Installing Handles and Locks

Once the door has been hung so that it swings freely and closes snugly against the stop, the next step is to install the handle. An entry handle simply opens from either side; a privacy handle can be locked from one side. Purchase drill bits in sizes recommended by the manufacturer.

Tools: Drill with hole saw and bits (see lockset instructions), utility knife or butt marker, tape measure, center punch, awl, screwdriver, hammer, and chisel.

1. Mark for lockset holes. The handle set or dead bolt will come with a paper or cardboard template. Tape it or hold it against the door. If a strike already exists in the jamb, align the template with it so you won’t have to cut a new mortise for the strike. With an awl or the point of a spade bit, mark for the two holes by piercing through the template.

2. Drill the large hole. Use a hole saw to drill the larger hole through the face of the door first. To avoid splintering the veneer, drill just far enough that the pilot bit of the hole saw pokes through. Then drill from the other side.

3. Drill the bolt hole. Use a spade bit to drill through the edge, taking care to hold the bit parallel to the surface of the door. Some types of locksets require that you continue drilling into the rear of the large hole approximately 1/2 inch.

4. Mortise the latch bolt. Insert the bolt through the smaller hole. Temporarily screw it centered in the door, and mark for its mortise with a sharp pencil or a knife. Cut and chisel a mortise as you did for the hinges. Depending on the type of bolt, this mortise may be deeper near the center than at the edges.

5. Install the handle. Install the bolt by setting it in the mortise, drilling pilot holes, and driving the screws provided. Then install the lockset or handles according to the manufacturer’s directions. Tighten all screws. Test the mechanisms from both sides of the door to make sure they operate smoothly; you may need to clean out or widen your holes.

6. Install the strike. Mark the jamb for the correct location of the strike. The latch or bolt should be vertically centered in the strike opening. Horizontally, make sure the latch or bolt will enter the door while holding it fairly tight against the door stop. Mortise the jamb, drill pilot holes, and install the strike with the screws provided.

Assembling a dead bolt. Install a dead bolt much as you would a handle. Mark for the position of the two holes and drill them. Insert the bolt and latch face, mark for the mortise, and cut it with a chisel. Screw the latch face into the mortise. For many lock types, you’ll need to use a screwdriver to partially extend the bolt. Insert the lock tailpiece through the slot in the bolt. Slip on the interior turn bolt or lock until the two pieces sit flush against the door. Fasten the retaining screws and install the strike plate.

Choosing a Dead Bolt - A high-quality dead bolt, properly installed, is usually the most secure lock for a door. For added security, purchase a unit with a metal strike enclosure, which extends deep into the doorjamb. A double-keyed dead bolt, which locks with a key on the inside as well as on the outside, offers the best security in situations where an intruder could reach through a window to the bolt. However it is not safe in case of fire - if you don’t have the key handy, you could be trapped inside.

Installing a Prehung Door

Building a custom door saves money, but takes time and expertise. Prehung units cost more, but you get everything you need—door, hinges, jamb, stop and casing moldings, and even a latch if you want it—all in one accurately made component.

Tools: Hammer, level, framing square, and saw.

Chossing a prehung door. A prehung door comes already assembled, with the holes precut for the handle and the strike plate. The casing can be removed from either side of a prehung door. A standard jamb is 3 5/8 inches wide to fit into a standard stud-and-drywall wall; in an older home, you may need a wider jamb.

1. Shim a prehung door. Remove the casing on one side. Set the door into the opening, with the other casing (not visible above) flush against the wall. If necessary shim the hinge side to make it plumb. Check the other two jamb pieces for square by closing the door; the gap should be even all around.

2. Drive nails. Open the door and shim it at the bottom so it is stable. Anchor the hinge jamb securely with 8d finishing nails that enter the framing. To hide nails, simply remove the stop, drive the nails, then replace the stop. Drive nails to attach the latch jamb, and check again for square.

Installing a Split-Jamb Prehung Door

With a split-jamb door, the side and top jambs consist of two tongue-and-groove halves that slide together to accommodate variations in wall thickness. This is particularly useful in an old home with plaster walls that may vary in thickness. The door is held in place mainly by finishing nails driven through the casings into the doorway framing. This works fine for lightweight hollow-core doors. For heavier solid-wood panel doors and even heavier solid-core doors, however, nailing the casings alone is not enough. For these doors, specify solid jambs of a width to match wall thickness.

Tools: Flammer, level, nail set, screwdriver, and chisel.

Right/left hand. A hinge “hand” refers to the side of the door that it is on. A right-hand hinge swings to the right as you push it open.

1. Test the fit. Remove packing materials that hold the two jamb pieces together. Separate the jamb pieces, leaving the door closed inside the stop jambs. With a helper, insert the two pieces into the opening, and make sure they will fit.

2. Level and nail the casing. Set aside the non-door part of the casing. With the door centered, drive an 8d finishing nail through the top outside edge of the casing into the stud. With a level held vertically against the inside edge of the side casing, shim the jamb at the hinge locations to plumb the casing.

3. Nail the jamb. Drive 8d finishing nails in the hinge-side casing every 16 inches. Drive 6d finishing nails through the jamb—not the stop—-and shims into a stud. Shim the latch-side jamb to make the gap between the door and jamb even, then nail with 8d finishing nails.

4. Add the second jamb. Insert the second jamb so that the tongues fit into the grooves. Nail around the casings with 8d finishing nails every 16 inches.

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