If your home has interior doors that are dated, look like a machine gun had its way with them or perhaps have “artwork” on them from precious little humans, swapping them out isn’t difficult. I’m just an oldish-but-not-yet-elderly woman, and I managed to do this so you can too.
First let me show you what my old doors looked like.
They were in amazingly good shape, which made me feel a little guilty for swapping them out. But I ended up using them for a couple other projects. More about that later.
Flashback: I once bought a house with a hole in the bedroom door that the neighbor said was from a high-heeled shoe. As the story goes, the shoe stuck in the door after being thrown like a tomahawk during an argument. I guess either he ducked at the right time or the Mrs. was a bad shot. (This was never verified, however.)
So the first thing I did was talk to the door dude at Lowe’s. I certainly can’t speak for all of the employees at every Lowe’s in America, but the door dude at my local Lowe’s knew his stuff. His name was Elvis. Yes. Elvis. And he was a treat—funny guy. He had the sideburns and everything.
At any rate, Elvis told me what measurements he would need in order to make the new doors fit into the existing openings. He first tried to talk me into ordering the doors and jambs that come pre-assembled (aka pre-hung doors). I said no thanks. All I need is the door, I said. He said it’s much easier to rip out your existing jamb and install the whole sha-bang, brand spanking new. I said, nope. Not easier for this girl, Elvis. Just need the door.
Just to be sure, I asked my trusty carpenter brother, Mike about that and he agreed with Elvis. He said it’s easier to tear out the existing door and jamb, and install a pre-hung door, than it is to install just the door into an existing jamb. That may be true if you’re a burly, hairy man who scratches, chews and spits. I know my limitations. Just doors, thank you.
In a nutshell, if you are wanting to replace only your interior door and not the jamb, you want to measure everything that makes the door fit into its existing opening—the height and width exactly, the location of the hinges and where the doorknob sits. You want that new door to be a carbon copy of your current door (only cuter). Don’t round up or down when measuring. Use exact measurements.
My first door measurement for Elvis was from the top of the door, to the top of the top hinge. Eight inches. Good.
Then I measured from the top of the door, to the top of the second hinge. And again to the bottom hinge. That tells the door-making folks where to route recesses for your hinges. If you measure exactly, they’re gonna fit. All of mine fit perfectly and matched up with my jamb hinges.
My existing hinges, fortunately, were the same size and shape as the ones that Lowes uses when they route for you if you don’t want to route your own. This is what they looked like. As I recall, there was a small fee for them to route the hinged areas. Worth it for me! (I spray painted my existing brushed nickel hinges an oil rubbed bronze color.)
The next measurement was from the top of the door to the center of the bore hole. The bore hole on the edge of the door that is, where the latch comes out. Mine was 44″.
This is where the dead latch (male part) of your door hardware will live. From this single measurement, they will bore both holes that you need in order to accommodate your door hardware. One hole will be drilled into the edge of the door for the dead latch, and the other into the face of the door for the door knob or handle.
When you go to order your doors, be sure to write down each door’s location and the measurements that go with that particular door. That’s important because you’ll need to be able to tell your Elvis which way the door swings, and if the handle is on the right or the left. Just going in with a list of measurements without knowing which measurements go with which door, will be a headache if you don’t keep them straight.
Tip: Even if the doors look identical, take the time to measure each item on each door.
If you’re nervous about all of this, you can do what I did and just order one door, and try it before you invest a bunch of money into a whole house worth of doors that aren’t right. I was glad I did that because I made a mistake on my guinea pig door width measurement. I rounded to the nearest 1/4″ thinking Lowe’s probably couldn’t go that exact. But they can. I had to shave a strip off the hinge side of the door, which cut off my routed hinge spots, but I still managed to finagle the door and use it.
So here’s my hallway with the old doors removed. I was in the process of changing out some of my door casings and baseboards, and painting my trim white, so my photos are going to show different stages of these projects going on.
Tip: When you remove your old doors, remove the top hinge last or wear a hard hat. Trust me on that one.
The doors I purchased were pre-primed, so all I had to do was paint them. I did sand them lightly with a sanding sponge first because there were little bits of stuff here and there that I didn’t want to paint over. It was especially important to sand the edges, which were very rough. I also lightly sanded in between coats.
I leaned them up against the wall and went to town. I used Sherwin Williams “Pure White” color in a semi-gloss. It’s the perfect white.
Now to install. Since I did this by myself, I decided it best to pre-drill all of my hinge screw holes.
I first screwed the hinges onto the jamb.
I then put a block of wood under the door to jack it up to the right level, and then screwed the hinges onto the door. I tried also screwing the hinges onto the door first and onto the jamb second, but didn’t think one way was any easier than the other. I believe the professionals put the hinges on the door first. It was a balancing act to hold the door in one hand, the drill in the other hand and the screws in my teeth, but I managed to do it without swallowing any hardware.
For whatever reason, I had one door that rubbed very hard on the carpet when I tried to pull it shut, so I had to remove some of the bottom of that door. Not fun, since I already had it installed and I thought I was done. It was the last door and I was pooped, but I took a breath, put my big girl panties on and decided to carry on.
I drew a pencil line where I needed to cut.
I put some painter’s tape on the line so I could see it better when the sawdust started to fly, and so I wouldn’t scratch the door. I also put tape underneath to keep damage to a minimum on the underside.
Since I can’t seem to cut a straight line to save my soul, I decided to make a fence just to be safe.
Done! What a sawdusty mess!
My “cardboard” door ended up with some fuzzies, but they sanded right off.
And what’s a new door without a new door handle!
And here’s what’s inside.
All you do is screw the strike plate on the jamb like so.
Insert the dead latch, and screw it in.
Now we have this.
Next, you insert the knobs/handles, and screw them in.
Now with any luck, the dead latch will go right into the hole in the strike plate so that the door will latch.
That’s all there is to it! What a difference a door makes!
And of course we always want to recycle when we can, so I used my old doors to make shelving for my garage, and to make a workbench. Someday, I’ll post how I did these projects.
After I installed these doors, the closet doors looked out-of-place so I changed those out too. But that’s another post too!
This post was written by Tracy Evans who is a Journeyman Painter and Certified Home Stager /Redesigner. Feel free to visit her website at www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com to view more before and after pictures of her projects. And if you enjoy gardening, you may want to visit her gardening blog at MyUrbanGardenOasis.