How to Replace Doors

Problem: This is a problem that I am running into more since the popularity of the new front load washer/dryer combos. You and your spouse have finally made the commitment to purchase the new front load washer/dryer combo with the fancy base drawers. When the delivery man arrives and installs the new units, you realize they stand out into the room as much as six inches more than the old ones did. Due to the location of the washer/dryer, you cannot close your door between the laundry room and the garage! Your first though is to just reverse the door so it opens into the garage. Then you realize, there will be hinge cutouts, handle set and dead bolt holes in the frame and you will have to relocate the door stop block all around the door. After all your work to reverse the door, you will have five or more major patches to repair along with any damage you have done to the frame by relocating the door stops.

Solution: Replace the door/frame assembly with a new pre-hung door assembly. You can re-use your lockset/dead bolt hardware and even your existing door casing trim if you are careful.

Step 1. Measure the width of your existing door. This will be between 32” and 36” inches wide. Determine which direction you want your door to swing, this will determine which side of the frame is the hinged side. Also measure the height of the door. A normal garage/laundry room door will be “36 X 80”, yours may be different. Take a picture of the opening from the garage side. Take the picture and dimension to your local Home Improvement Store and meet with the millwork specialist.

Step 2. Now that you have your new pre-hung garage/laundry door, set the frame/door assembly upright next to the old door frame. Did you pick out the correct door swing (are the hinges on the correct side to solve your access problem)? You have checked the size of the new door with the old, everything looks good and you are ready to begin.

Step 3. A few tools you will need are: Hammer, pry bar, razor blade knife, stiff putty knife, drill motor, drill bits, screw drivers, pliers, level and a short ladder or step stool. Using a razor blade knife with a new sharp blade, carefully cut the caulking/paint on both sides of the door casing all the way around the door on both the inside and outside of the door. Use the stiff putty knife and a hammer to carefully separate the casing from the door frame and wall. Do not try to pry the casing off by prying too much in one place (this will crack or break the casing). Once you have a gap between the frame/wall and the casing, slip in your pry bar. Slowly, wiggling the pry bar back and forth, walk the pry bar up the casing slowly pulling the casing off the wall/frame. If you do this carefully you will be able to remove all the casing without cracking or breaking it.

Step 4. Remove the old door from the frame and set aside. With all of the door casing off, and carefully set aside, inspect the door frame. Do you see where the screws are that hold the frame to the stud wall? If the screws are not readily visible, look for the shims that hold the door square. This is where you will find the screws. Normally there will be three or four stacks of shims on either side of the frame. Using your pry bar, pull the frame towards you, this will pull the screw head into the frame and you should be able to see the divot in the frame. Remove the shims and tap the frame near the screw heads. This will cause the screw to protrude from the frame. You can now access the screw head with your screw driver, remove all the screws holding the frame in place. The frame can now be lifted out. If you cannot access the screw heads, you can use a hacksaw blade or a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade to cut the screws flush at the wall stud, then lift out the frame.

Step 5. The old threshold needs to be removed. Typically there are 3 – 4 screw heads visible in the top of the threshold, remove these screws. Pry the threshold up and out.

Step 6. With an assistant to help lift and hold, check the perimeter of the new door frame and look for screw heads of screws holding the door in the frame. These need to be removed before you put the frame in the opening (otherwise you will not be able to open the door). At the underside of the threshold, is a strip of wood stapled or screwed to the bottom of the door frame, used to keep the frame secured during shipping. Carefully remove this shipping bar, do not throw it away. If this piece of wood was attached with staples, remove them. Now, take this shipping bar and hold it at the height of the door lockset hole on the opening side of the door/frame and attach this bar to the frame with a screw on either side. This will prevent the door from opening while you place it in the opening. With your assistants help, lift and set the door/frame assembly into the opening. With you on one side of the door and your assistant on the other, move the assembly so that it is approximately centered in the opening. Once the frame is centered, check that the frame is centered on the stud wall, equidistant into the laundry room and the garage. Now check the spacing around the door in the frame, if the gap is not the same all around the door, raise the frame on one side or the other with shims to eliminate the excess gap. The gap between the door and the frame should be uniform all the way around its perimeter.

Step 7. With the door approximately centered all around in and out, place shims at the lockset height and drive one screw through the frame into the stud wall. Do the same on the hinge side. Remove the strapping bar holding the door shut. With your assistant holding the weight of the door, working on the hinge side first, using a level to keep the door frame plumb, secure the frame with shims at each of the hinge locations. Check for square, top to bottom, inside and out, left to right. Shim and secure the rest of the door frame. Step back and inspect the closed door in the opening. Is the gap between the door and frame equal all the way around the perimeter of the door? If not make minor adjustments by loosening the mounting screws and adding or removal shims.

Step 8. Now that the frame is secured, take the old lockset/door knob assembly off the old door and frame and install on the new door and frame.

Step 9. Check the new threshold, you may have to add blocking under the threshold especially if the door now opens in the opposite direction it used to. Set the new blocking and secure the threshold.

Step 10. Now you can re-install the old casing, if you were able to remove it intact. Otherwise you will need to purchase new casing. Most home centers have the casing pre-packaged for most pedestrian doors. Making the 45 degree corner cuts is much easier with a miter box.

Step 11. With the casing replaced, caulk all joints at the frame, wall and at the 45 degree intersections. Paint the door, frame and around the casings. You can now use your new washer and dryer and still be able to get in and out of the house through your new door.