Interior Door Installation

Interior door installation is a relatively easy project with the right tools. Most interior doors come in standard sizes (if you have a period home you may have to get the door custom sized) and hanging a door can be done in an hour or two.  If you need to replace the jamb as well, you may need to install a prehung door, which is even easier because the hinges are already mortised and positioned for you.

Installing a Door in an Existing Jamb
If you are replacing the door and not the jamb, your biggest challenge will be setting the hinges and lockset correctly. Measure your opening very accurately, including the precise position of your hinges on the door. The easiest solution is to have the home center or door company mortise your hinges for you and cut the hole for the door hardware. To do this accurately they will need precise measurements. If possible, take your existing door in and have them use that as a template.

Mortising your own hinges can be tricky. Either draw an outline of the hinges you will be using, or purchase a hinge template. Then use a chisel or router to carve out the wood to fit your hinges. Again using your hinges as a template, mark where the screws will go and pre-drill shallow holes. Then attach the hinges to the door.

It's easiest to have two people to install an interior door, especially if it is heavy, but it can be done by one person. Line the door up and slide the hinges together. Sometimes balancing the bottom of the door on your toes is helpful here. You can also use wooden shingles to shim the door up to the correct height. Slide the hinge pins in as far as they will go, then tap them down into place.

Once the hinges are on, check to make sure the door can close properly. If it does, you're ready to install the lockset and doorknobs. Locksets often come with a template that makes it easy to mark the proper location for holes.

Install a Prehung Door
Measure your rough opening precisely. Most doorways are standard sizes, and you should be able to pick up a ready-made prehung door. The standard height for the opening is about 80" tall. Figure on buying a door that is two to three inches narrower than your opening. If the width of the rough opening is 38", you need a 36" wide door. The jambs will be left long enough for you to cut them to fit the contour of your floor. You will also need to buy shims to wedge the prehung door into place. You may also need a lockset. Most prehung doors come with the hole already cut out for the door hardware. If you are installing new trim as well as the prehung door, buy that as well.

Your opening should be square and level, but it never hurts to check it with a level. It may not be perfect; that's why it's called a rough opening. If it's out of square, you'll need shims to install the prehung door straight and plumb. There should be a variance of less than 3/8" from top to bottom and side to side. Fit your door into the opening and see if you need to trim the jambs. You want the door to clear your floor by about a half inch. If the floor is not level, don't try to square the door to the flooring. It will never hang or close correctly. Cut the jambs to fit the floor. You can trim the bottom of the door to conform to the floor later. Measure very carefully, because you don't want to trim the jambs too short. Half the trick with interior door installation is measuring and cutting carefully.

Set Your Prehung Door
Push the door into the opening, it should stay put. One problem you will encounter is the door swinging freely while you install it. You cannot take the door off the hinges, because you will need to keep checking that it is opening and closing correctly throughout the installation. You can nail some scrap lumber diagonally across the top corners of the opening to prevent the door from swinging wide open as you work.

Shim Your Prehung Door
Starting at the top, tap your tapered shims between the framing and the jambs. Generally you want shims at the top, bottom and about halfway up. This will take some adjusting. Close the door and check the gap all the way around. Since the shims are tapered, they can be pulled out or tapped further in until your door is hanging straight. Open and close it, checking for a smooth swing. Once it is even all the way around, double-check everything with your level. Use wood shingles for shims rather than the molded plastic shims. These are much easier to nail.

Nail in Your Prehung Door
Starting on the hinge side, nail the jamb to the frame. Start by nailing through each shim. You need to make sure that the door jamb doesn't twist out of square as you nail it to the frame. After each nail is set, close the door and double-check the gap and how it meets up to the door stop. Once everything is set solid, use a utility knife to score the shims flush and break them off. Now you are ready to install your trim and lockset.

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