how to hang an exterior door that is not prehung

how to hang an exterior door that is not prehung
Tools Needed
1 Tape measure
2 Sharp pencil
3 Wood plane
4 Drill
5 Gloves
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Materials Needed
1 Hand saw
2 Wooden mallet or hammer
3 Finishing nails
Total Cost
Find a handyman
Estimated Time
4-6 Hours
Skill Level: Expert
The total cost and duration may vary when hiring a handyman!

Project Overview

exterior door installation

You probably know that pre-hung doors are usually more convenient than slab doors, provided you manage to find a style that suits your needs and your doorway has a standard size. Pre-hung doors come in limited styles, which is a serious downside.

However, if you would like to adapt your favorite vintage door-style to adequately fit your constricted alleyway or back entry, you will need to hang it by yourself. This involves setting the hinges, installing the jamb and setting the knob. In a couple of ways, hanging your own door can actually be quicker and easier compared to installing a pre-hung door.

Step-By-Step Instructions


Measure the Door Size

measuring exterior door

In most cases, you will simply order a new external door, which is roughly the same size as your old door. Carefully measure the height and width of the old door, rounding these measurements up to whole inches. The new door should have these measurements. For instance, if your old door has a width of 36-3/4 inches and height of 80-1/2 inches, the size of your new door should be 37 inches by 81 inches.

Measure the back of the external trim to the back of the internal trim. This is the jamb width you will have to specify when ordering your new door. This will guarantee that the internal trim will nicely fit you your wall without requiring additional jamb extensions.


Remove Your Old Door

hanging exterior door

With a nail set and a hammer, firmly tap the hinge pins to loosen them. Then gently swing your door open and remove it. Protect your floor using a drop cloth. When lifting the old door be careful as it will be quite heavy. If you are planning on reusing the interior moldings, carefully pull all the nails through the back using a nipper or pliers to prevent damage to its face. If you cut through a single side jamb it will make it easier to tear out the complete frame. After removing the door frame, examine the physical condition of the subflooring and framing in the sill region. If there is any rotted wood, cut it out and replace it.

You will need to remove the interior trim in order to get precise measurements of the rough opening. The rough opening has to be square shaped, while jack studs should be plumb. However, you can, in most cases, easily compensate for differences that are less than half an inch while installing the jamb.

But in case the jack studs in your doorway or alleyway are leaning higher than half an inch, it is very likely that your door will look crooked. Therefore, it is vital that you check the width of the rough opening both at the bottom and top of your doorway and you must also use a string for accurately comparing the distances between diagonal corners. A difference of more than half an inch between diagonal corners warrants a adjusting the overall frame.


Install the Jamb

exterior door jamb

Although it is not mandatory, assembling the jamb in advance before nailing it to the frame will help the job proceed much smoothly. Before doing that, you must route all the mortises for the door hinges using a router, which is more accurate than a conventional chisel.

You may use the same router for cutting rabbets in the upper portion of the side jambs to easily accommodate the top jamb. After you have nestled the top jamb in the appropriate rabbets, drive a couple of finishing nails or 1.5-inch wooden screws to secure the assembly. Also ensure that you have taken into consideration any flooring that is yet to be been installed when you are cutting your side jambs to suitable length. Properly squaring and plumbing the jamb during installation are vital to for the smooth operation of your new door.

Even when you are certain the framing is square, we still strongly recommend that you to place shims behind all 3 jamb pieces in order to get a nicely centered bubble on all the jamb pieces and to fine-tune the levels. The finishing nails that fasten the jambs to the framing should pass directly through the shims. After installing the jamb, the ideal size of the opening needs to be 3/4 inches higher and 1/2 inches wider than the door size.


Hang the Door

exterior door

When the jamb is secured in its place, it is time to hang the door. But before you do that, install the stop. It is the narrow strip of wood against which the door will close. Setting the stop against a closed door is comparatively easier than taking measurements and drawing a line, which means that you will have to install the knob first. Make sure you do not use oversized nails to tack the stop to the jamb; 6d finishing nails are large enough to get the job done. Once you have installed the stop, all you need to do is install the door trim.

When inserting the door in the opening place the door’s bottom first, then tilt the top toward yourself, sliding the door carefully into place. It is better to work from outside your home when you are sliding the door in the opening.


Your new door is ready for use. You can paint or varnish it along with the trim and the jamb, proceed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Also apply a layer of caulk along all the intersections and joints of the brick-mold and the trim.

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