Installing An Exterior Door To Your Home Installing An Exterior Door To Your Home

Installing an exterior door can improve both the appearance and energy efficiency of your home.

1. Choosing the Right Door

Buy a pre-hung door with the look and features you want. Make certain the door will work in the height and width of your current exterior door frame. And ensure the door comes with a lockset and clear, complete instructions. 

2. Removing Your Old Door 

Clear the way for your new exterior door by removing the old one. The requires not only taking the door itself off the hinges, but removing the molding around the frame and the frame itself.

At this point you should be down to the exposed studs.

3. Leveling the Sill

Using a level, make certain the exterior door threshold sill is level. Houses shift, and it is likely that some adjustment of the sub-sill will be required. You can do this by shimming (inserting small angled pieces of wood under the sill) to achieve a level surface.

4. Roughing the Jam

The exposed, rough-wood studs of the door jam should extend about an inch beyond the edge of the interior and exterior walls that surround it. If shifting has made the wall edges too irregular, smooth with a plane or file.

5. Caulking - The Sill

Apply beads of caulk on the inside and outside edges of the threshold sill. Be certain that the caulk extends completely from edge to edge of the door opening. Caulk up the wall one inch on each side as well. The goal is to prevent any floor-level drafts.

6. Placing the Door

Begin outside. Place the door frame and door assembly, bottom-edge first, against the cleared, cleaned and caulked door opening. Lift the door frame and door assembly, so that you can tilt it bottom first into place.

7. Shimming - Top and Bottom

With the door tilted in place, ensure it is centered in the opening. Make the door temporarily secure in the space by shimming at the bottom and the top.

8. Shimming - The Sides

Shims should be placed between the rough-wood studs and the new door frame in several specific points on each side.

  • Hinges - Shim behind each hinge placement
  • Locks - Shim above and below the lockset and between the deadbolt and lockset
  • Other - Shim the locking edge approximately across from the hinge shims and elsewhere as needed for the door to be level and secure.

    9. Inspection

    When the door is square and secure, there should be a 1/8-inch distance at all points between the door frame and the rough-wood door jam. With the door closed, inspect it from the inside and outside to ensure it is plumb and square. Adjust the shims as needed.

    10. Making the Door Secure and Tight

    When the door is plumb and square, use the screws that come with the door and door frame set to secure the door to the jam. With expanding foam insulation, you can fill in all open areas, including around the shims, between the door frame and the door jam. Double check to ensure the threshold sill is well insulated.

    11. The Lockset

    Your door and door frame set will come with pre-cut holes for your lock and deadbolt, if applicable. Install both locking mechanisms, checking to ensure the latch bolt and deadbolt  insert firmly into the receiving cutout in the door frame. Install strike plates, if they do not come installed. Finally, face plates and door handles.

    12. Finish Out

    Select a finishing material, typically a wood molding to match other trim in your home. Cut and angle to match other door trim, hammer into place around the door frame set, prime and paint.


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