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Installing new front door into existing frame


Milemaker13's Avatar
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08-02-17, 10:06 AM   #1  
Installing new front door into existing frame

I want to install a new steel entry door into the existing door frame on our house. The house was built in 1919. The frame seems to be square and rock solid, but the door has certainly seen better days. Its basically falling apart.

The existing frame has two hinges and an old style mortise latch, complete with skeleton keys. The new door does not have hinges or locksets cut in yet.

How do I begin? I've checked square on the the frame by measuring from opposite corners and by putting a framing square into the corners. It seems pretty good... Is there a better, more accurate method I should use here? How 'exact' does it need to be?

And then how do I measure and mark for new hinges? Do I use the router to cut them in? I have an old tool from gramps.. its a hinge outline that you use to score the wood, then chisel it out to fit the hinge. At least I think thats how it works. Should I try to employ this tool?

Any insite, advice, warnings, or what have you are welcome and appreciated. Thanks Gang!

 
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08-02-17, 10:40 AM   #2  
After a little online reading, it seems pretty straight forward.
1- Place door into existing frame, shim bottom for proper height. Mark the existing hinge mortise locations on the new door.
2- Stand door on edge, place hinges on the marks and trace them with a pencil. Score the outline with a utility knife.
3- using a chisel, carefully cut away until the hinge fits well. Then mark the holes.
4- BOOM! Done! No problems what so ever!! Right?

So, are there any pitfalls I should be aware of?

 
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08-02-17, 10:57 AM   #3  
Your plan raises several red flags.

First, how thick is your old door, and how thick is the new door? They should really be the same... some old doors were very thick, and are often not the same size as doors today.

Second, the size and shape of your opening would need to be "dead on" for this to work, because you can't alter the size and shape of a steel door. A wood door could be cut or planed to fit, but steel is what it is.

Third, you generally want 3 hinges on an exterior door. The size of hinge depends on the thickness and weight of the door.

And the finally your height is critical. If your new door is say, 1" shorter than the old one, you are going to have to do some magic on the threshold to make that work and you might not like stepping over a tall threshold. Plus you will probably still need to add some form of weatherstripping.

Put all those things together and a new prehung exterior door usually makes more sense. If the new door you put on the old frame is still drafty, what have you accomplished? Looks good from the street I suppose.

Easiest way to test fit a slab door is to just take the old one out, and set the new one in. Then use tapered cedar shims on all 4 sides to center it in the opening. Then observe the gap around the perimeter of the door... it should be roughly 1/8" all the way around the sides and top. If it is, you can transfer the location of the hinges from the jamb to the door just by making a couple pencil marks. (Just double check those measurements with a tape measure).

I will generally just accurately measure each hinge location from the top of the jamb, account for the 1/8" gap I want, mark the hinges, hold them on the door where I marked them, use a vix bit to drill centered pilot holes, and temporarily mount each hinge to the door with 2 screws. Then I take a sharp utility knife and carefully score the perimeter of the hinge about 1/8" deep. Then I remove the hinges and use a palm router to make the mortise... just doing it carefully by hand... staying within the line that I scored. Just don't make the mortise too deep. 3/32" is usually about right. The hinge should be flush with the wood once you screw it down... not recessed into the wood or sticking out beyond.

If your door is way too narrow for the opening, (say you find that you have 3/16" or 1/4" of room on the sides of the new door when you test fit it) you might not even want to mortise the door... doing so would move the door almost 1/8" farther from the latch side jamb than you want.

 
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08-02-17, 12:35 PM   #4  
The old door is 1-3/4" thick, I have not measured the new door but I will b4 purchasing (no returns on this discounted door).

I re-checked square and it still looks to be square (amazing considering that nothing else in this old house is square or level...)

The opening is 36-1/4" x 80-1/4". So if the new door actually measures 36 x 80, that should give me the 1/8 gap all around.

I'll buy new hinges of course (3 of them). And I'll most likely go at it with a chisel... unless you really think its worth attempting to use the router. All I have is a big one and Ive read that I may need templates??

And yes, I understand that this may not turn out perfectly. But there is literally like an inch gap at the top strike side and the door is coming apart, so I think that however it turns out it will be an improvement.

Also, fyi- this exterior is located inside an enclosed porch, not actually outside.

 
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08-02-17, 12:48 PM   #5  
The new door will probably be 35 3/4... but you be the judge if it will be better than existing. Chisel is fine, provided you know how to use one... lol

 
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08-16-17, 04:39 AM   #6  
OK, turned out pretty well. The door actually measured 35 3/4 so I had about 1/4 on the sides. I took your advice and did not mortis the hinges on the door or frame (I had to relocate the two existing hinge locations because old screw holes, mortis too deep, etc). I did have to replace the original stops (are they actually the jambs??) with wider strips and will be adding weatherstripping. Top and bottom had quite a bit of gap so I added a flat strip of wood at the top to close it up some. The existing wooden threshold is not flat or level so I got an ugly little slip on weather blocker dealie that should work.
But again, even considering the oddities, the new door is a great improvement on the the old one. This one looks way better and even opens and closes with out using your shoulder! lol. Thanks for your advice X!

 
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