Replacing the Front Door of your Home – A How to Guide

Front Door - How to Replace -

The front door to your home can make a positive first impression on your guests as well as providing security and energy efficiency. If you have an older home that needs a fresh look, this project can be a dramatic makeover for the front of your home in a few short hours of work.

There are many different alternatives of front entry systems available today. New steel, wood or fiberglass entry doors are a great do-it-yourself project for the average skilled handy person in your home.

Perhaps your door is in good repair and of good quality but you just want to refresh the look. You can easily add or replace the glass with a modern energy efficient sealed glass insert. Your front entry can be enhanced even further with painting or staining and adding new decorative hardware.

Whatever the scope of the project you chose, it’s a great home improvement project that will add appeal and value to your home.

One important step to ensure success on any project is organization and can help you with that. It is a free online home remodeling service that allows you to collect and organize everything about your home renovation projects. Its home improvement project software functions will guide you step by step towards success!

Front Door - Old to New -

Tools and Material Check List

  • Carpenters Square
  • Level
  • Hammer
  • Pry Bar
  • Tape Measure
  • Caulking GunNail Set
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Phillips or Robertson Screwdriver
  • Wood ShimsWood screws
  • Finish nails
  • Spray Foam Insulation
  • Construction AdhesiveExterior grade Caulking
  • Paint and Painting supplies

Getting Ready for a New Exterior Door

The easiest way to approach this project is by choosing a pre-hung door that comes already mounted to a new doorframe. The hinges are installed and the lockset and deadbolt holes are pre-bored for standard installations. The first step in this project is to measure the existing door and the sidelights as well as determining the swing of the door.

  1. Start by removing the interior trim from the door. Measure the height, width and depth of the door frame. Your new door or front entry system should allow for ½” clearance on the height and ¾” of the width between the frame and the rough opening.
  2. To determine which way the door opens. Stand facing into the front entry of your home and decide if the door will swing to the right or the left, inwards.
  3. Next you need to make your selection on what type and style of door you want. Front entry systems are typically wood, fiberglass or steel. The latter two are not solid material; these are filled with foam insulation which makes them the best choice for energy efficiency. These are also much more weather resistant and require less maintenance than a traditional wood door. Although a wood door provides real character and lasting beauty, you need to be prepared for the reality of a little more annual maintenance. The choice is yours. Armed with this data, you can head to your local home center to select and purchase your new front door.
  4. When you get the new door home, read the manufacturer’s instructions. They should provide you with information regarding the removal of the factory-installed shipping braces or clips. Some braces and clips keep the door frame square during installation. They will also help to clarify terms and identify parts.

Removing the Existing Door and Frame

  1. Start by carefully removing the existing door's exterior trim for re-installation on the new door frame. Some door frames come with the exterior trim pre-attached so you can discard the old trim if you wish. You might want to retain it to use it again so that the trim profile matches your windows and other doors; this is totally your choice. You can now remove the insulation between the frame and the rough opening.
  2. Use a hammer and nail set, or screwdriver, to remove the hinge pins and detach the existing door from the hinges . For most hinges, insert the nail set in the hole at the bottom of the hinge pin and strike it upward with the hammer. Keep driving the pin upward until it comes out. Once the door is off the frame, remove the hinges from the door frame.
  3. Remove the screws, or nails, that attach the sill and jamb to the house frame. If necessary, cut the nails off between the jamb or sill and the house frame with a reciprocating saw. Wear safety glasses and be careful not to damage the house frame studs. If possible, remove the small pieces of wood, called shims, from between the door jamb and house frame. You can now remove the old door frame from the rough opening and a pry bar will come in handy for this part.

Installing the New Pre-hung Door

  1. You will need a little help from a friend or assistant for this part. Before you start the installation process it’s a good idea to test the sub-sill, that’s the base that the door frame will sit on, to insure that this is square and level. Adjust the sub-sill as needed with shims following the door manufacturer's instructions. Also, check that the rough opening is square and plumb. If the rough opening is not square and plumb this should be corrected before proceeding. Thoroughly inspect the house frame for dry rot and pest damage and make needed repairs before proceeding. Lift the new entry system into place in the rough opening to test fit the new door in position to make sure it fits.
  2. Make sure the new door will clear the finished floor. Measure the new door from the bottom of its sill to the bottom of the door. Then measure the height of the existing interior flooring to ensure that the opening door will not hit the flooring. If the new door won't clear, you will need to raise the entire door frame with a piece of treated wood of the correct thickness secured to the sub-floor with construction adhesive and screws.
  3. Weatherproof the sub-sill by applying a bead of caulk about 1 inch from the front and 1 inch from the rear of the rough opening, with a wave, or zigzag, pattern in between. Apply caulk to the underside of the door sill, too. Working from outside the house, set the bottom of the door against the opening, then raise the frame into place.
  4. Temporarily insert new shims near the top of the frame to hold the door. With shims, adjust the door frame so that it is plumb and square in the opening. Insert shims between the door frame and studs at the hinge locations. Shims keep the door level, plumb and square in the rough opening. Be sure to have at least 1/8” of clearance between the jamb and rough frame.
  5. Before securing the door frame into the rough opening with screws check the door manufacturer’s instructions as some make recommendations on the type and placement of the screws. Generally, this is done though the hinge and shims into the studs. On the lock side of the frame, place shims at the top and bottom of the door jamb and drive screws through - but not completely. Leave some room for adjustment of the door in the rough opening . Check to see that the door is centered in the frame. Make any necessary adjustments to the door frame. Insert additional shims around the frame following the door manufacturer's instructions. For added strength, place shims at the lockset and deadbolt positions.
  6. Remove any remaining shipping braces. Open and close the door, checking that it swings smoothly. Make any necessary adjustments. Some pre-hung doors have an adjustable sill. Check your manufacturer’s instructions for more information. Drive screws through any additional shims to secure the door frame as the instructions recommend. Score the shims with a utility knife, and then snap off the excess.
  7. Apply minimal expanding spray foam insulation in the gaps around the frame and allow time for drying. After the foam has dried, trim any excess with a putty knife. Reattach the door trim. If the door is not pre-finished, apply a coat of paint or stain as recommended by the door manufacturer. This step can be completed prior to installation of the door, but either way it is easiest to do if you remove the door from its hinges by removing the pins, and lay the door on a work surface such as saw- horses. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for painting or staining the bottom of the door. Don’t forget to paint or stain the trim, if needed. You can now reinstall or replace the interior trim pieces. A good quality exterior grade caulking should be applied to the exterior trim and the exterior siding of the home.

    And you're DOnE!!

    Now that you have replaced your front door, you can take pictures and share your project results with your friends and family. You should feel proud and satisfied now that you have improved the look and value of your home.

    Projects like this are small in scope compared to some other major renovations, but will definitely have a big impact on the look of your home. It is something you and your family will appreciate every day.


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