Scrappy Arches

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Do you have a door in your home that you never close? Is it just one more dust magnet taking up space? Or perhaps you are remodeling your home and can’t figure out how to make a door fit in an awkward space. Why bother hanging that expensive slab of wood if you’re never going to use it anyway? Why not try an archway instead? It’s really not that hard to do. And not very expensive if you use scraps of leftover materials. Of course, if you can’t get your hands on any scraps, you can always buy the materials at your nearby home improvement store affordably.

If you already have a door hanging, just take the door off the hinges and remove the wood facing from the wall. In the picture below, you can see the shape of the opening where we were going to hang a pair of bi-fold doors. This opening is four feet wide, but you can make an archway of any size just by rounding off the corners with a little sheetrock (also called drywall) and elbow grease. You can see how the triangular pieces of sheetrock easily reshape the corners into an elegant arch.

I used pieces of an old cardboard box to make a template for my arched corners. After I cut the shape from the cardboard, I taped it to the corner of the doorway and I stepped back to make sure it looked right. You may be happy with your first attempt, but I had to take it down a couple of times and try again until it looked the way I wanted. Then you just use the cardboard template to draw four shapes on your sheetrock. You’ll need two for the front, and two for the back of each corner. If the opening is tall enough, you can cut two single arched sheets that span the entire opening from side to side.

Before you can put the sheet rock in place, you’ll need to frame in the two upper corners of the doorway with a few small scraps of 2×4. It doesn’t matter which direction the little studs are facing, as long as they are securely in place and you can find them with your nails or screws. I taped the cardboard template in place so I could be sure the 2×4 scraps wouldn’t be sticking out past the area I wanted to cover. Once the corner shapes are nailed or screwed to the studs, you’ll need to measure the width of the door frame and cut a long, narrow piece of sheetrock the same width to run the length of the new archway from floor to floor. Half-inch sheetrock, which is the thickness usually used for walls, will need to be soaked in water for a few hours to help it bend to the shape of the arch. But ¼-inch sheetrock will bend fairly easily without soaking. Since I was using scraps, and didn’t want to wait for it to soak, I decided to try slicing the back side every inch or so to allow the stiff board to ease around the corner. If you decide to try this, just be sure not to cut all the way through to the paper on the other side. Since the finish on my walls isn’t smooth, it worked out just fine.

Raw corner edges of sheetrock are always covered with metal corner bead. There is a plastic version made especially for curves, but I didn’t know that at the time and had several straight metal pieces that needed to be used anyway. I’d never put any on a curved edge before, but figured it would work the same as cloth when I’m cutting a curved edge for a sleeve. So I clipped both sides every inch or so with a pair of metal shears and carefully bent the metal to the sheetrock edge. It worked like a charm! Be careful not to bend too quickly though, or you’ll end up with a sharp angle rather than a smooth curve. And do the bending slowly or the metal will break at the cut joints. Guess how I know that! HA!

After everything was nailed in place, all of the edges and cracks were covered with joint tape just as you would on any sheetrock wall. I like the mesh filament type of tape with the sticky backing. It costs a little more, but is much easier to work with. After it’s all taped up, just apply the joint compound (sheetrock mud) as you normally would. The original walls in my old house aren’t very straight. So, to make the new, straight walls blend in, I decided to use a textured finish on the walls. You can read more about working with sheetrock and textured wall finishes at GinasInspirations.com – The Wild Garden Burbstead | Building a little homestead in the suburbs.