Installing Exterior Doors

All types of exterior doors have advantages and disadvantages. Depending upon your needs, you should choose a new door with looks, durability, price, and energy efficiency in mind. All door types are available with windows, transoms, and sidelights.

  • Wooden doors are the most expensive and visually appealing entry doors available. They are not very energy efficient and tend to shrink and swell with changes in the weather. Wooden doors must be stained or painted periodically.
  • Steel doors are the most common, energy efficient, and least expensive. They don't tend to shrink, swell, or warp like wood doors. They also lack the look and feel of a good solid wooden door.
  • Fiberglass doors are more expensive than steel doors and share many of the same advantages. They can be stained or painted to resemble wood.
  • Installing Doors

    This article outlines the basic steps involved to install a single pre hung exterior door. Installation instructions may vary from one door company to the next, make sure to read and follow the ones for your specific door. Not doing so could void the warranty.

    Prepare the Opening

  • Building paper, should be cut in an X pattern and stapled to the inside of the rough opening.
  • Finished floor, determine what kind of flooring will be used in the room. If tile or hardwood flooring are to be used the door may need to be raised for clearance.
  • Measure the height and width to see if it is big enough to allow for shimming and adjusting.
  • Clean and level the sub sill, paying particular attention to any plywood seams that may be under the door sill. Plywood end seams tend to swell after getting wet and will cause a hump in the door sill if not sanded even.
  • Plumb, check the side jambs to insure that they are fairly plumb.
  • Caulk, apply two beads of caulk on the sub sill an inch inside the front and rear edges of where the door sill will be. Run the caulk a few inches up the sides of the door jamb opening.
  • Install the Exterior Door

  • Get help, these doors can be heavy, the powers that be may not forgive you if you damage the door.
  • Remove any shipping material that may get in the way of installing the exterior door.
  • Tilt the door into place. From the outside place the bottom of door assembly into the opening and rotate the top into place.
  • Center the bottom of door in the opening. While your assistant holds the door from falling out, go around to the inside of the building and center the door assembly in the rough opening.
  • Shim the two bottom corners snugly at the bottom of the rough opening.
  • Temporarily tack the exterior door unit in place. Pre-drill two 1/8" holes thru the brick mold, one near the top and one near the bottom, so the door unit can be tacked into place using 16 penny galvanized nails. With you on the inside and your assistant on the outside move the top of the door assembly back and forth until the same margin is achieved on the hinge, top, and striker side of the jamb.

    Beginning with the bottom of the hinge side have your assistant tack (leave the head stick out) a finish nail thru the brick mold and into the rough framing. Work your way around the door insuring the margin is correct before driving nails home. Do the bottom hinge side first, top hinge side, top striker side, and finally the bottom striker side. Once this is complete you can release your assistant

  • Open and close the door to test its operation. The exterior door should open and close smoothly.
  • From outside close the exterior door and make sure there is even contact between the door and the weather stripping on the striker side. If not the door is out of plane and can be adjusted by moving the striker side jamb out at the bottom or top. Make only minor adjustments here or the trim carpenter won't be very happy.

    Once you are satisfied with the inside margin, contact with weather stripping, and door operation you can install the door permanently.

  • Permanently install the side jambs. Use 3" screws through the shims at each hinge. Remove one of the shorter screws securing the hinge to the jamb, shim as needed and replace with a longer screw of the same color and style of head.
  • Check door operation and appearance after each shimming operation.
  • Place shims and long screws at each hinge also the top, middle, and bottom of the striker side.
  • Drive the temporary finish nails home and countersink the heads.
  • Tips for Installing Exterior Doors

    I prefer to use screws instead of nails whenever possible for obvious reasons.

    All fasteners should be driven directly thru the shims to prevent distortion of the side jamb.

    Never leave shims between the header and head jamb. If the header sags even a small amount it will interfere with the doors operation.

    Step on the door sill as soon as possible after installation to embed it in the caulk.

    Links to Related Carpentry Pro Framer Pages

    Exterior Doors to Home

    Garage,Door Framing

    Door Framing

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