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How to replace a front door

If you have a front exterior door that has warped, cracked or is leaking excessive air or water, then you’ll be happy to know replacing it is a do-it-yourself kind of project. Energy efficient entry doors can be purchased “prehung” with its jambs and door hardware included. Obviously, you’ll need to add a lock set to your new door since it’s an exterior door. One thing to remember when working with your front door (old one and new one) is that it’s going to be quite heavy. We’re talking hundreds of pounds in some cases, so be sure to have a helper on hand when removing and installing these types of solid core doors.

Preparing to replace your front door
The first step in this project is to get the dimensions of your existing door to order your new door. Measure both the height and width. These dimensions will be what you use to order your new door.

When you’re ready, remove the old exterior door by driving out the hinge pins with a hammer and nail set. A screwdriver will work too. Again, have an assistant help you lift the door from the hinges and out of the frame. Next, using a utility knife, cut away the old caulking between the exterior siding and the molding on the door frame. You’ll want to use a pry bar and hammer to gently remove the old door jamb and threshold. The nails should pop out, but if necessary, you’ll need to cut off difficult nails with a reciprocating saw (or mini hacksaw).

Installing your new front entry door
Carefully remove your new door unit from it’s packaging, but ensure you keep the brackets or strapping that hold the door closed intact. It’s important to now do a test-fit of your new door unit in the rough opening where you just removed your old door and door jambs. Check that the door is plumb on both sides and that it is level. You can use shims to raise a side if it sits lower than the other.

Next, cut strips of building paper that are 8″ wide and slide them between the siding and sheathing around the top and sides of your door opening. Each piece should overlap the piece below it. Bend overlapping paper around the framing members and staple it snugly.  Now, apply a few thick beads of silicone caulk to the subfloor at the base of the door opening. Then, apply caulk on top of the building paper you just installed. Do this on the front edges of the jacks studs and header.

Lift and center the door unit into the rough opening, pushing the brick molding firming against the sheathing. Someone should hold the unit in place while you nail it in place. Now, from the inside, put two hard shims together and inset them into the the gaps between the door jambs and the framing members. Be sure to place shims at the lock and hinge locations, and every 12″ from there. You can adjust these shims until your door is plumb and level.

From the outside, nail 10d casing nails through the door jambs and into the framing members at the points where you placed the shims. Drive the nails below the surface of the wood with a nail set. Now, test the door (remove the brackets first), and ensure it opens and closes properly. Your door until should have come with a couple of long anchor screws. You can use these in place of two screws at the top hinge. They will go through to the framing members to strengthen your door installation. On the outside, be sure you secure brick molding to the framing members with 10d galvanized casing nails, placed them every 12″. Again, use a nail set to drop the nails beneath the surface. You can cut off shims that are hanging out using a handsaw. Make them flush with the framing members. Also, fill the gaps between the jams and the framing members with loosely packed fiberglass insulation or expanding foam. Also, apply silicone caulk that can be painted around the entire door unit, filing nail holes with latext caulk. Paint as needed and install your lockset.

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