of dinky molding was put around our doors, which made things look out of whack. In fact, the picture below doesn’t do it justice:

You do get a little bit of a better shot of the mantle on which I based my pilaster design.

So onto the instructions:

•    16’x4″ of vertical fluted pilaster molding (my doors are 8′ tall, adjust length for your door height)
•    16’x6″ of plain board (make sure the width doesn’t interfere with light switches or plugs.)
•    1’hx6″wx1″d plain board
•    Two 4″ Plain footer
•    Two Ionic caps*
•    Horizontal fluted molding the width of your door*
•    Decorative frieze (flat molding) the width of your door*
•    Two appliques*
•    Crown molding for the header
* I had to order these online as they (or similar items) weren’t carried by any local stores

1 – The existing molding needed to be taken off, so I soften the caulk with warm water and score it with a knife. Next, a chisel had to be wedged in there by hammering it in to pry the existing molding off. I found the “husband tool” the single most useful tool for this step 😉

I’m not going to lie, it’s going to look ugly. You will probably curse me for inspiring such an awful idea, but this is what it is supposed to look like:

Lovely, isn’t it? We actually could have been a little more careful, but this is a picture from our foyer, where we are installing the half columns as pilasters. (Note: I didn’t take before and after pictures of our projects prior to this blog because I didn’t want to document the awful mess my builder left us with, which would make me angry for years to come, …and I just wasn’t sure we would actually be able to complete these projects well enough prior to my blog to want to document them!)

Although it is difficult to tell, there is actually just a plain board behind the base and vertical fluted molding up either side of the door. I did this for two reasons: to give it some girth and to kick it out enough so that the ionic caps weren’t protruding more than everything else.

2 – All the pieces were laid out on the floor (before cutting) to see how the door surround would piece together with the different widths and heights.

Note: You will also want to make sure the width doesn’t interfere with light switches or plugs. Unfortunately, my builder decided that light switches in any given room could vary significantly….ugh! You’ll notice in this room, the light switch is pretty far away for the pilaster, but in many other rooms, they butt right against them. The one thing I won’t DIY is electricity as we have so multiple fuse boxes and in each, many switches were unlabeled or incorrectly labeled!

Optional: I prime and paint at this point, especially with molding that is detailed. If you do it once installed, you will be stuck on a ladder. Vertically, paint can get in the crevices and leave drip marks on your molding. I just find it easier.

Here, you can see the plain board.

3 – I (meaning my husband – always assume that when it comes to power tools ;-)) cut the plain board to the height of the doors.

4 – On each side, we put a footer at the bottom and then measured from the top of that to the top of the door (or to the top of the plain board).

5 – The horizontal fluted molding at the top of the door was coped out before attaching it, so I placed the caps on top (but did not attach) and traced them. I then removed them and measured the distance between from the outermost edges. I marked that distance on the molding and traced the caps directly on either side of the molding and jigsawed it out to fit. I made sure it all went together before nailing it up and once I was satisfied, up it went!

6 – Next, we cut the thick wood into 2 blocks the same height as the frieze molding. Those blocks were centered and attached above the ionic caps.

7 – Onto those, I glued my two oval appliques, which also covered up the nail holes. A few less to fill. It’s all about the small victories here, people 🙂

8 – The frieze was cut to fit between the two blocks and then attached.

9 – The crown molding was attached to the top. I (and by I, we really know who I mean) measured from the outside of each block and cut a 45 degree angle on either end of the crown molding, ensuring that the bottom of the molding (where the angle flares from) measured the width of the outer blocks. I measured the projection of the block and cut a 45 degree angle on one end and a straight, vertical line on the other, again coinciding with the measurement of the bottom point to the wall.

Normally I would add on top of this because of our 12′ ceilings, but because this room has a tray ceiling with molding under the tray, a header on top of this just wasn’t feasible.

10 – I filled in the nail holes, touched up the painted and caulked. Done!

Although this is an extreme example of a door surround or pilasters, Galashiels Post Office on Channel Street in the UK has the same basic set up I used.

Some variations: add more of a header (like above), use this as your front door, use different molding completely, use a plain board (instead of a frieze) and, with wooden letters/numbers, put your family name, house name, date established/married, etc.

Whew! It took longer to put this post together than it did to put up the pilasters 😉 If you have any questions, please feel free to ask – I am more than happy to answer! Word of warning: once accomplished, you too may feel the need to replace all your door surrounds 😉 It’s highly addictive!!

I do hope you enjoyed this little peek into our DIY pilaster adventure.

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