A New Door Fits an Old Jamb
Are your doors looking tired? Replace them quickly and easily with a technique that works every time.
Synopsis: Gary M. Katz, author of Installing and Hanging Doors, shares his foolproof process which will make hanging your door fun and easy whether its your first time or your thousandth. Katz guides you through each step with detailed instructions as well as clear pictures and diagrams to go along them. Learn how to scribe the door to the opening, bevel and mortise the hinge edges, and trim the door to fit. Finally, read the authors final tweaks for achieving a perfect fit.
I used to hate hanging doors. It’s way too easy to make a mistake, like hinging the door backward or upside down, or planing the bevel in the wrong direction. And I always had a tough time making a 1 ⁄8-in.- to-zero cut across the top of a door, especially if the door cost more than all my tools combined, and especially if someone was watching me work.
But years of hanging doors and learning from professional door hangers have tempered my views. In fact, the techniques that I outline here can make door hanging foolproof and fun, even if you’re hanging your first door. Using just a few simple tools and following the steps in order, you’ll no longer need to be afraid of doors, or of people watching you work on them.
Shims position the door in the opening
Scribing the door to the opening is an important first step. Start by setting the door on a couple of shims, then hooking it against the top of the jamb. A homemade door hook holds the door against the jamb. Adjusting the shims raises or lowers the door to the right position. If the head of the jamb is out of level, raise or lower one side of the door until the top rail is parallel to the jamb head. A small pry bar moves the door until it’s centered in the opening, but I leave at least 3 7⁄8 in. on the lock stile after planing; otherwise, some dead bolts might not fit. If the head is out of level and the jamb can’t be fixed easily, cheat the door a little out of plumb to make the head look better.
Mark the door edges
Use a simple set of dividers to scribe the edges of the door. Because I’m on the stop side, I spread the dividers to 3⁄16 in. (for a 1 3⁄4-in. door) to account for the hinge gap as well as bevels on both edges. If I’m fitting an interior door, I scribe the bottom of the door for the floor it swings over. For standard carpet, I spread the scribes to 1 3⁄8 in. An exterior door is scribed for the threshold and door shoe.
Before taking down the door, make a large X out of tape on the hinge-side top of the door to orient it once you’ve carried it to the door bench. Also measure for each hinge location. I used to transfer hinge locations from the jamb to the door by eye, but because the trim often keeps the door 1⁄2 in. away from the jamb, it’s hard to keep the marks perfectly level. Careful measurements eliminate guesswork.
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