Hanging the Door
Now I can pull the temporary retainers from the active side and hang the door. But first, to continue holding the latch jamb in alignment, I tack scraps of plywood to both sides of the wall at the top and bottom, just capturing the jamb leg.
I reinstall the jamb hinges, omitting the center screws for the time being. I leave the screws in the lower hinges just slightly loose. This gives me a little play, making it easier to align all of the knuckles on installation. If I'm installing an 8-foot-tall four-hinge door, I also leave one of the intermediate hinges off until later. I lean the door against the head stop, then tip it away from the hinge jamb and insert a DoorJack under the center of the door bottom.
I invented this foot-operated lever a couple of years ago because I found that other door-hanging tools just didn't work very well. (If you're interested, you can find it on the Web.) It provides about 1 1/2 inches of lift and lets you steer a heavy door right onto the hinge knuckles.
A word about those knuckles: There's a second reason I remove the hinges in the installation process, and it is that door manufacturers don't always seem to care which hinge leaf goes where. I like to have the three-knuckle leaf mounted on the jamb and the two-knuckle leaf on the door. Although it probably isn't critical to hinge function, I find that this arrangement helps with alignment and support when setting the door.
With the door mounted, I tighten the loose screws. I add 3-inch finishing screws, through the jambs into the framing, on either side of the door stop, everywhere I've placed shims. I then check the reveal between door and jamb for uniformity. It's weird, but no matter how carefully you install the jamb, you can still end up with a squeeze in the reveal below the bottom hinge. I'm not certain why this happens, but I do fix it: I adjust the shims near the floor and send in a pair of 3-inch screws to pull the jamb over. Because I've shimmed directly behind the bottom hinge, the jamb only moves over from there down.
Now that the hinge jamb is perfectly aligned and screwed to the framing, I address the latch side. First, I shim at the top of the jamb and hold it with a finish nail. Then I open and close the door, shimming and checking the reveal for uniformity. The shim locations more or less reflect those on the hinge side. I always shim just below the strike location. This provides solid backing for drilling and chiseling out the latch box, without chewing through or shredding the shims in the process.
A door should always close with full contact against the stop. For this reason, out-of-plumb framing, bowed jambs, and warped doors are all unacceptable. I either correct the framing or replace the door. I'll make slight adjustments for alignment by shimming behind the temporary retaining blocks, holding the adjustment position with a finish nail or two, then following up with the 3-inch jamb screws.
Adjusting the Hinges
A hinge that's mortised a little too deeply (or not deeply enough) will be slightly out of vertical alignment with the other hinges and affect both the reveal and a smooth swing. Shimming behind the leaf with thin cardboard works, but if the painters come along and pull the hinges, the shims tend to vanish along with your careful adjustments. This is where those small shipping screws I save come in. With the door open and wedged for stability, I pull the hinge screws, fold the hinge back, and install a few shipping screws in the mortise, adjusting the heads in or out until the leaf lies flush in the jamb. Maybe it should go without saying, but I predrill for every screw I install.
These days, hinge screws are generally the "self-drilling" type, and they're jammed in at the plant at top speed. Thus, some of them are guaranteed to end up off-center with the head protruding slightly from the hinge. This can interfere with smooth hinge operation. It's simple to fix: You redrill a truly centered hole for the screw. But first the old hole has to be filled. I don't mess around with golf tees or whittled pegs and wood glue. I fold back the hinge leaf and drill a 1/2-inch-diameter hole with a countersinking bit. Then I cut a matching plug and glue it in with 2P-10 (888/443-3748, fastcap.com), a two-part glue that bonds almost instantly. I chisel the plug flush with the surface, re-install the hinge, and then drill a new hole for the screw using a self-centering vix bit. It's fast and foolproof.
Finish carpenter Peter Canavan lives in Brewster, Mass.