. . . aka it’s all about how you swing (Door Layout Fix) part 2 of 3 — Flipping the Hinges and Lockset on a Pre-Hung Door

Ok, where did I leave off? Seems like forever since I’ve visited the topic of Dave and his doors. And after several missed attempts at a photo shoot, we finally nailed it this past weekend.

In a nutshell, Dave has a situation in the hallway leading from his foyer to his kitchen. The basement door and the door on the powder room, immediately opposing each other, both swing outward. When opened, they collide, causing not only damage but also an impedance to normal traffic flow.

Make an outswinging door inswinging :: chair rail door and door hinges right hand door

In the last post on this topic (A Door Layout Fix), I had asked Dave which one of an array of options he would want me to expand upon. After my most recent visit, it was discussed, and we decided that I would provide procedures for two possibilities. From the last post : 4. Why not just flip the hinge of the powder room door to make it swing inward? Or 5. Why not replace the door, frame and all? Buy a matching door unit and replace it so the door swings inward.

Because I am usually open, at least in theory, to all possible options, and since I am out only to recommend the best option as it fits my clients, I choose to describe first the most inexpensive and minimally invasive option available to him. In this case, flip the hinges on the door.


I will not go so far as to describe the tools needed specifically, nor will I estimate the time it would to take to perform these procedures. Knowing Dave’s skill set, I would almost certainly recommend an experienced handyman if either procedure is to be performed. He simply does not need all that information.

I will use this space, rather, to expound on the topic in the hopes of giving Dave a clearer picture of what is involved, and an idea of how the end product will appear.

The other five percent

As mentioned in the first post, I am 95% sure of why these doors ended up this way. The 5% of uncertainty, I will address here. I will admit that our mythical construction manager from part one may have known what he was doing. It is possible that he was required to install these doors as such to avoid issues with an in-swinging bathroom door. Maybe the door, 32 wide, would have been obstructed by the originally selected toilet. To ensure that this is not now an issue, Dave should check this.

There is nothing high tech about this test. Dave needs to simply grab a tape measure, unfurl it to about 30 (the tape measure’s body is typically about 2 ½), place its butt at the hinge-side jamb, and swing it towards the toilet roughly at the height of the toilet. Does it hit the toilet? If no, we are moving forward.

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Note: As with any repair to a painted surface, make sure that there is matching paint on hand. If not, go to the home center and match it, exactly.

Back to it

Procedure 1

– Flip the hinges on the powder room door to allow for the door to swing inward.

rounded radius builder grade brass hinges

–Remove the door — I am a little old school here. When working with hinges, I always try to use a good old-fashioned screw driver. If there is a scrap piece of plywood or some shims lying around, place them underneath the far edge of the door. These will help support the weight of the door when removing screws. Once all the screws have been removed, wiggle the door hinges free. Accumulated paint may make this less then straight forward; be conscious to cut (and yes I mean cut with a utility or a putty knife) any paint that may have glued the hinges in place. This will help prevent any undue damage to the jamb as we remove the door.

–Remove the hinge-side stop — Working carefully, remove the stop from the hinge side door jamb. Again we may need to cut paint and/or caulk prior to slipping a putty knife underneath the backside of the stop. Work the tool down the length the stop. The goal here is to get just enough daylight to then pry the stop out of its resting place. To make sure we do not mar up the jamb, have another scrap piece of wood handy. We place this underneath the heel of our pry bar as we work to push the stop outward. Note: don’t force anything; we may be required to rock the stop back and forth as not to damage the miter at the header’s stop.

— Mark new hinge locations — This probably can be done most efficiently by marking a straight line across the jamb using a small torpedo level. While the relationship to the previous locations may not be of absolute importance, the distance between each hinge, however, should remain exactly the same.

Flipping Hinges :: hinge mortise jig mounted to door frame - Mortising jig (my house)

— Cut new jam mortises

(Specialty Tool Alert) — While this may be accomplished using a sharp chisel and mallet, the most efficient way I have found to do this combines a plunge router with a mortising jig. Porter-Cable as well as Ryobi make a plastic form, or jig, (a Door Hinge Template) that is adjustable to various hinge sizes. It is simply tacked to the intended mortise locations, and using a provided straight router bit allows for plunge cutting of perfectly rounded hinge mortises. While I believe most specs call for a depth of 5/32 for this cut, I always try to stay a little shallow, because of the router’s tendency to rock when held against an upright surface.

