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Door Hanging Tips

Are you ready for a challenge? Well hanging an interior door is definitely a job that will test your rookie carpentry skills to the max. It is not too hard to hang a pre-hung door, but it can indeed be frustrating if you don't do things in a certain order.

Minimal Tools & Materials

You surely don't need many tools to hang a door. I use just a hammer, razor knife with new blade, nail sets, several levels (a 2 and 4 foot model), a framing square, a saw and a step stool or small ladder. The materials are simple as well. You will need a bundle of shims and a pound of 8 penny finish nails.

A Good Rough Carpenter

Let's hope that the door opening was built by a good rough carpenter. Do you want to be a superb rough carpenter? If so, work as a finish carpenter for six months first. You will see all of the nightmares that happen when rough carpenters cut corners.

If you want your door hanging job to start off smoothly it is imperative that the rough opening is:

  • The right size
  • Square
  • Plumb
  • In the same plane

Just how do you size a door rough opening? For interior doors I add two and one quarter inches to the width of the actual door and 2 and one half inches to the actual height of the door. Example: If you are going to install a 2' 8" door that is a standard height of 6' 8", then the rough opening should be: 34 and 1/4 inches wide and 82 and 1/2 inches high.

Check the Door First

The quality of many pre-hung doors coming out of the factories is fine but the workmanship of the people who hang them in the factories leaves a lot to be desired. The mortised or recessed areas they are creating for the hinges simply are not deep enough in many cases. The hinges are sometimes tilted and they don't fit well. If this happens it will cause the gapping of the door to be off and the door in some instances can bind.

The hinges should be perfectly flush with either the edge of the door or the surface of the door jamb. If for some reason the hinge mortise is too deep, you can fix that by unscrewing it and sliding a thin wood shim or stiff piece of thin cardboard behind the hinge.

Stripped Screws

I have also found that the factory workers sometimes strip the screws that hold the hinges in place. Use a hand screwdriver to see how tight the screws are. If you can turn them when they are already in all the way, the hole is stripped. Fix this by removing the screw and glue into the hole a small round peg of scrap wood. You can make a quick one with a razor knife. A golf tee also works well sometimes.

Lockset Hole

If you order your door from a traditional lumberyard you may be able to specify the backset of the door knob. This is the centerline distance of the lockset with respect to the edge of the door. Commonly it is 2 and 3/8 inches for interior doors. I prefer to use a backset of 2 and 3/4 inches. The locksets you buy often have adjustable latches that will work for this deeper backset. The deeper backset prevents rubbing your knuckles up against the door stop when opening or closing the door. If you have big hands, you know this is a problem!


Be sure you are calm before you start to hang your first door. Don't expect perfection the first time. It is important to screw the door jamb to the rough frame for long term performance.

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