How to Install an Exterior Door in 16 Steps


Oh snap! It’s time to get a new entrance for your home with an exterior door installation!

Let’s boogie!

Ready to tackle installing an exterior door? We’re here to help you with just that: DOMINATING your exterior door install! To, just a word of advice from guys who’ve installed thousands of exterior doors: this is not your typical DIY project. If you’re planning on doing this just to save yourself some money and you don’t have lots of experience with these types of projects, more likely than not, you’re going to end up costing yourself MUCH more than just hiring a professional door company in the first place, because if this project is done incorrectly, it’s gonna cost you a boatload and you’ll have to hire a professional to install an exterior door the right way. We don’t recommend doing this project unless you have ample experience in this type of work.

Now if you’re already very experienced in these types of projects, you’ve got this! We’ll get into the nitty gritty how to install a front door (or other exterior doors) in this article, but to summarize, first up, remove the old door and frame, making space for the new champion. Grab your tools — think level, drill, and that trusty tape measure. Measure the opening top to bottom, aiming for the smallest number for a snug fit. Test fit the prehung exterior door, ensuring it opens smoothly; nobody wants a sticky door! Trace, cut, and anchor that beauty into place, adding shims for an even gap around the edges. Seal the deal with caulk for a weatherproof finish. Finally, install a snazzy lock for security and style. There’s more to learn, so let’s keep moving!

Key Takeaways

  • Remove the old door, frame, and hardware, ensuring the opening is clear and prepped for the new door installation.
  • Measure the door opening accurately at the top, middle, and bottom for width, and record the smallest height measurement.
  • Test fit the new prehung door, checking for proper alignment, operation, and ensuring weather stripping seals tightly.
  • Secure the door frame with anchor screws, apply outdoor caulk for waterproofing, and adjust the threshold for a snug fit.
  • Install the lock and knob according to the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring they align correctly for smooth operation.

Tools & Materials Needed


Before you start your exterior door installation, gather the necessary tools and materials, including:

  • a level
  • hammer
  • drill
  • screwdriver
  • shims
  • tape measure
  • caulking gun
  • a prehung door
  • sill pan
  • PVC cement
  • sealant
  • insulation
  • and exterior trim.

You’re about to begin on a DIY adventure that might just make you the neighborhood handyman or woman of the year and with these items in hand, you’re practically halfway there. Installing a prehung exterior door is a fantastic idea because they’ve got the weather stripping, adjustable sill, and threshold all set up for you, making your job a breeze.

1. Preparing for Installation


Having gathered your tools and materials, it’s time to measure your door frame and make sure the installation space is properly prepared. Kick off by clearing out any old doors in the existing opening, including the storm door, doorbell, and all that exterior trim. It might feel like you’re stripping the place bare, but trust me, it’s all part of the plan to give your new door the grand entrance it deserves.

Yank out those hinge pins, say goodbye to the door slab, latch plates, and the existing frame. It’s out with the old to make room for the new. Ensuring everything is cleared out and the area is prepped is essential. It’s like setting the stage for installing a new front door, so, take a deep breath, you’ve got this!

2. Measuring the Door Opening


To guarantee your new exterior door fits perfectly, start by measuring the width of the door opening at the top, middle, and bottom. You’ll want to jot down these numbers since openings can be a tad unforgiving, not always perfectly uniform from top to bottom.

Next up, measure the height from the very top down to the bottom of the opening. Record the smallest measurement you get because, in the world of door installation, it’s better to play it safe, and it’s better to have a door slightly too small than a door slightly too big.

3. Center and Test-Fit the Frame and Door


Before taking the new door out of the package, measure the rough opening of the existing doorway to make sure that the new door will fit. Once your new door is unpackaged, measure it to make sure it is the right size before you start to install it. During installation, make sure leave the retaining brackets that hold the door closed in place, at least temporarily.

  • As a test fit, center the door and frame in the rough opening.
  • Make sure the door is plumb by using a level.
  • Shim under the lower side jamb until the door is plumb (if necessary).
  • Keep the door jambs square with each other by adjusting as necessary.
  • Make sure the door is centered by double checking.

4. Tracing the Moulding


After making sure your new exterior door functions smoothly within its frame, it’s time to focus on tracing the brickmold to guarantee a perfect fit. Grab a pencil and some flashing tape because you’re about to become an artist of sorts.

You’ll trace the outline of the existing door frame onto your existing siding. This step is essential—think of it as copying the precise shape and measurements from the frame to your wall so you can cut accurately and make room for the frame to fit. Precision is key here; a shaky hand could lead to a less-than-perfect fit later on, and that could lead to you having to call a professional to fix it. Don’t rush it. Take your time to make certain that every curve and corner is accounted for.

This is how you make sure your new door will line up flawlessly with the existing frame, setting the stage for a seamless installation.

5. Cutting Along the Outline


With your pencil and straight edge in hand, carefully mark the outline where you’ll cut on your wall, ensuring you’ll get a precise fit. This step’s pivotal—like mapping out a treasure hunt, but the treasure is a beautifully installed door.

Before you let the saw meet the wall, double-check those lines. It’s like measuring twice and cutting once, but with more at stake—your home’s curb appeal and security, as well as your financial and mental health. Grab your jigsaw or reciprocating saw, and let’s make some dust. Cut along the outline you’ve drawn with precision. Take it slow, follow the line closely, and remember, this isn’t a race. A clean, accurate cut here sets the stage for everything that follows. You’re not just cutting through the wall; you’re shaping the entrance to your home.

6. Checking the Door Fit


Before installing your new door, measure the frame’s width and height to confirm a proper fit. You’d be surprised how often doors play a game of ‘will I, won’t I’ when it comes to fitting in their new home.

