Learning how to replace a door opens a whole new window of opportunity for a do-it-yourselfer. A new door can change the style of a room or brighten up the exterior of a house. In addition, a new door with a better seal can help prevent drafts and improve heating bills.
There are three types of doors: entry doors, interior doors, and combination storm/screen doors. The five steps below describe the technique for replacing an entry door. If you can master replacement of an entry door, replacing most interior doors is actually a simplified version of that process, as the locks are typically simpler or nonexistent.
Replacement of combination storm/screen doors can follow the same process as that of entry doors, or it can become more complicated. If you are unsure about the process for installing a combination storm/screen door, check your manufacturer’s information for additional instructions or speak with a representative of the manufacturer or store that sold you the door.
Removing Old Doors
To remove the old door, open it and wedge under the outer corner to take weight off the hinges. Once the door has been removed, set it aside to use as a pattern in trimming the new door unless it is seriously warped or damaged.
To remove the door, follow one of the two options below.
A popular method for hanging doors is the use of loose-pin hinges. With loose-pin hinges, half the hinge attaches to the door and the other half to the doorframe. Both halves are held together by a pin.
If this is the type of hinge you’re dealing with, remove the pin by tapping it up and completely pulling it out. Start with the bottom hinge and work your way up. Once the hinges have been removed, you can take the door off the frame.
In some older homes, a different type of hinge may be used or the pin cannot easily be removed because it has been covered by layers of paint. In this case, unscrew the hinges from the doorframe (still working from bottom to top) and remove the door.
Removing Hinge Leaves
Remove the hinge leaves from the door and the frame. You can choose to either reuse the original hinges or hang new ones. If you reuse the original ones, you can buff them with sandpaper and spray them with a clear protective coating. For new hinges, simply insure that they are the same size as the old ones.
Once you have gotten the hinges in the shape you want them, install the new hinge leaves on the door frame. Be sure your screws are long enough to pierce both the frame and the stud-wall framing. This is an extra security measure.
New Door Trim
If possible, use the original door as a pattern for the new one. Alight the top and side edges and see whether the new door needs to be cut down along the bottom. If you cannot use the old door as a pattern, measure the door opening and allow a 1/8″ bottom clearance and 1/16″ top and side clearance. If the door opens over carpet, increase the bottom clearance to 3/4″ or more. Mark the appropriate dimensions on the new door.
Trim the bottom of the door with a fine-toothed saw. Alternatively you can work from the corners to the center of the bottom edge with a block plane. Also use a jack plane for edge trimming if necessary. To prevent binding when the new door is opened, bevel the latch edge inward.
Prepare new door for Hinges.
The first step in preparing the door for the hinges is to create the new mortises, which are carved or routed-out depressions where the hinge blades are placed, which keeps the surface even. Again using the old door for a pattern, mark hinge mortise locations. If you choose not to pattern after the old door, stick the new door in the opening and wedge it 1/8″ from the bottom. Mark the hinge locations on the door.
Next, set the door on its latch edge. Use a square and pencil or knife to draw a line across the door edge at each hinge location. Outline the new hinge on the door by using the hinge leaf as a template.
Score marked edges for the hinge mortises with a wood chisel. Do not cut deeper than hinge leaf thickness. Angle the same chisel with beveled edge downward. Make several cuts in the scored area, again to the depth of the hinge leaf. Remove wood chips with a chisel. Insert the hinge leaf to double check fit, but do not affix it to the door.
Typically, doors taller than six feet require three hinges for weight distribution. Place the middle hinge halfway between the top and bottom hinges.
Coat door edges with wood sealant. Use wood screws to attach hinge leaves to the new door.
Hang new door.
Placing the newly sealed door in the frame, insert the top and bottom pins. If the fit is acceptable, close the door and mark where the middle hinge falls on the door frame. If the old door had a middle hinge, the best case scenario would involve the new middle hinge falling in exactly the same place, necessitating no work on your part.
If the middle hinge falls differently on the new door, take down the door by removing the bottom hinge pin and then the top. Use the hinge leaf as a template to outline the middle hinge’s location on the door frame. Cut the mortise in the same process used for door mortises. Attach the middle hinge to the door frame.
Set the door in place and insert the hinge pins, working top to bottom.
Another project for another day is installing a new lockset. For now, open your new door and go out and celebrate your accomplishment.