Replace an Interior Door
No matter how much you enjoy doing home repairs and improvements, you probably have other things you’d rather do. That’s why when faced with most tasks, I’m looking for how I can do a quality job in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible.
When an interior door needs to be replaced, often a good option is to replace just the door blank rather than removing the casing and door jamb. Obviously the door jamb and trim must be in good condition to do this, but the right approach can save time and money. It also eliminates the need to find trim that matches the rest of the house.
To purchase the right door for the opening you’ll need to get some measurements. If the existing door is still in place and it fits right, you can measure it and match it. If there is no door in the opening, measure vertically from the floor to the underside of the jamb header, and horizontally between the jamb sides in front of the door stops. These measurements are usually referred to in feet and inches with the horizontal listed before the vertical. In the case of our door replacement we needed a door 2 feet by 6 feet, 8 inches. (Note: Door and window sizes are often written with the feet as an integer and the inches as an exponent. So a door that measures 2 feet 4 inches in width and 6 feet 8 inches high will be written 2468.)
Unless you are very familiar with door types and wood species, a digital photo is a good way to match your door type. Before leaving the house, shoot the overall door and get a close-up shot of the wood grain as well. Take your camera with you to the home improvement store to find the door you’re looking for.
Because you are using the existing door jamb with its hinge and strike locations already determined, it’s best to get a door with no hardware holes or hinge mortising. These will all need to be matched to the door jamb on site.
Here’s how to get that door installed and opening with ease:
Step 1: Put the door in the opening and adjust it with shims until you have even reveals (spaces) between door jamb and door blank. A shim at the floor can be about 1/4-inch thick on hard surfaces. On carpeted areas the door should just clear the top of the carpet nap.
Step 2: Put a mark on the door at the top and the bottom of the strike-plate mortise, which is located on the door jamb. Find the center between the two marks. This will be the center of the door latch.
Step 3: Measure from the bottom of the door to the latch center mark, and transfer this mark over to the center of the back latch set (about 2-3/8 inches from the door edge).
Step 4: Put a cross mark at 2-3/8 inches from where the edge of the door will be after it is trimmed.
Step 5: Mark where the door needs to be trimmed. If the jamb sides are fairly parallel but the top is not even all the way across, you may need to trim at an angle to follow the jamb.
Step 6: Remove the door from the opening and mark the top of the door indicating which surface is the outside, inside, hinge side and strike side.
Step 7: Place the door blank on sawhorses. Using a hole saw, drill a 2-1/8-inch hole through the door where the door latch set will be installed. The centering bit should start at the cross mark you made earlier. Drill until the centering bit goes through the door, turn the door over and finish cutting from the other side.
Step 8: Transfer the latch center mark down the edge of the door using a square. Then mark the center of the door (half of the door thickness).
Step 9: Use a 1-inch spade bit to bore the hole for the latch bolt from the door edge to the large hole you drilled earlier. Make sure the angle of the drill bit is square to the door in both directions.
Step 10: Use a straight-edge to mark where the door needs to be trimmed. It’s not uncommon for the door jamb to be out of square requiring a tapered cut. In this case we needed to trim the top of the door about 3/16 inch on the hinge side to nothing on the strike side at the top.
Step 11: Use a power planer to trim the door ends. Note: Do not exit the door edge with the power planer. This could cause the wood to tear out. Enter the edge of the door and cut toward the middle from each end.
Step 12: You can use your finger as a depth gauge to mark what needs to be cut off the door edge. If you’re not comfortable with this old-school technique, use a straight edge or combination square set to the desired depth.
Step 13: Because the strike edge of the door will be tapered, put a series of marks along the edge of the door so you know when you’ve cut across the entire face of the door.
Step 14: Plane the edge of the door making several passes at a slight angle until the bed of the planer rides on the new bevel and the pencil marks disappear along the door edge adjacent to the longest face.
Step 15: Lay out the hinge-plate mortise and score the lines with a knife.
Step 16: Use a hinge plate to set the router depth for the mortise. Mortise the hinge locations with the router. Keep the router cuts within the confines of the hinge location layout lines.
Step 17: Finish the hinge mortise with a chisel and/or utility knife.
Step 18: Use a hinge plate to pre-drill for the hinge screws. Fasten the hinge plates to the doors with screws.
Step 19: Hang the door on the hinges and check the swing and reveals.
Step 20: Minor adjustments can be made by shimming behind the hinge plates to move them closer to the strike-side jamb or by adding longer hinge screws to pull the door away from the strike-side jamb.
Step 21: Shown is the completed door. See “Finishing Touches” below to learn how to enhance the door’s appearance.
- door blank
- measuring tape
- combination square
- cedar shims
- drill, bits, hole saw
- power planer
- utility knife
After the door is fit and all adjustments are made, sand a slight chamfer along the edges of the door. This helps protect face veneers from being snagged and peeled off, gives finishes a place to adhere on the corners and makes the door more pleasing to the touch.
Also, sand off any layout marks and scuffs, which may be on the door surfaces. Use a fine grit paper, sand with the grain and do not sand deep. Many of today’s wood veneers are very thin so aggressive sanding can go through the veneer and ruin the door.
Wipe down the door with a clean rag.
Apply wood stain to match the existing doors in the house. Thoroughly mix the stain, smear it on and wipe it off. Apply a clear coat of lacquer.