Tricks of the Trade

Installation is Easy

No skill required

Installing a New Door Slab

Hanging a new door on an old jamb is not a difficult project and is one that any DIY-er can tackle. Whether it’s replacing a damaged door or upgrading old doors to something more modern, it’s easy to get it right the first time if you follow these simple steps. In this demonstration, I’m going to replace a nice VG Fir entry door with a temporary blank door slab so that when the drywall crew shows up we won’t have any chance of damaging the real entry door. If you want to learn how to install a pre hung door, check out my how to guide here.  

The Existing Door

Speaking of the real entry door, here it is.   


The New Door Slab

Purchase your new door as a slab, meaning that it will not have any routes for the hinges or any holes drilled for knobs. That way we can line everything up to make it work perfectly with our existing jamb. Measure the width and height of the existing door and check the new slab. Chances are that they will be very close to the same size. Cut the new door to match the old if needed and place it in the jamb.


Adjust to fit the Jamb

Use a few shims under the door to raise it up towards the header.


The Quarter Spacer

A US quarter is just a little thicker than 1/16” and just happens to be about the perfect amount of space that we’ll need between the top of the door and the header. Once the door is shimmed all the way up tight to the quarter, check the reveal along the top and the sides. Because we haven’t routed for the hinges yet and they are still attached to the jamb, it should be a snug fit for the width. If the existing jamb is out of square, it will show up along the top. In extreme cases you might have to trim the top of the door to make the reveal even.


Mark the Hinges

With the door sitting in the jamb and the reveals even, mark the locations of the hinges. Marking in place is always much more accurate than measuring. I like to use a utility knife to make a small mark at the top and bottom of each hinge and then use a pencil to make the mark easier to see.


Check the Old Door

Use a combination square to check the width of the hinge routes on the old door. This measurement determines how deep the door sits against the jamb.


The Hinge Routes

There are a few different methods you could use to make the hinge routes- A forstner bit to drill the majority of the material and then use a chisel to finish up (a little bit of skill required). Or you could use one of these jigs that you can purchase. If you elect to buy one, I’d get one like this that is adjustable for different sized hinges. That way you’ll be able to get a lot of use out of it and maybe you can justify the price. Or if you are like me and find it much more fun to make your own…


DIY Hinge Routing Jig

Simple jigs like this are super easy to make. Some scrap plywood pieces and a few minutes are all it takes. Over the years I’ve made tons of these for different jobs and most of them are still kicking around in my shop.


The Router Bit

Build your jig to work with whichever router bit you are going to use. The router bit needs to be a top bearing flush trim type with a diameter of ½”. The ½” diameter will give you the correct radius in the corners for most standard hinges. The length of cutting blades are not all that important as long as you build the jig to fit it. The bearing on top of the cutter will follow the edges of the jig to make a perfect recess for the hinge.


Back to the Jig

Line up the jig with the marks you made earlier and clamp the jig in place.


Router Makes Perfect

With the router bit adjusted to the thickness of the hinge below the bottom of the jig, it’s easy to remove just the right amount of material. Any router will do but I prefer to use a small laminate trimmer.


The Finished Product

And just like that, we have a recess for the hinge. Repeat the process for the other hinges.


Time to Hang The Door

Line up the hinges and hang the new door.


Pre Drill For The Screws

The easiest way to get perfectly centered screws is to pre drill with one of these self-centering bits. The drill bit is surrounded by a spring loaded guide that lines up the bit in the center.


The Home Stretch

All of the hinges installed.


All Done

Since we aren’t going to be using this door for access to the house, I won’t bother installing a lock. For you project, after hanging the door, make a mark in the center of the strike plate and drill for the knob.

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A Note About Safety

Safety is important. I can’t say it any better than my all-time favorite woodworker/ TV host, Norm Abram, so I’ll just leave you with his famous quote:

“Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your power tools. Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury. And remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these (Norm points to his glasses) — safety glasses.” 

-Norm Abram, New Yankee Workshop


Steve Wright

Steve Wright is a general contractor who over the last 30 plus years has built hundreds of new homes, ranging from first time affordable homes to multi-million dollar custom homes and everything in between.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Britt

    Thanks for sharing! You break this down in a way that I can’t help but agree, it’s something any DIY’er can do! You inspire me to step outside of my comfort zone and give it a try

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