DIY "Secret Door" - How We Built the Door

Updated: Aug 24

Since last year I posted about our "Secret Door", I have been getting many requests about the step-by-step "How To" guide. The concept of our door is basically the same as a normal Murphy Door that you can buy. Murphy doors are doors that look like built-in bookshelves from outside but function as ordinary doors. They are mostly used to hide the closet's in the high traffic areas or to conceal the stairways to the basement or the attic.

You might be wondering, why we built the doorway ourselves if it was widely available in the stores. The first and main reason was the price and the second reason was the shape of the door. Apparently finding the arched Murphy door is not an easy task, and if you get lucky and find one, it costs a fortune. So we found a cheap solution, of building it ourselves, mostly using the scraps from our previous projects.


Below is a step by-step of our building process:

Step 1 \\ Calculate the size of the door/ Create the Material List/ Make a Game Plan!


To size the door, we used basic geometry formulas to ensure the width and depth would not cause the door to interfere with the arch opening. Make sure, all the measurements work before you start building or you will have a lot of waste material.

Once all the measurements were done, we started working on the material list. We still had a lot of leftover PVC boards, so we decided to replicate the method that we used for the arched doorway, and use the PVC board to create the arch on top of the door. If we didn’t have the leftover PVC, we would have used the bendable plywood. As we were working with 2 different materials, we divided the structure-building process into 2 parts, the bottom part, and the top (Arched) part.



Step 1 \\ Calculate the size of the door/ Create the Material List/ Make a Game Plan!


To size the door, we used basic geometry formulas to ensure the width and depth would not cause the door to interfere with the arch opening. Make sure, all the measurements work before you start building or you will have a lot of waste material.

Once all the measurements were done, we started working on the material list. We still had a lot of leftover PVC boards, so we decided to replicate the method that we used for the arched doorway, and use the PVC board to create the arch on top of the door. If we didn’t have the leftover PVC, we would have used the bendable plywood. As we were working with 2 different materials, we divided the structure-building process into 2 parts, the bottom part, and the top (Arched) part.



Step 2 \\ Building the bottom structure of the door :


First, we built the structure for the bottom part of the door using ¾-inch plywood, some wood glue, and nails. The process of building the bottom part was similar to building a normal bookshelf. However, we extended the sides beyond the last shelf to later attach the curved PVC part.


Step 3 \\ Add the arched top:


For this part, we decided to use the same vinyl trim board as the arched doorway itself. However, this time the arch was a lot tighter so we had to heat the PVC board to increase the board flexibility. We just used what we had on hand, an easier alternative would have been using the bendable plywood.

Once the arch was ready, we attached the PVC part to the sides of the plywood bookshelf. Extended plywood provides support and holds the PVC board in a curved position along with the screws.



Step 4 \\ Add the back:


Once we had the arched bookshelf structure ready, we added the plywood back support piece. We used 3/4 inch plywood and the jigsaw to replicate the curved shape of the bookshelf. Then we attached the support using wood glue and screws.

Step 5 \\ Add the Front Molding:


Then we took one full sheet of 3/4 inch plywood and cut out curved molding for the front part of the door. The molding also holds the hinges. We used a circular saw for the straight part and a jigsaw for the curved part. Then we secured the molding to the door using wood glue and screws.



Step 6 \\ Bottom Cabinet Doors:


When the main door structure was ready, we cut the basic inset slab-style cabinet doors and added them to the bottom part of the door.



Step 7 \\ Attach the hinges:


After we made sure the door structure was ready to be installed, we attached the door hinges. We had a few hinges leftover from other doors, so we ended up using normal interior door hinges for this project. However, you can find more sturdy and expensive alternatives.

To attach the hinges, we routed the plaster out of the way and attached hinges directly to a wall stud. We used some wood blocking to make up for the lost depth of the plaster.

To prevent the door from ever sagging and to help keep it from opening on its own, we made a simple skid plate using the ball bearings.


Step 8 \\ Finishing Touches:


When the structure was fully finished and mounted to the wall, we filled the holes using wood putty. Then sanded, primed, painted, and attached the brass hardware to the bottom cabinet of the door.



Hope this little overview of our building process will be helpful for people who are either wondering how we built the closet door or want to try to replicate it. If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I will answer your question as soon as I can.


Below you can find the list of materials and tools that we used in this project:

Materials that we used:

  1. 3/4 inch plywood - 2 sheets

  2. 1 x 2 for the front part of the shelf

  3. PVC trim board

  4. Wood Glue

  5. Drywall screws

  6. Wood Putty

  7. Sanding Pads

  8. Door hinges. We used these

  9. Ball-bearing for the support

  10. Sherwin Williams extreme bond primer

  11. Foam roller for priming and painting

  12. Paint - We used Benjamin Moore Advance in the semi-gloss finish in the color Nantucket Gray

Tools that we used:



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