Installing an entry door can be a complicated project. To make a comprehensive list tackling all situations that you might encounter would be quite long and involved. There are so many time consuming problems that might come up, especially if you are replacing an existing door.
The goal of this article is to walk you through the process of installing a brand new pre-hung door into a rough opening that is already the proper size. Carpenters typically see this kind of installation when working on a new home or a new wall during a home remodel. This is the most straightforward type of installation that you will encounter.
In contrast, installing a replacement door may require dealing with siding, exterior trim, insulation, drywall, interior trim, interior wall covering, finished flooring, painted surfaces, and dust to worry about. (Whew! And our clients have trouble understand why renovation work is so expensive!)
So let’s get started on the process of installing a pre-hung door.
Step #1: Clean and Level the Sill
Cleaning and leveling the sill is the first step and a very important one. Unfortunately, I often see this step overlooked. If the sill is out of level when you plumb the sides of the doorframe, you will be forcing the doorframe out of square. This can cause a number of problems including the door rubbing, working hard, not sealing properly, and door bolt alignment issues.
Start by setting the door up on a strip of ½’’ treated plywood. Doing this will allow for more room for finished flooring and enough clearance for a future throw rug.
Next, level the opening by shimming the low side of the opening with a shim. Afer installing the shim, apply multiple heavy beads of subfloor adhesive to the bottom of the opening. Caulking would also work. You want to make sure to use a product that will get hard enough to support the aluminum sill across the entire length of the sill. The glue basically creates a tapered shim that will help to support the length of the sill even though it only has a wood shim on one end. The glue or caulk also helps to seal the bottom of the door opening.
If the door you are installing has a sidelight, make sure to shim underneath the frame where the door and the sidelight are fastened together.
Step #2: Set door in opening
To start this step, remove any temporary door closing hardware slats or screws from the door. Make sure to be careful when handling the door because it is now free to swing open. Next, place the door in the opening from the outside. To do this, tip the top of the door away from the wall and set the bottom of the door assembly in the opening.
Once the bottom of the door is in place, push the top of the unit into the opening. This will flatten the bottom onto the bed of glue that you prepared in Step 1. Center the bottom of the door in the rough opening so there is equal space on the right and left margins. Use a sixteen penny casing nail or a trim head screw and install it through the bottom of the brick mold on the hinge side of the door and into the wall.
Step #3: Plumb the Doorframe
In the next step, you will need to plumb the doorframe. Start by plumbing the brick mold on the hinge side with a level. Mark the top outside of the brick mold with a pencil and fasten with three to four trim head screws or casing nails. Partially stick two nails into the top brick mold, but make sure not to set them completely at this point. Open and close the door and from the inside. The top margin between the door and jamb should now be even.
Next, shim the frame between the doorframe and the rough opening at all three hinge locations. Remove one of the ¾” long screws from each of the hinges. Choose the top screw closest to the weather stripping and replace it with a 3” long screw. This new screw will go through the hinge, doorjamb, and into the wall stud. The Top hinge is the most important because this hinge in under tension and has the weight of the door slab hanging on it.
Step #4: Set Door Margin on the Latch Side
You’re almost done! Adjust the latch side jamb to fit the door with an even margin between the door and jamb. Install a shim and screw in the strike plate area. Finish nailing the brick mold on the outside. At this point, the door should be working freely and will be ready for hardware.
Step #5: (OPTIONAL) Find golf clubs or fishing pole and go relax!
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