Front Door Installation Guide
Home renovations can cost a large amount of both money and time. But quick, simple improvements can do a surprising amount to improve the look of your home. Better yet, you don’t have to be a professional handyman to do them! One of the fastest ways to drastically increase your home’s curb appeal is to replace the front door.
Buying a New Front Door
Whether you’re replacing the front door because the old one is damaged or purely for aesthetic reasons, you have no shortage of options. You can choose from a variety of styles, colors, materials, and more. But for now, let’s look at the choice that ultimately makes the most difference: pre-hung vs. slab doors.
A slab door has been sanded, stained, and otherwise prepped to your specifications. However, it doesn’t come with any hardware, such as hinges, necessary to hang it up. It’s quite literally just a slab. If only the door itself needs replacing, a slab door is perfectly fine. But more extensive home renovations require something different.
A pre-hung door (sometimes called a door system) is far more complete. A pre-hung door comes with all the hardware installed and is even mounted to its own frame. You simply have to remove the old door and install the new one! If you’re doing significant home renovations or if your old door frame was significantly damaged, a pre-hung door is a much better choice. For today’s purposes, we’ll be looking at how to install both types of doors.
What You Need to Know
Door installation is a pretty straightforward process, but you may still encounter a few unfamiliar terms. Not to worry--we’ve got you covered.
First of all, you’ll see shims appearing several times in the installation instructions below. What are shims? They’re thin, sometimes wedge-shaped, pieces of wood used to fill in gaps, provide a level surface, or add support to a structure. You’ll be using a lot of these, so be sure to stock up!
Second, flashing tape. Flashing tape is a waterproof material used to seal edges and keep water from leaking inside. Self-adhesive tape, which is what we advise you to use, somewhat resembles an oversized roll of duct tape. You’ll be using flashing tape to add a watertight seal to the bottom of a pre-hung door. (If you’re installing a slab door, don’t worry about flashing tape unless the doorway needs additional waterproofing.)
Measure Twice, Buy Once
Before you rip out the old door, make sure you know exactly what you’re ordering. Measure your current door and note the dimensions so you don’t wind up with a replacement that doesn’t fit. Note the width and height, rounding up to the nearest inch on all dimensions. You can stop here if you’re installing a slab door.
For a pre-hung door, you’ll need more detailed dimensions. Measure the jamb width--the distance between the interior sides of the trim around the door. Think of this as the “depth” of your doorway. Note this distance along with the width and height. Make especially sure to get this measurement right. An error in measurement could mean that you have to install jamb extensions to keep your trim level with the wall, and that just adds a layer of work you don’t need.
Next, measure the rough opening--the width and height of your empty door frame with the interior trim removed. Compare these measurements to the rough opening dimensions listed for the new door you’ve ordered to ensure they match.
Finally, measure the exterior opening--the width and height of your door frame with the exterior trim included. These dimensions are the least flexible in your entire project. Compare them to your pre-hung door’s exterior opening dimensions, if you know them. If you don’t know the necessary dimensions, add four inches to your new door’s rough opening measurements. (Most pre-hung doors come with 2 inches of trim on all sides.) Remember that not every door will have the same exterior opening measurements, and while this is usually simple enough to fix, it can add a little more work to the process. Talk to one of our experts to learn how to handle door trim in this case.
Finding Your New Door
Take the time to consider the many other factors of purchasing a door. First, consider materials. Fiberglass doors provide excellent weather resistance and, depending on the model, may be nearly indistinguishable from wood. However, your style choices will be somewhat limited. Opting for an actual wooden door will give you more choices in design, size, style, and (to an extent) color. Wooden doors will require a little extra care to maintain the finish, though. You’ll also have to make sure an exterior wooden door is sheltered from direct exposure to rain. (A nestled porch provides enough cover.)
Next, your door accessories. Whether you’re purchasing a new handle and deadbolt for your door or just planning to reuse the old ones, have the exact type you want in mind. Order your hinges and other accessories in the same finish. You can even request to have the door drilled specifically to fit your deadbolt. While you may pay a little extra for this, it will save you time and eliminate the guesswork during the door installation process.
Finally, go in prepared. As you shop for doors, bring along your notes with your measurements and a reminder of which way the door swings. This will narrow down your search pretty quickly. Once you’ve found and purchased the door you want, it’s time to go home and get ready to install it.
Removing the Old Door
Do you have all the tools and supplies you need for the job? Your supply list will look a little different depending on whether you’re installing a slab door or a pre-hung model.
You’ll need these basic items for either job:
If you’re installing a slab door, you can stop here. For a pre-hung door, add these supplies to your list:
- Caulk & caulk gun
- Nail set
- Carpenter’s square
- Drop cloths
- Spray foam insulation
- Finishing nails
- PVC cement
- Flashing tape
Removing a Pre-Hung Door
- If you have a storm door, find the screws that hold it in place and remove them. Set the storm door aside for now.
- Turn off the power to your house briefly and remove the doorbell. Removing a doorbell is usually very simple as long as the power is off. If you aren’t comfortable removing it yourself have an electrician do it.
- Remove the interior and exterior trim. Using a utility knife (or a caulk joint), pry the trim loose. Discard the exterior trim--your new door will come with trim already attached. Save the interior trim if you’re planning to reuse it.
- Take the old door off its hinges. Use your hammer to loosen the hinge pins and remove the door. Lay the old door on a dropcloth to prevent it from damaging the floor.
