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DIY Door Replacement

5 Easy Steps to a Job Done Right
By Kurt Anderson
Published: June 18, 2010
red front door replacement cabin cottage
Photo by Dreamstime.com
web-doorframe_6164323
Photo by Dreamstime.com
If windows are your cabin's eyes, then your front door is the smile; a good one can make up for all kinds of deficiencies, and a poor one can ruin even the most handsome backdrop.
   
When it comes time to redecorate, there’s no better way to spruce up your cabin exterior than a new door. At its simplest, replacing a door is a matter of an hour’s worth of work. But occasionally, installing a new factory door on a custom-built cabin can suck up time and money. Even worse, you could end up with a door that doesn’t function or look right. Follow these simple tips below for an easy remodel that can make a world of difference in your cabin’s first impression.
    
Preserve your opening. While it’s certainly possible to buy and install just the door, installing a pre-hung door, complete with matching jambs and sill plate, is usually the way to go.
   
First, carefully remove any molding or trim with a flat bar; there’s nothing worse than trying to fit a brand new door into a rough opening that looks like it was hacked open by a pack of rabid beavers.
   
Then remove the old door from its hinges by popping the pins out with a punch and hammer, and unscrew the hinges from the jam. (Note: One or more screws might be longer anchor screws, which extend all the way into the rough opening studs.)

Do as others have done before. Shimming a door so it swings smoothly and stops promptly is one of those tasks you appreciate much more after installing one yourself. With the interior molding removed, you should be able to see the shims on each side of the door. If your old door functioned properly, note the location of each shim on a sheet of paper, and measure and record gap width on each side (a digital camera also works wonders on these types of projects). This information will save you tons of time during installation of the new door, especially if the rough opening is slightly crooked or off-square. If the door was shimmed on only one side, consider centering it in the rough opening and shimming both sides for a better-functioning door.

Don't pry. Having difficulty getting the old door out? Instead of prying, use the short blade on a reciprocating saw to cut through the finishing nails that hold the old door to the rough opening. Have a helper hold onto the door to prevent it from falling after the nails are removed. Cut the nails close to the door’s jamb for ease of handling, then pound any protruding cut nails back into the rough opening stud.

Get the right size door. Well, duh, right? In addition to measuring the rough opening of your door (typically 2 inches larger on width and height than the actual door) you need to have the right jamb width (i.e., wall thickness) so the door extends all the way to your interior wall. If it’s not quite wide enough you’ll have to install jamb extensions, a delicate task that can give a door a cobbled-together look if done incorrectly.

Insulate right. Once you’ve got your door set in place and it opens and closes nicely, you’ll want to seal the gaps on either side to prevent drafts. While you can re-use the old insulation, foam insulation is unparalleled in R-value for these types of installations. Make sure you use the non-expanding type to prevent warping, allow it to dry and trim the excess with a razor blade.

DIY writer Kurt Anderson likes to relax at this cabin, whether he has a fishing rod or a hammer in his hand
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