Shorten a Door Bottom Without Splintering

By James Dulley

April 2, 2020 4 min read

Dear James: We want to replace old, crushed carpeting with thick pile-type carpeting, so I probably need to shorten the door. What is the best way to cut it without splintering? — Tony G.

Dear Tony: Instead of new carpeting, you might want to consider installing engineered hardwood or laminate flooring. This is more popular today, and both are more durable than carpeting. Engineered hardwood has plywood backing, so it expands and contracts less than real, solid hardwood. Neither would require you to trim off the door bottom.

New thick carpeting will provide warmth and comfort on bare feet, but you will have to trim off the door. It sounds like a simple job to just cut a half-inch off the bottom, but it is important to do it properly. A poor quality job not only looks bad but also may start to splinter over time.

Professionals use special tools, such as straightedge guides, zero-clearance throat plates, unique saws, etc., to quickly and accurately trim off the door bottom. You should be able to get by with a thick 4-foot straightedge or level, some clamps and a standard circular saw. If you do not have a saw, there are some easy-to-handle cordless circular saws now available.

Stick some masking tape along the bottom of the door. Get a sample of the carpet and pad from the carpeting store. Place it on the hardwood floor next to the door. Mark the height of the carpet/pad combination on the tape on the door. Since you are installing wall-to-wall carpeting, plan to allow for a one-quarter-inch clearance for the door above the carpet.

Remove the door from the hinges, and place it flat on sawhorses or on a solid kitchen table. Measure up another quarter inch from the marks on the tape, and draw a line across the entire door bottom. This will be your cutline.

Using a clamp on each end, clamp the long straightedge to the door so the edge is lined up perfectly with the cutline you drew. Take a sharp utility knife, and score the door surface along the cutline. Run the blade across it several times, and do the same across the end edge where the saw blade will exit the door.

The purpose of scoring is to minimize the possibility of tear-out. Tear-out refers to having small splinters run up the face surface of the door as the saw blade is cutting through it. Some woods are more prone to this than others.

Using a scrap of wood, make a gauge block. Its width should be exactly the distance from the inside edge of the saw blade to the edge of the saw's baseplate. Place the gauge block edge along the cutline. Place the straightedge or level against its other edge, and clamp the straightedge to the door. It is easier to run the saw against the straightedge than to try to follow the cutline freehand.

Set the blade depth so it just cuts through the other side of the door. Once the cut is made, use a small block pane to smooth the door bottom. Wrapping some medium-grit sandpaper around a wood block also works well for smoothing off the door bottom.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: qimono at Pixabay

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