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Installing a Prehung Door

Say Goodbye to Mortising Door Hinges

© 2008 by all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

A Prehung Door

A prehung front door

This article was updated on 09/04/19. Happy New Years!

There’s a number of reasons that you might want to install a new interior or exterior door in your home. Is the old one is damaged? Remodeling and adding a new partition with a door? Or is it just time to refresh your walls?

This project isn’t as mysterious as it might seem. This article will guide you through the steps of installing a prehung door.

Easy Door Installation

In the old days, installing a door was a bit more of a tedious process. Today however, a marvelous concept has evolved: the prehung door. Prior to this, a carpenter was usually hired to do the job, which incurred a substantial labor cost.

Today, labor costs have risen but the good news is that a prehung door is easy to install for the average homeowner, saving a wad of cash. All that’s needed is a bit of common sense and a few tools. It is not nearly as big a job as Trump’ border wall.

Tool and Material List

  • 4’ level
  • Nailset
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Utility knife
  • Pry bar
  • Finish nails
  • Package of tapered shims or Quick Door Hanger clips
  • Cordless drill with a #2 Phillips screw tip

Buying the Right Door

Door sizes are standardized. If you’re replacing an existing door, measure it. If this is a first time door, the carpenter (or you, hopefully), will have the opening roughed out. Measure the rough opening between the studs and the height of the header. The prehung door jamb will be this size, less one inch or so.

If you are hanging an exterior door, you might as well make sure it has an Energy Star rating. Also make sure that it is metal-clad and sturdy as exterior doors are an important component of your home security.

Determine Whether the Door Swings Right or Left

The second thing to be concerned about is the swing of the door, or, which side you want the hinges on, and whether you want the door to swing into the room or out of the room. This is easy.

Position yourself in the doorway on the side, where, if the door were already installed and closed, opening it would make it pass through you (as if you were a ghost). Cross your arms over your chest. Now, as the door swings through you, one of your arms can follow its arc.

Which arm? If it’s your right arm you need a right hand swing door. Otherwise, a left hand swing door.

Installing Your Prehung Door Using Shims

Remove an existing door door if you have one. Take off the trim and pull the hinge pins to take the door off. Next, remove the jamb using your hammer and pry bar.

Now stand the new door assembly in the opening. The extra space around the jamb is to give you some wiggle room for getting the door assembly plumb in two directions — back and forward and side to side. Also, the top of the jamb has to be level.

Begin with the Butt (Hinge) Side

Start with the butt (hinge) side of the jamb. Check to see that the header is either level or will achieve level when the door knob side is raised. If not, trim the butt side jamb. Holding the level on the inside of the butt side jamb, get it plumb in both the directions mentioned above.

Use your tapered shims between the jamb and the stud (close to the butts), nail through the jamb and shims, but don’t sink the nails yet.

Shim under the jamb on the knob side until the header is level. Now, plumb the jamb, shim it, and nail it - top, bottom, and middle. Double check everything for plumb and level again and set your nails with your nailset.

Quick Door Hanger Clips Instead of Shims

These clips are a relatively new innovation that are so easy to use, so economical, and so simple, they will leave you scratching your head wondering why no one has thought of it before. In fact, using this product makes this a DIY project within almost anybody’s reach.

Installation is a 3-step procedure:

  1. Screw the brackets to the door jamb.
  2. Draw a plumb line on the wall next 1/2 inch from the rough opening. Most carpenters do this on the butt (hinge) side but you can use the strike side if the situation demands it.
  3. Use the line as a guide to screw the door plumb.
The clips can be used to hang both interior and exterior doors as well as windows.

Dimensional Considerations when Using Clips

The rough opening can’t be too wide because the screw opening is just 5/8 inch wide. In my home all the rough openings are too wide. My solution was to screw a 1” X 4” to one of the studs, then add a small strip of 1/2 inch of wood so the face of the clip wiil be flush with the drywall.

Quick Door Hanger Clip modification

Quick Door Hanger Clip modification

Adding the Final Touches

All that’s left to do now is nail on the trim, cut and install baseboards, putty the nail holes, and install the hardware if it’s not done already. Job well done!

I certainly hope this how-to article on pre-hung door installation has inspired you to tackle the project yourself! If so, I would appreciate you sharing this page with your friends. Thanks for visiting!

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About the Webmaster:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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© 2008 all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile