:: aka it’s all about how you swing (Part 3 of 3)

Let me start by saying that the procedure I provided in the last post may be simplified by replacing rounded hinges with squared off utility hinges. In this procedure, How to Replace a Pre-hung Door, a router and jig is replaced by simple chisel work.

Caulk and paint make a carpenter what he ain’t

In my last post, I detailed how to switch the swing of a door for Dave in Perry Hall Farms. While this is probably the most minimally invasive option available to him, I think this operation produces unwanted side effects for a house of its age.

This procedure requires the installation of what is known as a Dutchman. (See the section Moxie Mouth in the right side bar for a definition.) A Dutchman can be patched in and made to blend (thanks to caulk and paint) into the original woodwork almost seamlessly. And the patch will look great for a few years until the wood from varying stock begins fighting, expanding and contracting, against each other.

A dutchman! (my house) :: door hinge dutchman beginning to show

As the earth spins, you see, the patch will become more and more noticeable as a fix to an earlier mistake. Because of this, I present a second option for Dave and his house. Why not switch the door, frame and all, with one that swings inward?

How to hand a door & other terminology

When speaking of doors, you often need to know whether a door is left-handed or right-handed. Throughout the years, I have been taught, there are several ways of which to determine this. The simplest for me is as follows:

Place your back against the door’s hinge-side jamb (the jamb into which the hinges are screwed). Then ask yourself which way is, or do you want, the door to swing. Become the door! If you swing out your right arm, it is then a right-handed door. If you swing out your left arm, it is then a left-handed door.

When shopping for, or communicating, about doors, there is some other terminology that you probably should familiarize yourself with. Consistent with today’s building practices and often when we talk of doors, we are often talking about pre-hung doors. In other words, the door panel itself, when purchased, is already routered and screwed to the jamb with hinges. This entire assembly could also be known as a door unit.

Any door unit pre-hung or not, has several elements that make up the whole. First, the door, or what we know as the door. In this case, I am speaking about the door panel, frequently known as the slab. Some door installations require the purchase of only a slab.

On Door Slabs

Some slabs come just this way, as a door panel completely unaltered. Others may be bored (the hole for the lockset is already drilled) and/or routed (the location for hinges already mortised) or both. With these factory-worked slabs, you will need to know what hand the door is (see above).

Some other parts that make up a door unit include: the jamb, the stops, the hinges, the latch, and the casing. While the hinges of the door and the latch I think are pretty self explanatory, there always seems to be some confusion surrounding the other parts.

First, the jamb. When speaking of door jambs, we are talking about the flat piece of finished wood that is mounted directly to the door opening’s rough framing. Hinged doors are mounted directly to the jamb, and the side on which the hinges appear could be called the hinge-side jamb. Conversely, the side on which the latch and the partnered lockset appear could be called the latch-side jamb. The jamb makes up simply the finished opening into which the door fits.

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Door stops, in most cases, then are mounted to the jamb. With today’s pre-hung doors, the stops are installed almost seamlessly (they are even sometimes split). When painted, they almost become part of the jamb. However, they are, in fact, an individual part of the unit as a whole – the place where the door contacts to create a closed door situation.

Lastly, you have the casing. Now, even this has some gray area associated with it. For the term of this article when I speak about casing, I am actually talking about the door trim. Yes, the trim that is attached both to the jamb and the finished wall surfaces around the door to create a finished door installation. Many pre-hung doors come with the door casing already attached.

In particular, Doors

In Dave’s house, he has a standard six-panel composite door. Popular with builders for more than 20 years now, this is actually a door made not out of solid wood but rather of a composite material. They are not hollow core which is the cheapest of the bunch; they instead are solid-core made of high density fiberboard and finished with a wood veneer. They are pressed usually with a wood grain pattern to create the raised panel look that has remained popular from the early part of last century.

These doors can be found at home centers or lumber yards. Suppliers carry models made by different manufacturers, but almost all can be ordered by each. At times, and unless the painters who were involved in building the home were overly conscientious, the manufacturer of a door can be determined by removing the door and looking for a stamp on the bottom of the door.

In Dave’s case, he is looking for a left-hand paint grade door that is bored and routed. He will be shopping for a 2-8 door (in other words, the door is 2 foot 8 inches, or 32, wide,). Inexpensive models that would probably match closely enough price out at a good bit under $100. To match the doors that exist in his home exactly, he should expect to do an order through a millworks desk somewhere, and plan on spending around $150.

Other particulars and risk

As you may have noticed in some of the pictures that I have added to this blog, Dave has custom trim and paint added both to his hallway and foyer, as well as to his bathroom. These details are fantastic; they look great and they add value to the home. In this particular case, I happen to know the dude who did this work, and I know that he didn’t just slap this stuff up.

Custom chair rail was made on site, shadow boxes were added, and a three part monochromatic color scheme was applied to the new wall divisions. Obviously, removing and then re-installing a door in this location carries some risk. However, in practicing patience and applying skill, this job can be performed while barely

two story foyer with custom trim and paint :: The powder room door in discussion -- 2nd door on the right disturbing these fine elements.

