5 Tips for Replacing Your Entry Doors

Pre-hung exterior doors are gaining popularity. One reason for this is because they are designed with ease of installation in mind. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a substantial work to be put in, but the process is shortened because the unit comes in new jambs with weather stripping systems that are pre-bored for hardware.

Pre-hung units are ideal for people who do not want to hire a pro but have some reasonable understanding and experience in installing doors. It can typically take less than a day to install a basic door without any side lights. But it is not uncommon for installations to take longer than a day, especially if you are installing a styled door or if there is existing damage to the frame, weather stripping that needs to be repaired.

Pre-hung door units come readily available in standard sizes at most home centers and home improvement stores but can be custom built to fit the requirements of the door opening. These modern innovative units are rapidly becoming the DIY method for front door replacements. Here are some tips to make the unit installation process even more efficient.

1. Measure

If you are looking to replace your door, you have to take the measurement of your existing door’s height, width, and depth. However, you must also measure the wall condition or the width of the door jamb from the inside to the outside first.

Depending on the type of framing, the jambs with will vary. Other things that can affect the wall condition include sheathing, drywall, plaster, and siding. Accurate measurements are important, so you can be prepared to extend a standard jamb if needed to meet the replacement door requirements.

Another measurement you must take is that of the “rough opening.” The “rough opening” is the measurement of the opening without the door and jamb, essentially trimmer to trimmer and header to the floor. It is recommended to leave half an inch in height and one inch in width between the outside dimensions of the replacement door and the rough opening to allow for shimming and squaring the new door.

Also, consider the exterior opening and the nature of the material of the exterior wall masonry. This could be brick, stucco, wood, or stone. The outside of the replacement unit casing needs to be measured against the masonry opening.

PROTIP: Rough opening measurements can be misleading depending on the type of home. Older homes generally have thicker existing jambs. Homes built on raised foundations have a raked sill that can add 2 ½ to three inches to the height of the rough opening. Also, some homes may have added permanent flooring to the entrance way that can shorten the height. Moral of the story, you need to compare rough opening measurements to the standard measurements of the replacement unit.

2. Weatherproofing

After you have removed your old door, repair the weatherproofing in your wall. This is only an issue if there is a minimal overhang and your door is exposed as chances of water damage could be likely. A large overhang typically does not encounter their issue. If you find that the issue is present, replace flash, and fix the waterproofing as needed. This could require the installation of a drip cap over the door to redirect water or reinstallation of the waterproof flashing in the wall prior to installing the new door.

3. Setting the Sill and Installing the Frame

Setting the still is vital to establish the proper height of the door. Use a two-foot level to ensure that the sill plate is leveled. The sill can be made with treated lumber which can be glued or screwed to the deck. Once the sill is set, closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions to set the door frame in the opening and apply a bead of caulk. The two-foot level plays another important role in hanging the door frame and making sure it is plumb and square in the opening. Once the door is in the frame, it is important to check to see that it is operating properly, the door’s margins are consistent and within tolerances, and not binding. Once you confirm that nail it in place through the jamb and shims.

4. Insulate

Sealing the insulation and caulking the frame with an expanding foam is important, as it helps keep heat in and the elements out. Insulate and caulk the frame in place between the jamb and framing material. If you find that the gaps are larger than recommended by the manufacturer you may need to add fiberglass insulation or larger shims. It is extremely important to note that insulating foam is not an equivalent alternative for waterproofing. It simply can not be stressed enough. Insulating foam is not waterproofing.

5. Finish

The most common materials for exterior doors are wood, fiberglass, and composites. Wood doors are more likely to warp, and fiberglass and composite doors are prone to cracking if hit with a sharp object. Newer door systems can come without a finish to allow for custom finishing or factory finishing. It is extremely important if the unit is raw, finishing must be done to all exposed edges. This includes removing the door from the frame to ensure to thorough sealing of the top and the bottom of the door. If a door is not finished properly and it warps or cracks, the door manufacturer will not honor its warranty.