Sunday, January 11, 2015

DIY Mirroring French Doors with Mirror Spray Paint

Last summer, we got two matching sets of French doors on Craigslist for a steal at $100 for all 4 doors. It was the cheapest price I had seen by far and they were real solid wood doors, not that hollowcore stuff that I am trying to eradicate.  We picked them up from a shady European guy whose clothes were all extremely tight and he wouldn't help lift them.  

Turns out he was a bit of a jerk, because he didn't tell us that all of the doors had been cut at weird angles such that they were no longer square at the corners.  Plus, if you just go to Home Depot and buy doors, they come already swinging by hinges in a perfect door jamb that you just slide into place as one big piece.  I mean, it's all made of plastic and costs 5x as much, but it's really easy to put in.  If you just buy loose doors on Craiglist, then you have to build your own door jamb.  

This involves actual chiseling.  

Ben had to measure (and re-measure) and cut each piece of wood perfectly.  For French doors, the measurements have to be perfect.  If the doors close too tightly together or too far apart, they won't close properly.  Plus everything has to be level, lined up, and square.  And when you start with doors that aren't square, that's no small task.  Then he had to chisel in a spot for the hinge, so it lay flat against the wood.  Not too deep, not too shallow, and matched perfectly with the other half of the hinge on the door.  x6. With a chisel and a hammer.

After he gracefully completed this insurmountable task, he had to hang the doors, which means shepherding the hinge halves into each other, all 3 sets, while holding a heavy solid door that's breakable, and of course I'm no help at all.  But we did it!  Even though I hurt my toe a little, and was told "You don't have a future in this…"

Mirroring the French Doors:

The doors came with clear glass.  The first set was perfect as-is for the upstairs sunroom, since it lets all the light into the bedroom.  But this set was for the coat closet, and since I didn't want to make the vacuum cleaner and coat storage into a display case, this set needed something to opaque the glass.

Ben was Team Frost-It.  He thinks frosted glass is the best thing in the world ever since he took a shower in a fancy hotel suite and the whole wall floor-to-ceiling was frosted glass.  So one is totally naked in front of a huge picture window, but not really, because the window is frosted.  You can see how this might become a life-changing event.  No?  He wants to frost all the glass in the house indiscriminately, but I think frosted glass is best left in a bathroom or maybe on a light fixture, but that's pushing it.  

I was Team Mirror-It.  We had mirrored French doors in our last apartment, and everyone was always saying, "Oh, what's through these doors?" like it was a ballroom instead of a coat closet.  Plus, on a practical side, you can check the collar of your coat or the throw of your scarf!  I am always so practical, like when I bought a 100-year-old 2-flat to convert into a single family home instead of just buying a regular house.

There's a few mirror spray paints.  One is Krylon Looking Glass Mirror Spray Paint and another is Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect.  I used the Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect spray paint to mirror French doors.  I was at Home Depot, and that's the kind that they had.

Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect Spray Paint

I am reasonably satisfied with the end results.  There was really no tutorials on how to mirror French doors so I gave it my best guess.  The effect is like mercury glass, it's more wavy and stippled than a mirror.  But, it gives a better reflection than mercury glass.  I can definitely see myself in the mirror and check my coat collar or something.  

Here are some tips if you want to attempt this project yourself:

1. Clean the glass extremely well.  I cleaned it twice and still have some smears in the corners of some of the panes where I could have cleaned it better.  Plus I used organic glass cleaner.  If there was ever a time to buy the full-chemical Windex, this was probably it.  Regrets.

2. Wait for the doors to dry fully.  They felt dry to me immediately after cleaning, but they have to be really dry.  Wait an hour or so after wiping the windows clean.  I sprayed too early the first time, and the paint ran in rivulets down the glass.  I had to wipe it off and try again later.

3. Use extremely thin coats of paint.  You should be moving the can of spray paint extremely quickly over the glass to achieve this.  It should be like a very light mist on the glass for the first coat.  I would do one coat making my way horizontally across the door from side to side and then go vertically from pane to pane to get two thin coats in.  That was the first two coats, I'd wait for those to dry, and then I'd do one at a time after that, waiting for each to dry.  

4. Because you're painting the back side of the glass that will be the mirror, the first coat is most important.  That's why it should be so thin.  Perhaps a bit of practice on another piece of glass would be best, so you can see how thin the consistency of the paint is.  Much thinner than regular spray paint.

4. If you do get a drip, stipple it a bit with a paper towel.  This is my own personal choice, but I thought stippling with a paper towel makes it look a bit more like mercury glass, and I liked the look better than a drip.  Then do another coat, making sure to coat more thinly this time.

5. When the paint is completely dry, paint the back of your door.  There are two reasons for this.  One, this product is one-way mirror, so on the back side it is matte gray and transparent. Two, I don't know what this stuff is made out of, but it is not very durable.  It's almost like an oil or it has a lot of oil in it.  It actually rubbed off and left gray oily residue on our hands when we installed the doors 8 hours later.  So paint the back of your door to hold that stuff in.

I used two cans of paint for this project.  So it cost me $16 total.  Plus, I love to spray paint, it's the only construction-project-like-thing that I actually enjoy.  And now I can see my reflection in my doors.  Is it perfect? No.  But for $16 and a quick fix, I think it looks really nice.  I can always replace with actual mirror if I so desire, and it was worth a try to satisfy my curiosity.  I will keep fiddling with them a bit and see if I can make them perfect.  Will update.

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