Pre-Hanging Exterior Doors

Greg Burnet prepares a door slab in his shop. The slab will be set into a frame all prepared and preassembled in his shop for maximum quality control.

On a glazed door slab, the retainer molding has an interior side. To maintain the proper orientation while working on the door, Greg puts a piece of painter’s tape on the upper inside corner of the slab.

For some pre-hanging projects, rabbeted jambs are available cut to length to fit the door slab. If the jambs are weatherstripped, temporarily remove the weatherstripping while the jamb is prepared.

Using a story pole minimizes the number of times you need to grab a tape to take measurements, and reduces the chance you’ll make a mistake when taking those measurements. Greg marks the position of the hinges on a straight piece of wood. When he transfers those marks to the jamb, he uses a nickel spacer for clearance at the top.

A 1/8-inch-square rod can be used as an alternative spacer for the story pole. A 1/8-inch drill bit also works.

After positioning the story pole, transfer the hinge locations directly to the jamb.

To save time and effort Greg uses a router and a Hinge Mate jig for the hinge mortises. He sets the bit to the correct depth by placing two hinge leaves on the jig and extending the bit down to either the door or the jamb.

A small combination square registered against the jig lines up with the mark from the story pole. This allows Greg to position the mortises accurately.

Once the layout is done, setting up the jig and routing a hinge mortise takes less than a minute.

Using a 1/2-inch diameter bit in the router leaves a 1/4-inch radius in the corners.

For some projects Greg uses heavy duty hinges with round corners that fit into place without modifying the mortise.

When matching existing hardware in a home, Greg often uses hinges with square corners. A spring-loaded corner chisel makes quick work of squaring the corners of the mortise.

The corner chisel leaves small triangular bits of wood in the corners of the mortise.

A sharp chisel or knife removes the bits of wood left from the corner chisel, making the mortise ready for a square-corner hinge.

A spring-loaded, self-centering Vix bit has a tapered guide that fits into the countersunk screw holes on the hinges.

Predrilling in the exact center eliminates the problems caused by the misaligned screws that factory pre-hung doors often have.

Mortising exposes raw wood. Applying a coat of fast-drying primer to the exposed areas helps prevent problems from moisture in the future.

Because the story pole was used to layout the hinges on the door slab as well as on the jamb, the hinge leaves can be screwed in place without worry of alignment problems later.

This jig made by Classic Engineering lets you cut the holes for the lockset and deadbolt, keeping them perfectly aligned with the edge bore holes. Guides in the jig ensure that the bits stay perfectly in line.

To lay out the position for the jig, Greg first marks the back set for both the lockset and deadbolt. Then he measures from the bottom of the door to the center of the lockset (typically 36 inches) and to the center of the deadbolt (typically 41 inches).

After clamping the jig in position, Greg drills the hole for the lockset using a heavy-duty 1/2-inch drill. The 2 1/8-inch drill bit is part of the jig.

A 1-inch spade bit follows the guide in the jig for the edge bore hole. A quick-release bit holder that’s included with the jig kit makes bit changes quick and easy. For many projects, the lockset and deadbolt assemblies are installed at this point.

This particular door slab came from the supplier with grooves cut on the bottom edge for the door-sweep weatherstripping.

Greg gently taps the door sweep into the machined grooves.

With all the prep work completed on the door slab and the jamb, Greg predrills the jamb legs for the screws that will attach them to the head and sill.

Before the frame is put together, Greg reinserts the weatherstripping and applies a generous bead of caulk to the jamb to seal the joints at all four corners of the frame.

Greg places the rabbets in the side jamb over the top and bottom jambs and makes sure they are aligned before driving the screws.

Greg drives 2-inch coated screws to secure the four corners of the frame.

For this door the lockset and deadbolt were installed on site, so the latch faces were mortised after the door was installed. To cut the mortises for the latch faces, Greg scores around the face with a utility knife. He then chisels out most of the waste.

To minimize the dust and debris on site, Greg finishes cleaning out the latch mortises with a butt mortise plane.

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