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Interior Door Installation Tips

Interior Door Installation - Time Saving Tips

Just recently I transformed a customer's house in two days. The homeowner had decided that her plain hollow core interior doors were outdated. When she first contacted me, she was not thrilled about the prospect of tearing out the doors, frames and interior trim. I looked at her and indicated that most of that work was unnecessary. She at first thought I was kidding. I said that the frames were nice and square, the trim was in good shape, and that all she needed were doors. This news provided her with a windfall of extra money. She upgraded to the next level of designer door. Needless to say, she was delighted.

Instant Gratification

There are literally millions of houses built in the 1950s, 60s and 70s that have hollow core flush doors. They were popular during those time periods. One of the reasons they were popular was that it was just about your only choice! Only in the last five to ten years has there been a a wide variety of interior door styles.

Homeowners who are building new homes or remodeling existing homes now have a wide selection to choose from. You can get doors that are solid core as well as hollow core. Doors are available with different species of wood grains. Birch, oak, mahogany and other species are readily available. In fact, I am typing this bulletin on top of a damaged oak door which I use as a computer table! It is not simulated oak. It is the real McCoy!

This wide array of doors, styles, veneers, etc. coupled with the fact that a door can be changed out in as little as an hour enables you to completely change the feel of a room or an entire house in one day!

What's Really Involved?

OK, so you think you want to change out a door yourself. You realize that you are not a master carpenter. You back off. Not so fast! If your door frames are square and you can take accurate measurements, this job is doable. I'm serious.

Many lumber companies and home centers here in Cincinnati will gladly sell you a door that they can mill to your specifications. Mill to your specifications? Doors need to have holes drilled for locksets and mortises created for flush hinge installation. That's what milling is. You provide the "specifications" - locations of these holes and mortises.

The first thing to do is to make a little drawing of the room which the door serves. Draw the four walls and the door opening. Try to make it to scale. Draw the door on the plan in a partially open position. One side of the door (the hinge side) should be "attached" to one side of the opening on your drawing. Make sure it's attached to the right side!

Now you need to take some measurements with the door in the closed position. You need to be on the side of the door, when it's closed, so that you can see the hinge pins. This will enable you to measure the door at its widest point. You see, most interior doors have a slight bevel along the edge opposite the hinge edge. This bevel allows the door to close without banging against the frame. Without the bevel, the gap on the latch side of the door would be large and unsightly.

OK, enough about bevels. Measure the width of the door at the top, middle and bottom. Hopefully, it will be very nearly the same. The measurement should be very close to 30 inches, or 32 inches, or some other even number. It may be an 1/8th of an inch less or so. That's OK. Be sure to get an accurate reading down to the 1/8th of an inch. Draw a picture of the door and note the width on the drawing. Do the same thing for the height of the door. Take a reading at each end.

Now for the hinges. Open the door and measure from the top down. Note where each hinge starts and stops. Always measure from the top of the door. Do not measure from hinge to hinge!

The lockset is the only remaining measurement. We need two measurements for this. First, measure from the top down to the center of the lockset. Second, measure from the edge of the door to the center of the lockset. This second measurement will be one of two measurements in 99 percent of the cases: 2 3/8 or 2 3/4 inch. It is called the backset measurement.

Finally, use a framing square to check to see if the door is square. Check each top corner. If the top corners are square, you will be in good shape. If the bottom is not square because it was cut off for carpet or whatever, the lumber yard will figure this out from your top to bottom measurements.

That's Too Tough Tim!

So, you're a lightweight. You can't run with us big dogs. No problem! There is an easier way. Simply take the door off the hinges and offer it up as a sacrifice to the lumber company for a week. They will make an exact copy of the door for you. If you choose to do this, be sure to write in pencil, on both sides of the door, which is the TOP. Do this BEFORE you take the door off its hinges. More than one carpenter has reversed a door and milled it upside down!

I highly recommend that you consider an interior door remodel. You can really change the look and feel of your home with new doors. Your frustration with those flimsy hollow core doors will disappear when you close that new solid core three, four or six panel door!

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