Installing a New Front Door? Read This Before You Get Started

Learn the basics about installing a new front door or replacing an old one before you decide whether to tackle the job yourself or hire a pro.

Your front door is like your home’s calling card. It’s one of the first impressions of your house and should be a reflection of your home’s architectural style as well as your personal taste while also providing security and protection from the elements. But do you have the skills and know-how it takes to change out or install an exterior door? Read on for info on planning, prep work and when you might want to call a pro. 

For starters, you’ll need to know which type of exterior door opening you have. You can do this based on measurements. 

Prehung Entry Doors

Most newer homes feature exterior door openings in standard prehung sizes, which are ready for installation without alterations. Prehung doors are generally available in 80-, 84-, or 96-inch heights, and in width increments of two starting with 18 inches up to 36 inches. Prehung doors arrive with jambs and hinges in place. 

You can purchase or order these at home renovation and hardware stores in a variety of materials including fiberglass, wood, and metal. 

Doors from Slabs

If you have a door opening with an unusual size or would like a custom-made door, you may need to buy a slab — also available through home renovation and hardware stores. You’ll also need to place the jambs and hinges to make your door fully functional. Cutting your slab and attaching the jambs and hinges requires a few additional steps, and you may need help if you are unfamiliar with using the necessary tools to trim your door or to attach these key pieces. When cutting or trimming the door, you’ll want to be certain the measurements and cuts are correct so your door will not only fit securely into the space, but also so that it will offer complete protection from the elements and not be susceptible to air leaks, which could result in higher energy costs. 

There are a few other factors you’ll want to consider before installing a new front door. For instance, is your floor level? If so, you can align your door with the floor; if not, you will need to compensate for this — often by shaving or trimming the door or adding shims. The same goes for the depth of the door. As noted above, it should fit securely into the opening — not only in width and height, but also depth. 

If you are comfortable with process described above and have the tools at hand, then you’re likely ready to install or replace an exterior door. If you have questions,   concerns or know that your door will require special assistance, consider calling on a contractor or handyman for help with the installation.

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