How To Install An Exterior Door

Installing An Exterior Door Installing an exterior door is
one of the easiest of all door installations. Whether the
door is installed in new construction or in a replacement
situation, there are a few factors that make this an easy

The biggest reason this is a simple operation is that these
doors come prehung. What this means is the door is already
hung in its jamb. The hinges are mortised into the door and
jamb and screwed in place. The door is held in position by
the hinge pins, leaving the perfect reveal around the door
and the jambs top and sides. The holes are also bored for
the lockset and if necessary, for the deadbolt too. Exterior
doors come in wood, fiberglass, and the most popular, steel.
The two sizes are normaly used for exterior doors are 32"
and 36". With the sizes of todays furniture and appliances
the smart choice is the 36" door. The standard height for a
door is 6'8" but taller ones can be special ordered.

The exterior trim comes nailed to the jamb. This trim,
called brickmoulding, is mitred and already installed,
saving the installer(s) another step. These doors also have
an aluminum threshold already attached to the legs of the
jambs. All these things make the door and jamb one cohesive

The standard jamb size is 4 and 1/2 inches wide. With the
demand for a higher insulation R value in exterior walls,
2x6 framing is being used more frequently. Jambs to fit
these walls, 6 1/2 inches, are becoming more common. Jamb
widths can be made to order for whatever a projects needs
are and would cost more.

To install an exterior door, first check to see if the rough
opening is correct. The width of the opening should be 2"
wider than the door itself (38" for a 36" door, 34" for a
32" door). For a rough opening height 83" will suffice for
most door manufacturers. Also check to see if the framing
and floor is reasonably plumb.

Door installation is easier with 2 people but can be done
alone. Put the door in the opening from the outside. If you
are working alone, tack the door to the wall through the
brickmoulding, not driving the nails home. I like to use
galvenized ring shank splitless nails that are used for
cedar siding. They don't split the wood and the smaller
heads are not as obvious to the eye. The ring shank feature
gives them great holding power.

With the door tacked in the opening, go to the inside of the
door and check the reveals around the door. There should be
about an eighth of an inch all around the door. Shim the
jambs of the door so the reveals are right. Check the door
jamb on the hinge side for plumb. If it is not plumb, then
the floor is out of level. One jamb leg or the other will
need to be shimmed so the threshold is level. Now readjust
the reveals by moving the door and jambs sideways in the
opening to a point where the reveals are right. Once the
door and jamb are in position, shim the jamb at each hinge
and at the strike, top and bottom on the strike side. Nail
the shims in place by nailing through the jamb, through the
shims and into the framing. Check the door swing to see if
it opens and closes properly. If all is well, go outside and
nail through the brickmould using the splitless nails to
nail the door frame to the house.

Most door manufacturers provide long screws that replace
some of the shorter screws in the hinges on the jamb. The
top hinge is the most important place to use one or two of
these screws. These screws go through the jamb and into the
framing and keep the door from sagging over time.

Most doors come with an adjustable threshold. This may have
to be adjusted up or down to create an airtight seal.

With the door securely in the opening, it is ready for door
hardware installation.

Mike Merisko (c) 2007

Want to read more door articles?

How to Install a Prehung Door

Rough Openings For Doors




Door Openings


Garage Door Openings


Lumber Takeoffs

Nail Guns

Plywood Deck 


Roof Framing


Sill Plates

Speed Square






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