Installing a pre-hung entry door

MATERIALS: Drip edge, wood shims, casing nails, silicone caulk

TOOLS: Tin snips, hammer, carpenter's level, pencil, pry bar, circular saw, wood chisel, nail set, caulking gun, handsaw

A new steel entry door—with energy-efficient insulation and weather stripping, easy-to-maintain baked enamel primer coat, and a wide variety of styles—can greatly enhance the comfort, security, and appearance of your home. Because replacement steel entry doors are prehung with jambs, brick molding, and hardware (except locksets), installing them need not be a difficult project. Insulated steel entry doors can be heavy, though, so you may want to line up a helper before you begin. Entry doors are also made of wood or fiberglass. Talk to your door supplier about the door most appropriate for your situation.

1 PREPARE THE ROUGH OPENING, IF NECESSARY, AND REMOVE THE NEW DOOR AND FRAME FROM THEIR PACKING. Leave in place the retaining brackets that hold the door closed while you're working on it. Measure both the door and rough opening to make sure the door is the right size.

2 TEST-FIT THE DOOR AND FRAME, CENTERING THEM IN THE ROUGH OPENING. Use a level to make sure the door is plumb. If necessary, shim under the lower side jamb until the door is plumb. Adjust as necessary to keep the doorjambs square with each other. Double-check to make sure the door is centered.

3 TRACE THE OUTLINE OF THE BRICK MOLDING ONTO THE SIDING. If you have vinyl or metal siding, be sure to enlarge the outline to make room for the extra trim required. Remove the door and frame after finishing the outline.

SELECTING A DOOR - When buying a door, you'll need to specify a left- or right-hand swing as well as an in-swing or out-swing door. To determine which version you need, imagine yourself standing in the doorway with the door opening toward you. In that position, a left-hand door would have the knob on the left and a right-hand door would have the knob on the right. Another critical factor is the size of the door. If you're replacing an existing door, be sure to purchase a replacement with the same size requirements as the old one. Sidelights are not included in the door size but warrant consideration when determining the rough opening size. Make sure of the opening's rough measurements, and check them with the measurements of the door you’ll purchase.

4 PUT ON YOUR SAFETY GLASSES AND CUT ALONG THE OUTLINE DOWN TO, BUT NOT INTO, THE SHEATHING. Start the cut with the blade clear of the siding, and then lower the moving blade into it. Stop just short of the corners to prevent damaging the siding that will remain. Finish the corners with a sharp wood chisel.

5 TO PROVIDE A MOISTURE BARRIER, CUT A PIECE OF DRIP EDGE TO FIT THE WIDTH OF THE ROUGH OPENING, then slide it underneath the siding at the top of the opening. Do not nail the drip edge.

6 CHECK THE FIT OF THE DOOR AND ENLARGE THE OPENING AS NECESSARY. Remove the door and apply several thick beads of silicone caulk to the bottom of the doorsill. Caulk underneath the spots where the bottom of the jamb and brick molding will be.

7 CENTER THE DOOR UNIT IN THE ROUGH OPENING and push the molding tight against the sheathing.

8 CHECK THAT THE DOORJAMB ON THE HINGE SIDE IS PLUMB; shim underneath it as necessary to correct any problems. Temporarily screw the hinge jamb in place by driving two #8 3-inch drywall screws through it: One about 2 inches above the top hinge and the other about 2 inches from the center hinge. Loosen the screws if necessary to bring the jamb back into plumb.

SQUARE TALK ON LEVELS - Levels are a carpenter’s best friend, especially if they're used properly. Here are some tips to keep your projects plumb.

• Always use the longest level that will fit into your work space. Low spots and high spots will be more apparent and you'll get a more accurate reading.

• Use a level that allows you to adjust the vials that hold the bubbles so you can keep the level true.

• Be precise. Make sure the bubble is centered between the lines on the vial when you’re taking a reading. A little bit off can become a significant problem over two or three feet.

9 GO INSIDE THE HOUSE THROUGH ANOTHER DOOR AND PLACE PAIRS OF WEDGE-SHAPED CEDAR SHIMS TOGETHER TO FORM FLAT SHIMS, and insert them into the gaps behind the hinges and between the jamb and framing to stabilize the jamb. Cedar shims are preferable to pine because they are more weather-resistant.

10 REMOVE THE RETAINING BRACKETS installed by the manufacturer; open and close the door to make sure it works properly.

11 REMOVE TWO OF THE SCREWS ON THE TOP HINGE AND REPUCE THEM WITH LONG ANCHOR SCREWS (usually included with the unit). These anchor screws will penetrate the framing members to strengthen the installation. DO NOT use longer screws than the manufacturer calls for on doors with sidelights—the screws might break the glass.

12 ANCHOR THE BRICK MOLDING TO THE FRAMING MEMBERS with 10d galvanized casing nails driven every 12 inches. Use a nail set to drive the nail heads below the surface of the wood.

13 IF YOUR DOOR HASAN ADJUSTABLE THRESHOLD, adjust it for a tight seal as directed by the manufacturer. NOTE: If you make it too high, it will make the door difficult to open and eventually could damage either the door or the weather stripping.

14 CUT THE SHIMS flush with the framing using a utility knife.

15 APPLY PAINTABLE SILICONE CAULK AROUND THE ENTIRE DOOR UNIT. Fill all nail holes with caulk. Finish the door as directed by the manufacturer.

16 REPLACE THE CASING ON THE INSIDE OF THE DOORJAMB. If the trim was damaged during removal, cut and install new casing.

17 INSTALL A NEW DOOR LOCK. First, insert the latch through the hole for it in the door. Then insert the lockset tailpieces through the latch bolt, and screw the handles together by tightening the retaining screws.

18 SCREW THE STRIKE PLATE TO THE DOORJAMB AND ADJUST THE PLATE POSITION TO FIT THE LATCH BOLT. Avoid damage to the screw heads by using a hand screwdriver.

Sidelights - Some doorways have windows, called sidelights, immediately to one or both sides of the opening. If you have sidelights, you can leave them in place as we did here, as long as they aren't part of a prefabricated frame. If you'd like to install sidelights where there aren't any, get a prefabricated door with attached sidelights. You’ll have to enlarge the rough opening to make room for the sidelights, so look before you leap. Make sure you want to—and can-do the carpentry. Start framing when you have the new door on site.

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