How To Replace Doors
Replacing doors on your own is a manageable project for a handy homeowner. It doesn’t always require a professional – though, if this is your first attempt, you might want to stick to an interior door. It’s not a bad idea to get the hang of door hanging before you try adding all of the weatherproofing and sealing that exterior doors require.
Hanging doors can be a one day project once you have the doors ready to be installed. Keep in mind that you’ll need to measure for your new doors and order them first. Doors aren’t always available in-store for immediate pick-up. You may need to order your new doors and wait for several weeks for them to arrive. Be sure to plan accordingly.
Pre-hung or Slab Doors?
Most people, even those with experience, use pre-hung doors. Prehung doors come already in the frame, with the hinges and other hardware installed. Slab doors, on the other hand, are just a door. You have to build the frame, install hinges yourself, and so on.
Slab doors may be cheaper (though they aren’t always). However, once you add the hardware and framing materials to the cost, pre-hung doors are usually the more affordable option. Also, installation is greatly simplified. Because of this, you can save time when installing. Even if you hire a professional to put your doors in, they should charge less if you use pre-hung doors.
For these reasons, pre-hung doors are much more commonly used. However, pre-hung doors are heavy due to all the extras – you’ll need an extra set of hands to get the job done and help keep the door in place. There are really only two scenarios where it might make sense to use a slab door:
- If you plan to install a very unusual door and want to have control over all the details.
- If you have an excellent door frame already in place, you do not need to fix or replace it and will be swapping the current door for another with the exact same measurements.
Installing Interior Pre-Hung Doors
Below, you’ll find all of the steps to install interior doors, with added steps for exterior doors at the end. You’ll also find the estimated time of each step. Finally, learn the setbacks that may occur to make installation take longer.
1. Remove Old Frame and Trim (1-hour)
The first step is to remove the old frame and pull down the trim. To avoid damaging the wall, the easiest way is to score the caulking around the trim. Then pull it off with a pry bar, such as this one.
If you are reinstalling the same trim later, make sure to handle it carefully. Also, keep notes as you go to help you remember what piece of trim goes where. This will make putting it back later much simpler.
Most likely, problems that can occur include finding rot or other flaws in the opening when the old frame is removed.
2. Square the Opening (Less than 30-minutes)
In this step, you will need to use a carpenter square and a long level.
These tools will be used to make sure that the opening is square and true. If it’s not, you may have trouble getting the door installed correctly. Make sure that the floor is level, and use the carpenter square to check the corners.
Most likely, the big delay here could be that the opening isn’t square. If you have to rebuild the rough opening, this can add some serious work to your day. However, it’s unlikely – if a door was installed correctly before, the opening should be square enough to install a new door. You may just need to add more shims in the next step.
3. Install New Frame (Less than 1-hour)
Install the frame and door into the rough opening. Add shims as needed near the hinges until the frame is centered.
Make sure jambs are flush with the wall. Check as you work, making sure everything remains level and square. Nail through the frame and shims into the studs, just far enough to hold the frame in place. Add shims to the other side of the door and then to the top of the door frame.
At this point, double-check the door. Verify that the door is still level. Open and shut the door, making sure everything seems to be working as needed.
In most cases, if you have an issue in this step, it’s leveling. It can be tricky to get everything flush so that the door is opening and closing as it should be. Don’t rush it, just be patient. If you try to hurry through this step, you’ll just end up frustrated in the future by a door that doesn’t latch quite right or sticks.
4. Finish Securing The Frame (30-minutes to 1-hour)
Only once you are absolutely certain that your door works seamlessly, you’ll finish securing the frame. At this point, drive the nails all the way into the frame. Trim the exposed shims – you can use a box cutter or a wood chisel like this one.
Finally, reinstall the trim you removed at the beginning (or cut and install new trim).
Most likely, problems occur here if you weren’t careful when removing the trim, and now you can’t figure out how to put it back correctly. Hey, the first step did say to take notes.
Installing Exterior Doors
The steps above are for an interior door installation. The same steps occur in an exterior door installation. However, you’ll also need to put in flashing and a metal sill pan or membrane pan. These items install into the opening before the door.
Once the door is fitted into place, you’ll add weatherstripping and caulking before reinstalling the trim. Weatherproofing the exterior door can take between 1 to 2-hours.
Sealing an exterior door is tricky. This is another step that you don’t want to rush. Take your time, and do it right, because the last thing you want is to realize your door leaks at the first blowing rain.
How Do You Measure To Replace A Door?
First, to measure the rough opening for your new door, you need to remove the molding from the door frame. Then, measure the height and width. Measure from the threshold nose to the bottom of the header for height and from one side of the rough opening to the other for width. You’ll also need to measure and record your jamb depth.
Can You Replace A Door Without Replacing The Frame?
If you want to replace a door without replacing the frame, be certain that the frame is good. If the frame is not square or in good shape, you’ll just end up with more problems.
If you’re confident in your current frame, you can install a slab door. Basic carpentry skills are necessary, though. The most difficult step is routing (or chiseling) in the hinge location to your new door – if you lack the careful precision needed for this, leave it to a pro.
Can You Replace Just A Door Jamb?
Sometimes, it might be necessary to replace a door jamb. Stress to the door can cause damage (for example, trying to move a refrigerator through a doorway and hitting it). Luckily, you can replace just the jamb. You will, however, have to remove the door and trim first.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Door?
Several factors affect the cost of replacing a door. If you hire a contractor who has to frame (or reframe) the rough opening, it can add as much as $500 to your bill. It will also cost more if they have to frame the door itself (which is why a pre-hung door can save you money on installation).
The average cost of replacing an exterior door is between $500 and $750. This includes the door and installation, though the door style and material affect the final cost. Interior doors average $250 to $400, though again, the kind of door you select will factor into the total cost.
Replacing a door is a project that can be tackled by a competent homeowner with some basic skills. Selecting a pre-hung door will make the project easier and faster. Find a helper, as you’ll need an extra set of hands to get the job done.