- Remove the jamb. Using your oscillating saw, carefully cut the door frame loose from the house frame. The saw will cut through any screws or nails used to hold the jamb in place. Be very careful not to damage your rough opening. Once the frame is loose, carefully slide it out of the doorway.
Removing a Slab Door
Unsurprisingly, removing a slab door is very straightforward.
- Remove the handle and any additional locks from the door.
- Remove the screws holding the hinges to the doorframe. Make sure to have someone hold the door to keep it from falling once it’s loose. Don’t worry about removing the hinges from the door unless you’re planning to reuse them. Set the door aside.
Installing the New Door
Now that the old door’s gone, it’s time to do something about that gaping hole in the front of your house. Keep your tools on hand as you prepare to install your brand new door.
Instructions for Installing a Pre-Hung Door
- Make sure the door’s sill is level with the interior floor and allows enough room for the door to swing open over any carpeting or rugs. Remove any damaged or rotting wood present. If the sill isn’t level, use shims to even everything out.
- Seal the door sill to protect it from water damage. If you’re using a sill pan, place the corner pieces first and set the middle piece on top of them. Use PVC cement to seal the pieces together. Once the cement is dry, attach the sill pan to the door frame with caulking. Finally, apply caulking around the edges of the sill pan and allow it to dry completely. If you’re using flashing tape, make sure to cover every possible opening. Apply the tape to encourage any water to flow away from the sill. Wrap the tape around the front edge of the door sill. Finally, apply flashing tape about 6 inches up the sides of the door frame.
- Drill a new hole for the doorbell into the new frame.
- Apply caulking to the back of the new door’s molding on the top, left, and right sides. This will help hold the door in place.
- Carefully line up the door with the rough opening. Set the bottom of the door on top of the sill. Slowly tilt the door forward and into place. Have someone hold the door in place and avoid opening it if possible until it’s completely secure. Make sure to pull the doorbell wires out through the hole you drilled for them.
- Insert shims around the interior frame on the left and right sides: one above each hinge, one right above the latch, and one each at the top and bottom of the latch side of the door.
- Secure the hinges to the door and frame with screws.
- (If your door has brick moulding or is protected by a porch, skip this step.) Prepare a metal drip cap to mount over the door for additional water protection. Cut the cap to size, slide it under the siding around your door, and center it. The drip cap will generally be secure in place with no need for nails or caulking.
- Close the door completely and make sure the weatherstripping is equal all around the door frame. Insert shims as needed to keep the door frame straight and in place.
- Screw the top and bottom of the door frame in place.
- Insert a shim above the middle screw on the latch side of the door frame. Attach the strike plate and place the middle screw.
- Place a sheet of paper on top of the sill, close the door, and try to pull the paper out. The door is properly sealed if the paper offers some resistance but comes out without tearing. If the seal is too tight or too loose, adjust the sill cap as needed.
- Apply caulking around the edges of the sill cap to seal any remaining gaps. Attach the corner pads provided with the door. (If the door is already quite snug against the sill, you can skip the corner pads.)
- Install the lock and deadbolt.
- Using your oscillating saw, cut off the ends of the remaining shims until they’re all level with the door frame.
- Spray foam insulation around the edges of the door frame. (Don’t overdo it! Too much insulation can put pressure on the frame.) Once the foam has dried, gently fill in any gaps with fiberglass insulation.
- Install the interior trim and seal both it and the exterior trim with caulking.
- Install your new doorbell (or reattach the old one).
Instructions for Installing a Slab Door
- Carefully slide the new door into the frame. Use shims to hold it in place if necessary. Take note of anywhere the door needs to be trimmed.
- (If the door doesn’t require trimming, skip this step.) Lay the new door flat and lay the old door on top. Make sure both are facing the same way. Use the old door as a template to mark where the new one needs to be trimmed. Use your oscillating saw to remove any excess and sand the edge.
- Still using your old door as a reference, mark where the hinges and doorknob will go on your new door.
- Trace the hinge markings with a utility knife. Using a hammer and chisel, carefully make notches inside the hinge markings. This will make removing the excess easier.
- Gently scrape off the notches with your chisel.
- Attach the new hinges to the door. Make sure they’re positioned to allow the door to swing in the right direction.
- Attach the door handle and any additional locks.
- Locate where the latch will be and, using the same method as steps 4-5, prep the area. This will ensure the latch is even with the door.
- Install the latch.
- Position the door in the frame and support it with shims if needed. Attach the hinges securely to the frame. Check the fit again before moving on.
- Using the latch as a reference, mark the spot on the frame where the latch plate will go. Repeat steps 4-5 again to prep the area. Install the latch plate and make sure the latch fits smoothly.
Make It Look Good
Your new door is in place! Now it’s time for a few cosmetic touches. Find accessories that match the deadbolt and handle you already chose. Several popular choices for a new front door include:
- Decorative straps
- Matching doorbells
But there’s more to decorating a door than just accessories. Depending on the type of door you chose, you may have to paint or finish it yourself once it’s installed. If this is the case, you may have a limited window of time to paint the door. Talk to a member of our team for details.
You can also consider installing windows around or above the door for additional natural light. Since adding windows requires a more involved job, make sure to arrange this before installing the door itself. This may also change the size of the door you need, so be sure to consult with our experts on how your plans will change.
Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal
Even a seemingly minor change can do wonders for your home’s exterior. Replacing your faded, weather-beaten door with a brand new one is an easy, relatively inexpensive way to give your home a facelift.
Ready for a new entry door? Find it in our inventory and get in touch with our sales team to get started today.