— Cut new door mortises (Unsightly Work Alert) — Since our door slab already has mortises cut in it, attempting a new rounded hinge cut may not be best. When I have done this in the past, I square off the existing mortise and carry it across the width of the door slab. Take a square and draw a transfer line across the door edge, then use a utility knife first (to score the surface) followed by a sharp chisel. Mortise out the door edge completely square.

Flipping a Lockset :: brass lever lockset and articulator - Lever lockset - We're gonna have to flip that too

— Swip swap the door’s lockset

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— Most locksets are reversible, even those that are lever- style. Check for a small slot on the underside of the handle. When depressed, this will allow for removal the handle. Switch it. You will also have to remove the striker on the door’s edge, and flip it over so that the articulator is set to swing with the door. Note: if the lockset is in fact not reversible, it’s time for a trip to the home center. Pick a lockset that matches the hinges in finish.

— Separate the hinges by removing the hinge pins — Before separating hinges, note which way they are oriented. Mark the upward side with a piece of tape or something. A nail punch or even a finish nail can then be used tapping the bottom of the hinge pin to free it. Once it has moved upwards enough, the hinge pin can either be grabbed with a hand or a pair of pliers. Be careful not to mar the head and especially not the shank.

— Mount the separated hinges to their respective locations — Part of a grand conspiracy; hinges are typically mounted with #9 screws. Hold the hinges where they are to be set, and mark hinge hole locations with an awl, a finish nail, a #2 pencil, or even the tip of a drill bit. We pre-drill holes using a bit slightly smaller in diameter than the hinge screws. DO NOT DRILL ALL HOLES AT THIS POINT. DO NOT FILL ALL HOLES WITH SCREWS. By leaving some of the holes in the hinges empty this will allow us to make minor, possibly necessary, adjustments later.

— Install the door — Set the scrap ply or shims used in earlier steps in a location that will allow them to support some of the weight of the door. An extra set of hands can be useful at this point. Be careful when moving the door itself, especially passing through the doorway.

Align the hinges, and with at least one hinge pin in hand, mate mounted hinges. If they do not slide together smoothly here, back out the screws, part way, in at least one of the hinges. Again attempt to mate the hinges. Once set, install the hinge pins. Don’t push the hinge pins all the way in at this point though, they may have to be pulled out again. If hinge screws were loosened, hold the door firmly in place and reset the screws.

— Check the door swing and make minor adjustments — Minor door adjustments could be an article unto itself. Hopefully everything works out as expected here. Watch out for binding at the hinges and for the minutest rubbing at the door jamb as the door closes. If the door frame is square, if hinges were mortised to the correct depth, and if the door operates as expected, we should be home free.

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If everything checks out though at this point, install the balance of screws, and set the hinges pins fully in place with a handful of light taps on their heads with a hammer.

— Mortise for and relocate the striker plate — This will require the drilling of a new hole in the latch-side jamb. It will also require new mortising for the strike plate. I am assuming if we have made it this far, there is probably not much need for instruction here.

–Install Dutchman(s) in the vacated hinge mortises (Master Carpenter Work Alert) — This is the part I don’t love about this procedure. We have flipped our hinges. Now, however, we have the original hinge locations to deal with. To address this, we are going install what are called Dutchmen in these locations. A Dutchman is essentially a patch for wood made of wood.

Start by squaring off the corners of the original rounded hinge mortises. Do this using a utility knife and/or a sharp chisel. We will need to find or make a wood patch that is larger that mortises we are staring at. Our Dutchman needs to be about 5/32 or so thick and it should overlap just slightly the mortises that we have.

Once we found the material we need, we hold it in place over the mortises (as we would in preparation for a drywall repair). Score using a utility knife around the outside edges of our Dutchman. Clean any material out of the way so that the Dutchman will slide neatly in. Once satisfied with the fit of the patch, glue it in place using wood glue or an adhesive caulk. Tack it in at least one location at the top and one location at the bottom. Use 3d finish nails for this, pre-drilling as not to slip the wood. Repeat to all mortises are filled.

Let the glue set up. The Dutchmen should finish just above the surface of the jamb. Once the glue has set up, come behind with a palm sander and sand the Dutchmen down flat.

— Reinstall the hinge-side stop

— Then finally touch up paint

Summing up

And you have it, what’s involved with flipping the hinges on a door. This really is not my number one option for Dave, and I did intend to dictate the steps required in his house to replace this type of door. I have simply run out of space here. Depending on feedback gathered from him or others, I will try to detail that procedure in an upcoming post.