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Here's How: Exterior Pre-Hung Door Installation Is Best for Do-It-Yourselfers

James Dulley on

Dear James: Our old wood front door faces west, so it took the abuse of the sun and storm wear. What is the best method to replace the old door with another wood myself? -- William D.

Dear William: The first step is to measure your existing door and the door frame. If it was initially installed by the builder, it most likely is a standard builder size, and it should be easy to find a replacement to fit. This makes replacement a relatively easy project. You will need a helper to handle the heavy, awkward door.

Before settling on another wood door for certain, consider some of the other door materials that are more durable. This is particularly true with the orientation to the west of your front door. Both steel and fiberglass doors can have simulated wood finishes and insulate much better than solid wood.

Wood doors are the most attractive, and they can have a long useful life if maintained properly. If you definitely want another wood door, carefully follow all the door manufacturer's instructions for maintenance, and don't cut any corners during installation.

If you are handy with tools and want to save a few dollars, it is possible to buy just the door itself and install it in the existing door frame. This requires careful fitting of the new door to the old frame and positioning all the hinges and threshold.

Instead of all this detail work, most do-it-yourselfers install a pre-hung front door. The new door comes mounted in a new door frame with the hinges already installed. Using a pre-hung door saves a lot of installation time, and you can be certain the door fits squarely in its frame. Many of these doors also have the bottom threshold and seal attached.

To install a pre-hung door, you first have to remove your old wood door and its framing. Knock the hinge pins out of the hinges, and lift the old door out of the frame. Be careful because it is heavy. It may not seem difficult to handle, but with its height and weight, if it starts to tip from a vertical balanced point, just get out of the way and let it drop.

Carefully pry the door trim casings loose, and pull them off the door frame. You may have to pull them over some of the trim nail heads. Don't worry about this because you can fill in the tiny holes with wood filler later. With the casings off the door, you will have access to the old frame. Use a reciprocating saw to cut through the nails, and then remove the frame.


With the rough wall opening now exposed, place your new pre-hung door in it to see how well it fits. Use a level to make sure it is vertical when test fitting it in the opening.

Since your house has wood or vinyl siding, this is a good time to trace the outline of the new door trim molding along the siding. A circular saw can be used to cut the siding to the trim line so it fits without a large gap to fill.

Center the pre-hung door in the wall opening framing, and secure it into position with wedge shims. Insert shims every 12 inches along the sides of the frame. Stuff fiberglass insulation into the gaps. Foam insulation also works well.

Drive nails or screws through the door frame and shims into the wall opening framing on the latch side. The long screws through the hinges on the other side extend into the wall framing. Reattach the door trim, and caulk along its edge.


Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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