Door Installation Tips - How to Install a Pre-Hung Exterior Door
A front door that sticks when you open it or one that doesn't seal all the way when closed can be frustrating. Nothing brightens up the outside of your home quite like a new entry door. Not only will your new front door look great, but it can help reduce your energy costs as well.
Recently we thought of a question that a person might ask about purchasing new exterior doors for their home. So instead of giving you all of the boring manufacturer information about doors, we decided to tackle this in a different way.
DEAR KEVIN: I need your opinion because my front door is in pretty bad shape and my wife is on my tail about getting a new one. So last Sunday we drove to the store to see what options were available. One of the first things I noticed was that I could buy a door that was already hung in the frame which made me think it would be an easy job. Do you think I could install a new front door myself? I can't imagine it would be as easy as nailing the new door in place. What advice can you give me so that I can save money and keep my wife happy? --anonymous
Installing an exterior door can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time at it. There are a lot of steps involved to ensure that the door works properly, seals adequately when closed to avoid energy loss, and so that there are no water leakages into your house. Water leaks can cause some serious damage to the structure of your house over time.
I won't be able to explain every little detail in this article just because there are too many factors involved but I will do my best to set you in the right direction. Let's talk about what you might run into or problems that could come up so that you can avoid pitfalls in this project.
Remove the Old Door, Molding and Frame
For starters, make sure you don't make the mistake of buying the wrong door like I did when I was first learning how to install doors. So to avoid the same mistake , you need to know how to measure a door opening before you run out and buy a new door.
If your house is less than 50 years old, you shouldn't have any problems getting a pre-hung door that will fit in your existing opening.
I am sure that we could agree that the easiest part is removing the interior trim around the door. You could use your razor blazer blade, a putty knife or a small pry bar that is flat to do the job. Begin at the bottom of the door and work your way around. Your goal is to separate the caulking or paint between the trim and wall to avoid damaging the wall.
Calculate the Dimensions of the Rough Opening
After you have removed all of the trim, the entire door frame will be exposed and you this is where you will dimensions of your existing frame. Your job here is to get the unit dimensions which is the outer width and height of the frame. You want this to match up as close as possible while also paying attention to the thickness of the door jamb which is usually the same thickness as your wall, which is either 4 9/16 inches or 6 9/16 inches.
Don't start tearing out your door until you have the new door and all of the tools and supplies that you're going to need. For example, you will need wood shims, rust-proof trim screws (I like to use ones that are at least 2 1/2 inches long), a plastic sill pan flashing kit, rubberized waterproofing material, 3 to 4 tubes of caulking that doesn't shrink (such as DAP exterior caulking), and a few tools to help you tear out the old door.
IMPORTANT: Exterior doors can be heavy so to avoid injury to you and your home, you may need help to remove and install the new one.
Dry-Fit the New Door
Like any home improvement project, the next important step is to read all the instructions that came with your new door. Make sure the size matches up and that the door swings open in the same direction as the old one. The last thing you need is to be stopped in your tracks mid project because of the wrong size door or not having the right tools. Before removing the shipping brackets on the door, dry fit the door by carefully setting it in the opening and using shims under the jam until the door is plumb and level.
There are two mistake I have seen rookies make when installing a new exterior doors. The first is not putting the proper flashing underneath. Most think that a simple bead of caulking will do the job of stopping the water but overtime the caulking wears off. If you want to keep the water out, you need to install flashing. I like to use a pre-formed flashing pan. They are easy to use and come in a variety of sizes to accommodate all doors.
The other mistake is not squaring up the door. Many just assume the pre-hung door unit is square but the fact is that they can easily come out of square during delivery. Fix it during the installation to avoid wasted time and money.
Hang the New Door
After you have the new door in the opening, next you will need to secure it in place with wood shims and rust proof nails (I prefer to use screws). During this part you need to be constantly checking to ensure the door frame is plumb and not twisted. At the top of the door hinge is where you will want to install a long screw (typically 3-4 inches) so that your door frame is fastened securely to the framing. This also prevents door droop.
Seal the Door and Add Insulation
Finally you will need to seal the door and add insulation, fill any holes left by screws with wood filler and caulk around the door. For high energy efficiency, you will need to install fiberglass insulation between the voids of the door and frame opening. Re-attach the trim around the door and attach the door handle and deadbolt.
Now you can go after this exterior door replacement project with a lot more confidence. But if you've changed your mind and don't want to do it yourself now, give us a call to find out more about our door installation services.