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How to Correctly Hang & Install a Door
Interior doors can last for a very long time, and can be easily given a new lease of life just by changing the handles or giving them a lick of paint. However, sometimes you will want to replace them – perhaps you want a completely new design, or the door that is in place right now is warped or damaged. Replacing a door can be a tricky project, and ideally you should have someone with you when you do it, since some doors can be surprisingly heavy. Here are some tips for fitting a new door.
Time Required: Allocate a day to prepare the door frame, remove the existing door and hang the new one.
Difficulty: Moderate – it is best to have some DIY experience, and to have someone on hand to help you move the doors, which may be heavier than they appear at first glance!
Option 1: Slab Doors
The first thing you will need to do is remove the existing door. Start by breaking apart the caulking surrounding the door trim. Use the sharp corner of a chisel to do this. Next, break away the trim, working slowly and carefully. With luck, you will get the trim off unspoilt, so that you can easily replace it once the new door is in place.
To remove the existing door, remove the nails or screws that attach the door frame to the studs on the wall. Next, close the door and have a friend help you to tip the door backwards, towards the direction in which you took away the trim. The door should easily fall out of the opening.
Fitting The Door
Before you start work, make sure that the floor is flat and that the frame is straight. Use a spirit level and a plum to check this. Next, measure the space of the opening, and if appropriate trim or plane the frame to make space.
If the door frame is already in place, and you are simply hanging the door inside the frame, then the first thing to do is place the slab inside the existing frame, and then make sure that it lines up perfectly with the frame. Use shims at the bottom of the door to do this.
Once you have the perfect alignment (so that the door does not catch on the frame or the floor when it swings, mark the position of each hinge. You need three hinges to provide optimal support. Drill holes for the hinges, and fit them, taking care that you fit them on the correct side of the door for the direction that you want it to swing.
Secure the hinges, and test that the door opens and closes smoothly. If you are not satisfied with the movement, adjust the hinges (most hinges have a screw that allows you to do this) to adjust the angle and tightness of the door.
Most issues with doors occur because the floor is not level, or because the door is angled and the jamb has not been trimmed to take this into account. If the jamb does not line up properly then you will end up with a latch that is too loose, or that sticks. Sometimes, trimming the jamb will not be enough. If the floor slopes by more than 1/2inch from one side of the door to the other (you can measure this with shims), then you may need to trim the door itself.
Option 2: Pre-Hung Doors
Slab doors tend to be less expensive than pre-hung doors, but take more work to install. A pre-hung door comes already attached to a door frame. In theory, you could open and close the door within this frame, but it is not a good idea to do so because without walls supporting the frame, the wood is quite fragile and could easily become misaligned.
A pre-hung door is quite heavy, and will need two people to manoeuvre it. Installing a pre-hung door is generally easier than installing a slab door, however you will need to shim the frame correctly. Poor shimming could ruin the fit and movement of the door.
The main reasons to buy a pre-hung door would be if:
There is no door frame in the opening at the moment
The existing door frame is rotten, warped or damaged.
The door frame is open/exposed, and you will be doing extensive remodelling.
You are installing an exterior door. In this case, using a pre-hung door will save you from having to waste time making the slab-door weathertight.
Some Final Tips
For a perfect door fit, it is imperative that you have an accurate level. You can test the accuracy of your spirit level by laying it on a flat surface and making a note of the position of the bubble, then flipping the level over and checking the position again. Use a proper spirit level instead of the app that is available for some smartphones.
If there are no carpets in the room, but you plan to add some at a later date, leave 3/8 inch gap between the floor and the bottom of the door to allow space for the carpet.
Hanging a door can be a time consuming and labour-intensive process, and if you make a mistake it will not only affect the look of the whole room, but also potentially leave you with a sticking door, or cause damage to your carpets.
If you have the time and patience to install your own doors, and are confident in your ability to follow detailed DIY instructions, then you may enjoy the project. However, if you do not have a lot of time or you are worried about making a mistake, it makes sense to call in a professional. A qualified joiner will be able to install a new door for you, including the frame, far quicker than the average DIY enthusiast. Paying their fee will save you from stress and the potential time and material costs associated with making a mistake.