The door casing found in Dave’s house, and in many others, is a traditional 2 and ½ colonial trim. While we will attempt to salvage the trim that is already installed in this location, it is always a good idea to plan for the contingency. We may damage the trim when we attempt to remove it. Don’t worry though, this profile can be found at all area home centers and lumber yards. It has a Wood Molding profile number of 371.

Procedure 2 – Removing and replacing the door with a matching door that now swings inward.

Note: Before proceeding, Dave should ensure that he has a match for both the wall and the trim paints on hand.

— Remove the door — Pop the hinge pins out of the hinges and remove the door. Store the door in a safe place if you would like to reuse it elsewhere. Remember selling the door, too, is always an option if it remains somewhat intact during this process.

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— Remove the door’s trim — I probably could write a separate article on various methods for removing trim. I am going assume anyone that is attempting this has some experience removing trim. Use your head and move slowly. Always first cut paint or caulk prior to attempting to move the trim you are working on. I find that a utility knife with a somewhat dulled blade makes great work of this task.

Once the pry bar or another demolition utensil comes out, try to place a scrap piece of wood under the heel of the tool to displace any damage that may occur to finished surfaces. Remember always work to pull the trim, that is work by pulling the tool’s handle toward, not pushing it away from, you. If you do this carefully, while miters may be glued or nailed at the top, you will probably be able to salvage and reuse this trim.

For Dave specifically: You should carefully remove the trim from both the inside and outside of the opening. You have to be especially careful working around the custom chair rail that is on the outside of the bath.

— Remove the jamb — Of course, the jamb is nailed in place. I find that the easiest way to remove a jamb is by cutting the nails behind the jamb. This can be done using a mini hack saw or a reciprocating saw. If you use the power tool, I recommend having a spotter close by to steady and/or catch the frame as it comes out. Select a metal blade, place the saw on a lower speed, and set the saw’s guide right on the jamb as you cut.

— Remove the door and the trim from the new pre-hung door – Remove the door from the door unit by popping its hinges. (See above) Some pre-hung doors come with their casings attached. On cheaper models, this trim is usually attached with staples. With these types of doors, I have gotten in the habit of removing the casing from both sides. I guess that just comes with working more frequently in older homes. In newer homes, it is possible to get away with removing the trim from only one side. And this may be the case in Dave’s house if the rough framing of the door way is plumb and square, and if the original installation did not utilize excessive shimming.

— Center the door frame in the rough opening — Hopefully for Dave, in a newer home, out of plumb walls should not be too much of an issue. The standard 6-8 or 80 inch door should slide right into the opening. The goal here is to line the door as such that it is centered on the framing and flush with the surrounding wall surfaces. While a four-foot level may help set your mind as ease, this might be one case where you must simply trust yourself.

— Starting with the hinge-side jamb, plumb the door — I have heard various call-outs on this, but we will be using 16d finish nails to install the jamb. Start by tacking (nailing just enough of the nail into the stud as to hold the door in place – Do not set nails.) the bottom of the jamb flush to the finished floor at the hinge side. Now, we have all seen that phantom door that opens and/or closes by itself.

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This of course occurs because of gravity, and, well, because the hinge-side jamb is not perfectly plumb. To ensure that this does not happen to us, this time, we do break out our four foot level. Once satisfied with the vertical positioning of the door jamb, place two nails – one each about an inch inward from the outside edge of the jamb, into the top of the jamb.

— Shim the hinge-side jamb — When we shim the hinge, we are going to partner a set of cedar shims inserting immediately behind the hinge locations. Partnered shims allow us to raise and lower the jamb laterally in equal proportions. Align the shims using your eyeball – you are looking to ensure that equal portions of the fat side of shim remain exposed on each side of the jamb. Under the bottom hinge, push the shims in lightly so that they begin to lock into place. Use just a little force here.

At the top, do the same. Do not overdo it; we do not want the jamb to bow outward. Once the shims are sitting in place, use your level to ensure that the inside surface of this jamb is perfectly plumb. Drive the finish nails a little deeper; we are trying to drive the nails into the framing, but again do not set the nails’ heads.

— Shim the latch side jamb & the header jamb — we will now nail these jambs using virtually the same methods as described above. Ensure again this side of the frame is centered in the opening. There should be no need to check the plumb here inside the opening. On this jamb, we want to set the shims and nail directly through them. Do not set nails all the way below the surface of the jamb. Do not set the nails.

— Install the door — Set a scrap piece of plywood or shims 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 around, 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 some of 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, just in case they have to be pulled out again. If hinge screws were loosened, hold the door firmly in place and reset the screws.

— Check the door’s swing & install lockset — If the door is operating correctly, that is, not binding anywhere around the frame, install the lockset. Again check the operation of the door. If everything is working correctly, set the heads of the nails using a nail punch. Set the hinges pins fully in place with a few taps on their heads.

— Install the door casing — Prior to installing door casing of course, you will have to cut off the exposed ends of the shims with either a sharp utility knife or a hand saw.

— Touch up drywall (if required)

— Touch up paint (if required)
And Good Luck! ~jb