Replace an Entry Door Without Replacing the Door Jamb

Blue front door

The front door is often the first item up for inspection by visitors to your home.

If the front door looks good, chances are your visitor will have a favorable impression of the house from the outset. If you have an older door, or a door that is damaged, replace it with a new one to give your home a well-cared-for look and better performance.

You can replace any exterior door in your home without removing the jamb if the jamb is in good shape and not out of the square. You just need the same size door without the hinge cutouts. You don’t need special tools, you can cut the hinge mortise with a chisel and a hammer.

Removing The Old Door

Remove the old door from the jamb. Use a cordless gun to unscrew the hinges from the jamb. Leave the hinges on the door. Place the door with the exterior side down, across two sawhorses. Remove the doorknob.

Place the new door on top of the old door with the exterior side down. Make sure the doors are flush with each other around the perimeter of the door. Use a pencil to trace the locations of all three hinges from the side of the old door to the new door. Unscrew and remove the old hinges from the door. You use them again on the new door.

Sizing and Tracing

Remove both doors from the sawhorses. Stand the new door on its side with the hinge side facing up. Clamp it to one of the sawhorses with a hand clamp.

Place the hinges on the door as if they were already installed on the door using the pencil lines to align them. Complete the tracing around the hinge plates.

Cut around the tracings with a utility knife to a depth of 1/8 inch. Hold a chisel with the bevel side up, horizontally at the side of the door. Push and rock the chisel back and forth across the grain inside the hinge tracings to remove all of the wood from the inside of the tracings to a depth of 18 inches. Tap on the back of the chisel if you need to, to get it to cut.

Screwing and Installing

Insert the hinge plate into the hinge cut-outs. If they don’t fit flat, or won’t fit into the tracings, continue cutting and shaving the cutouts until the hinge plates fit snug and flush into the hinge cutouts, called mortises.

Screw the hinges to the door using the old screws and the cordless screw gun. Hold the new door in place on the jamb. Tap the hinge plates back into the jambs. Use the screw gun to screw the hinges onto the jambs. Put the doorknob on.

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