One of the very first things people will see when they walk into your home is the interior doors. Yet, in terms of home makeovers, replacing interior doors is often avoided. These overlooked, well-used parts of your home take a beating. Whether it’s from kids hanging on them, pets scratching at them, or dust and dirt gathering into the nooks and crannies, your doors will show signs of wear in due time. When you're looking for ways to improve your home, look no further than interior door replacement.
Replacing interior doors with a purpose can add value to your home. For example, upgrading a door to a wood interior door with glass or to French doors can bring a dramatic change to a room. New interior doors come with fire-resistant materials, which adds an elevated safety feature, especially for bedrooms. For smaller spaces, switching the door style from a common slab door to a pocket door or a rolling interior barn door can make a room appear larger.
You also don't need to shut the door on your DIY abilities with this project because learning how to replace an interior door can be a quick and reasonably low-cost home improvement. So, if you're ready to get replacement doors and bring a new vibe and style to your home, here's what you need to know.
Types of Interior Doors
There are many different styles of doors like the common pre-hung door and slab doors. These doors are more common in homes due to their easy-to-install and replace qualities. More complicated types like bifold doors, pocket doors, or accordion doors will likely require some work to install beyond just changing out the hinges and adding the new door.
Then there are different types of doors which include solid wood, faux wood, engineered wood doors, and fiberglass. Glass French doors can be made of the above materials as well, and you can add fire resistance material in some cases. Solid wood doors and other heavy materials can help with soundproofing rooms and other areas of your home. It's important to consider your home's style when getting replacement doors as different door styles and door materials can bring a multitude of benefits.
Quick tip: This interior door replacement guide will focus on the slab door style and may not work for all door replacements.
Common Tools and Materials Needed
- Circular Saw
- Hole Saw Blade with Centering Drill Bit
- Door Lock Installation Kit
- Tape Measure
- Speed Square (Combination Square)
- Safety Glasses
- Hearing Protection
- Slab Door (to cut to your door width)
- Hinges (if not reusing old hinges)
- Handles (if not reusing old handle)
How to Replace an Interior Door
1. Remove the Old Door
Begin the process by almost closing the door and leaving a slight gap between the door and the side jamb. Stand on the side of the door with the hinges. Begin by removing the bottom hinge pin first and work your way up the door, otherwise, the door may fall on you.
If some hinges are being fussy, use a flat-head screwdriver and hammer to tap them out. Simply tuck the screwdriver tip under the top of the pin and tap with the hammer until the pin slides out. When attempting the last pin removal, have a helper hold the door or have some support underneath the door to keep the door from falling.
Pro tip: After door removal, slide the pins back into the hinges on the door jamb. This ensures you do not lose any pins in the process.
2. Measure Door and Doorframe
Having a door close properly is key in interior door replacement. Take time to make precise measurements of the existing door and doorframe with a tape measure. The better your dimensions are, the better your replacement doors will perform.
Take your old door and remove the hinges and handle (or lockset), being sure to watch how the handle is assembled if reusing. Next, place the replacement door on a pair of sawhorses and place the old door on top, aligning the top ends and handle ends of each door together. Use a pencil to trace the old door to show where to cut the door. Consult with your previous measurements before cutting to prevent a redo or unnecessary second purchase.
Pro tip: The proper clearance needed for interior doors is 1/8-inch on each side and the top of the door with 5/8-inch clearance at the door bottom.
3. Cut Replacement Door to Fit
Now it's time to cut your door to size. Always wear safety glasses and ear plugs when running power tools to protect your eyes and ears.
Remove the old door from the area. Use a straightedge and line it up against the pencil mark on the new door using clamps to hold down the straightedge. Make sure the straightedge does not move after clamping. Line up the saw blade with the pencil mark and start your circular saw using the straightedge as your guide. This will get the height of your replacement door.
If you need to trim your door's width, then trim the door in the same manner.
Pro tip: Use a sharp utility knife and straightedge to score the pencil marks on the new door. This helps keep the wood from splintering when cut with a saw.
4. Locate and Cut Mortises for Hinges
Grab the old door and place it back on top of the new door, lining up the four edges. Use a speed square to line up each hinge to the new replacement door. Lightly mark with a pencil the top and bottom of the hinge. Place an old hinge (or a new one) between the lines and trace the whole hinge with a pencil for each mark. Score the pencil marks with a sharp utility knife to aid in chiseling out the wood.
Next, you will need a steady hand to chisel out each hinge mortise (the hinge space) until you remove enough layers of wood to fit the thickness of the hinge. To do so, place the new door on its handle side, having the hinge side up. Hold the chisel vertically and tap it with a hammer along the marks you previously made. No need to go any further than the thickness of the hinge.
Tilt the chisel at a low angle with its beveled face flat against the wood. Tap the chisel with a hammer and chip away wood lightly and slowly. You should be able to peel small layers of wood away after a few taps. Chisel away the wood until you reach the size and depth needed to fit the hinge.
5. Paint or Stain New Door
If you have a factory-painted door, skip to installing hinges.
If you have a door that needs to be stained or painted, now is the time to do so. Keep the replacement doors on the sawhorse and paint or stain the door.
6. Install Hinges and Hang Door
When you are ready to install the hinges, prop the door back on its handle side. Line up your hinge with the mortise and set it in. If a bit too snug, grab a scrap piece of wood and lay over the hinge to tap into the mortise.
Using a drill and drill bit, predrill pilot holes through the hinge screw holes. Screw in the hinge and secure it to the door.
Pro tip: If the hinge mortise was cut too deep, simply slip in a thin wood shim or cardboard behind the hinge. The depth is important to proper installation, so confirm the hinge is level with the door side.
7. Drill Holes for Handle and Latch
Lining up the handle and latch on the new door works best by giving the door a "test-fit." Interlock the hinges and pin them together. Be sure to check all four sides for proper clearance between the door and the frame, and make sure nothing binds when you close the door. If more needs to be cut off, you can plane the edges for smaller cuts of wood.
Next, mark the spot with a pencil where the door handle will meet the strike plate. You will want to take the door off the hinges and lay flat on the sawhorses.
New handles and locks will come with a template to precisely measure the holes. Position and tape this template to mark the doorknob and latch. Using a 2 1/8-inch hole saw, drill the doorknob hole. Next, use a 7/8-inch wood bit to cut the latch hole.
Another way to accurately drill holes for your handle and latch is to use a door lock installation kit. This kit works faster than taping templates to your replacement door. You line the installation jig to the strike plate mark and clamp the jig in place. Then you use a hole saw and the jig will guide your cut for both the latch and handle. This would be good for multiple interior door replacements.
8. Cut Mortise for Latch
The latch has a faceplate that needs to be recessed in the door much like the hinges. You will need to create a mortise for this as well. Insert the latch in the bored-out hole and trace around the plate with a utility knife. Using the same method as the hinges, chisel out the layers of wood to create the mortise within this outline.
9. Install Latch and Door Handle
With the mortise cut, slide your latch in and verify the latch fits in the mortise. If it fits snuggly, screw it into place. Next, assemble the doorknobs by inserting them into the holes and locking them into the latch. Screw them together.
Check the handles to ensure they work the latch. Close and open the door to check the fluidity of motion and that the latch latches in place. And voila, you have replaced your interior doors!
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