How to Install an Exterior Door
Time Required: Over 1 day
Replacing an exterior door with one that has energy-efficient insulation, weather stripping and an easy-to-maintain baked enamel primer coat can greatly enhance the comfort, security and appearance of your home. Since replacement options are generally pre-hung with jambs, brick moulding and hardware (except locksets), installing an exterior door can be a difficult project. This guide will teach you how to install a door on the front entrance of your home.
- Before you replace a front door, you must prepare the rough opening of the door, if necessary, and remove the new door and frame from their packaging.
- Leave the retaining brackets in place that hold the door closed while you’re working on it.
- Measure both the door and rough opening to make sure the door is the right size.
Tip: Installing an exterior door that is insulated and made of steel can be heavy and cumbersome due to the weight of the materials. If you choose to install a front door made of steel, you will need a helper. Certain wood front doors will also be heavier than others, so take that into consideration before starting this project.
- Center the door and frame in the rough opening as a test-fit.
- Use a level to make sure the door is plumb.
- If necessary, shim under the lower side jamb until the door is plumb.
- Adjust as necessary to keep the door jambs square with each other.
- Double check to make sure the door is centered.
- Trace the outline of the moulding onto the siding.
- If you have vinyl or metal siding, be sure to enlarge the outline to make room for the extra trim required.
- Remove the door and frame after finishing the outline.
- Cut along the outline down to the sheathing.
- With your safety glasses on, start the cut with the blade clear of the siding, and then lower the moving blade into it.
- Stop just short of the corners to prevent damaging the siding that will remain.
- Finish the corners with a sharp wood chisel.
- Cut a piece of the drip edge to fit the width of the rough opening.
- To provide a moisture barrier, apply building paper to the exposed areas of the walls and door frame.
- Cut the drip edge to fit the width of the rough opening and slide it underneath the siding at the top of the opening.
- Do not nail the drip edge.
- Check the fit before installing a new door, and enlarge the opening as necessary.
- Once you are satisfied with the fit of the door, remove it and apply several thick beads of silicone caulk to the bottom of the doorsill.
- Caulk underneath the spots where the bottom of the jamb and brick moulding will be.
- Check that the door jamb on the hinge side is plumb and shim as necessary.
- Temporarily screw the hinge jamb in place by driving two #8 3-inch drywall screws through it: One about 2 inches above the top hinge and the other about 2 inches from the center hinge.
- Loosen the screws if necessary to bring the jamb back into plumb.
- Cut pairs of wedge-shaped cedar shims together to form flat shims.
- Using another entrance, go inside and insert them into the gaps behind the hinges and between the jamb and framing to stabilize the jamb.
- Cedar shims are preferable to pine because they are more weather-resistant.
- Remove two of the screws on the top hinge and replace with long anchor screws. These anchor screws will penetrate the framing members to strengthen the installation.
- Do not use longer screws than the manufacturer calls for on doors with sidelights — the screws might break the glass.
- Apply paintable caulk and insulate around the entire door frame.
- Fill all nail holes with caulk and insulate with weather stripping where applicable.
- Finish the door as directed by the manufacturer.
- Adjust the threshold for a tight seal (as long as it is adjustable) as directed by the manufacturer.
Tip: If you set the threshold too high, it will make the door difficult to open and eventually could damage either the door or the weather stripping.
- Install a new door lock and door knob by inserting the latch through the hole for the new parts.
- Insert the lockset tailpieces through the latch bolt, and screw the handles together by tightening the retaining screws.
- Avoid damage to the screws by using a hand screwdriver.
- Complete the installation by attaching the strike plate to the door jamb to fit the latch bolt.