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When we first moved in we took down all the doors in our house… and our home remained in that sad state for over a year. When we moved into our home year we knew that something had to give with those doors. They were that awful faux wood grain, hollow core, and overall in a very bad state.
My original plan (always trying to save a buck) was to somehow paint them and add some trim… but we quickly realized that approach is akin to putting lipstick on a pig. The faux grain had to go…
So, a month into our door-less state we found some hollow core pre-hung doors at Menards for $20 a pop! A steal, right? And they were smooth so I could paint and trim them out. We installed them (which was no easy feat) and began painting the door frame.
Turns out our uber cheap doors had laminate door frames that could not, would not, should not be painted. They turned out to be a hot mess, and suddenly we realized we spent $150 to buy doors just as crappy as the originals.
At this point we are frustrated at the whole process and let it sit (still door-less, since we had painted the frames and hadn’t bothered to rehang the doors) for another two months.
We shopped around for a more quality alternative, but found that the solid core pre-hung doors start at $200, each! Spending over a grand on new doors did not sit well with us, so we procrastinated some more.
Enter my dreamin’ schemin’ mind… I tend towards over-confidence in our abilities and am a total can-do kinda person (or at least ‘Jake can-do’ 😉 ). My heart was set on having vintage doors with character!
I knew from prior visits that the Habitat Restore had oodles of gorgeous doors ripe for the picking! Why not save a buck and get all our doors there?!? Well, because – as Jake explained to me – they are not pre-hung. Meaning that unless you have a pre-existing frame that is not faux-wood-grain or horrible laminate, you have to make your own.
Well… how hard could that be right? Jake did not resonate with that sentiment, but he amused me and we visited my favorite store on earth. The Restore!!!
Wouldn’t you know it… there were ten beautiful solid core oak doors in our perfect sizes. (They even had some scratches and dents in them!! call me crazy, but I love a lived in look, a nice patina!) At only $15 a door, Jake was convinced. He may have later regretted it, but none the less we had found our doors and stayed in budget.
We attempted to pick out the correct doors for left side hinges vs. right side hinges. (Turns out we were wrong on two of them.. so double, triple, quadruple check which type you need!).
So we had our doors finally, but now we had to figure out how to build door frames. For the longest time we couldn’t find a frame kit and were thinking we’d have to build our own. That caused another month of procrastination because we would need a table saw..
Finally we gave in, bought a table saw, then out of the blue found this kit. It was a huge relief and was the push we needed to actually get started hanging our doors.
I’ve created this step by step of how we got our doors up, and some tips and tricks we learned along the way.
Just a little warning, this project is not for the faint of heart or inexperienced DIYer. It’s tricky work and every detail needs to be spot on, so a LOT of patience is required! But, maybe you’re as crazy as us and just really need that beautiful old door in your home too 🙂
How to Build a Door Frame and Hang a Door
- A door (preferably one with the hinges facing the correct direction)
- Door Jamb Set (love this kit as it’s primed and solid wood)
- Nail gun & air compressor (ours was came in a set and has been great)
- Door knob
- 3″ screws
- Screw gun
- Chop saw (we ADORE ours, find it here)
- Door Hinge Kit
- First you need to cut your jamb set header to size (presumably you have normal height doorways and you will not need to cut the sides). If there was a previous frame in place, use those dimensions to measure and cut the header piece. If not, then measure the amount the side frame pieces are inset at the top, add that to width of the door, and add 1/4″ inch to accommodate 1/8″ space on each side of the door.
- Secure the header to the sides from the frame kit with your nail gun. Now you should have a free standing frame
- Attach the hinges to the free standing frame while it is laying flat on the ground. Only attach 2 at most. If there are three holes leave the middle one off; it’s too difficult to place all three at once. And lay the door inside the frame.
- Place a paint stick between the top of the door and the header of the frame to ensure you have adequate spacing at the top.
- Make sure that the door and the frame are flush with the pin-side of the hinge sticking down below. To do this, you’ll need to prop up the door and frame equally. Then mark on the frame where the hinges need to go.
- Next, use your hinge mortising kit to router out matching mortises on the door jamb. Pre-drill and screw the hinge to the frame and at this point you have a pre-hung door (minus the stop and some other pieces..)
- Since actually hanging the door is the hardest part, we did this next to make sure everything worked before finishing the jamb with a door stop and a latch hole.
- When hanging a door you’ll really need two people. Set the door and frame up in the doorway.
- Use some scrap wood or shims to prop the edge of the door up until the top gap between the door and the header is even. Double check that the header and door are both level horizontally.
- You’ll first attach the frame on the top hing side and it’s very important that you check all your gaps before securing anything. Insert shims (one on each side) between the doorway and the outside of the frame just above the top door hinge, making sure that the gap between the door and the frame appears the same and that the door is vertically level.
- Once you are satisfied with the levelness and spacing, nail the frame to the doorway. We tried to keep our nails in the middle so that the stop will cover them.
- At this point we removed the middle screw securing the top hinge to the frame and replaced it with a 3″ screw that went all the way through to the door-frame. This makes the door hang more securely.
- Check your gaps again and make sure that screw didn’t over-tighten the top corner. If it did, just back it out a little bit.
- Insert shims on the non-hinge side just above where the latch will go. Again, adjust shims in or out to make sure you have an even 1/8″ gap between the door and frame. Once your gap is even, check that everything is still level. If you are having issues at this step see my trouble shooting guide below. DON’T just try to force it, I can’t tell you how many times we ripped out and re-did our door frames because we didn’t stop and troubleshoot.
- Nail the frame and shims into place and repeat the above steps until you have shimmed and secured the top, middle and bottom of each side.
- Hooray! Now check that you’ve successfully hung your door by stepping back and making sure the gaps are even and 1/8″ wide. Open your door to the middle and see if it stays (if it swings, it’s not level). Shut the door and make sure it doesn’t catch (if it catches your door frame might be twisted). Hopefully, everything works properly, but if you have issues with the above test, see the trouble shooting section below.
- Remove the shims that are extending beyond the frame by running a utility knife along the edge and hammering until they snap off.
My door has the wrong hinge mortises
When we realized that we had bought the wrong doors and need our hinges to swing the opposite direction, there was a moment of utter panic. We ended up resolving this issue by switching this hinges and using square cornered ones to cover the old mortise.
To successfully do this, you will need to chisel or router out the new correct hing mortise. Additionally, you should drill out the existing screw holes and fill them with thin wood dowel pieces. If you leave them and create new screw holes, the door could crack and you do not want that to happen.
By using square hinges set flush to the face of the door, we were able to hide the old mortise, hang the door on the correct side, and no one is the wiser.
My gaps aren’t even / My door swings / My door catches on the frame
There could be many reasons this is happening. Instead of calling it ‘close enough’ and trying to force it how you want, stop and evaluate the source of the issue.
- the doorway and studs could be twisted or not level, to straighten out the frame use a little more shim on the twisted side
- the frame is twisted (we found the above listed frame kit to be very good, but it is possible that your frame side pieces are not all the way straight), to straighten use the shims to ‘force’ the frame piece to level out
- the 3″ screw in the top hinge over-tightened and pulled the door up, re-secure the screw without using as much force
- the floor is not level, it’s possible that your floor isn’t level causing one side to be higher than the other, to even it out trim the bottom of the taller frame side piece
I hope this guide has been helpful for you in your brave quest to frame and hang your own doors. Or perhaps it’s led you to learn from our mistakes and just buy pre-hung doors…