Once you’ve got your measurements, don’t forget to check the sill for levelness. A wonky sill could mean a wonky door, and nobody wants a wonky door. It’s also a good time to make sure the door’s swing direction makes sense for your space. Imagine installing it and then realizing it swings into the hallway instead of the room—awkward!

7. Centering the Door


To ensure your door functions smoothly, start by measuring and marking the midpoint of the door frame opening both horizontally and vertically. It’s like finding the key spot for your new door to live in.

Here’s how you nail it:

  1. Measure Twice, Center Once: Use that measuring tape and don’t rush. Getting the midpoint right saves you a headache later.
  2. Level It Out: Grab your plumb bob or level. This isn’t the time for guessing!
  3. Equal Distances: Guarantee equal distance from the door edge to the frame on both sides. Symmetry is key.
  4. Adjust and Check: Move the door as needed for that perfect midpoint. Then, double-check for plumb and level.

Make sure to push the brick mold tight against the sheathing. You’ve got this! Centering the door is important for a smooth swing every time you enter or exit.

8. Inspecting the Door Jamb


After centering the door, it’s time to examine the door jamb for any signs of damage or misalignment that could impact your new installation. Look out for any rot, soft spots, or discoloration, which are tell-tale signs you might need some repairs before moving forward. On top of that, just make sure it’s not warped, and if there are places that need to be shimmed, do it now!

Grab your tape measure and confirm the door jamb’s width, height, and depth are just right for your new door. Don’t skip checking the hinges and strike plate for wear or damage; these small details can throw a wrench in your plans. Also, peek for gaps or drafts that’ll need sealing to keep your home cozy.

Make sure the jamb is straight and level—nobody wants a door that doesn’t close correctly! It’s all in the details, so taking your time here pays off big time.

9. Cutting and Placing Shims


You’ll need to carefully cut and place shims behind the hinges, behind the strike plate, and at the frame’s top and bottom to make sure your door frame is perfectly plumb and level. Here’s how to nail it:

  1. Measure accurately: Before cutting, measure the shim spaces precisely. You don’t want to end up with shims that are too thick or too thin.
  2. Cut with confidence: Use a sharp utility knife or saw to cut your shims to the exact size needed.
  3. Place with precision: Slide the shims into place gently. You’re looking for a snug, not forced, fit.
  4. Check and adjust: After placing your shims, use a level to check your work. Don’t be shy to adjust as necessary to make certain everything is just right.

10. Installing the Hinges


Having placed your shims accurately, it’s time to focus on installing the hinges to secure the door properly. Start by positioning the top hinge 5 inches from the top and the bottom hinge 10 inches from the bottom. This step is essential for getting that perfect alignment.

Grab your chisel and carefully mortise the hinges into both the door and frame. You’re aiming for a flush fit here, so take your time.

Next, secure those hinges with the screws provided in your hinge kit. Make sure they’re tight and sitting pretty. Now, give that door a swing. It should open and close smoothly, no hiccups.

11. Removing Retaining Brackets


Before tackling the door itself, you’ll need to remove the retaining brackets using a screwdriver to loosen their screws. These little guys are what keep your door firmly in place, but with a bit of elbow grease, they’ll be no match for you.

Here’s your quick guide:

  1. Locate the Brackets: They’re usually chilling on the hinge side and latch side.
  2. Loosen the Screws: Get your screwdriver and turn those screws counterclockwise.
  3. Remove the Brackets: Carefully pull them off to avoid any damage to the door or frame.
  4. Keep Them Safe: You might need them later, so find a safe spot to stash them.

And just like that, you’re one step closer to having that door swapped out. Great job!

12. Securing With Anchor Screws


Once you’ve positioned the door frame correctly, it’s time to secure it with anchor screws to guarantee a solid and lasting installation. These bad boys are the unsung heroes that’ll keep your door steady, come wind or high water.

You’ll want to place them at the key spots: top, bottom, and sides of the frame. This isn’t just throwing darts at a board; precision matters here. Make sure you’re not just winging it—use a level to confirm everything’s straight as an arrow before committing.

Tightening these screws is like locking in your door’s future stability. With each turn, you’re ensuring your door won’t budge an inch, giving you peace of mind and a job well done. So, grab that drill, and let’s make this door a fortress.

13. Anchoring the Moulding


Securely anchoring the exterior door brick mold is your next step, guaranteeing stability and weather resistance for your installation. Here’s how to do it right:

  1. Choose Your Tool: Grab either a nail gun or drill. They’re both great, but today, they’re not just tools—they’re your best buds in this adventure.
  2. Nail or Screw: Make sure those nails or screws get cozy, going through the moulding and deep into the house framing. It’s like a handshake between friends—they need to connect well.
  3. Spacing is Key: Place them about every 12 inches. Think of it as evenly spacing guests at a dinner party—too close is awkward, too far, and someone feels left out.
  4. Straighten Up: Use a level to ensure everything’s straight. No one likes a crooked picture frame, right? Same goes for your moulding.

14. Applying Caulk and Adjusting Threshold


After securing the moulding, it’s time to apply caulk along the exterior edge of the door threshold to guarantee a waterproof seal. Grab your caulk gun and choose an outdoor caulk that’s tough enough to stand up to the elements. Squeeze a continuous bead of caulk right where the door’s threshold meets the exterior floor, ensuring you’ve got it covered from end to end.

Don’t worry if it looks a bit messy at first, use a wet finger or a caulk tool to smooth it out. This part’s key: you’re aiming for a seal so tight, not even water dares to cross it. If your threshold’s looking a bit off, take a moment to adjust it. You want a snug fit against the door bottom, no gaps allowed.

Let the caulk dry as per the instructions before you let anyone step on it.

15. Replacing Casing and Adjusting Shims


To guarantee your door operates smoothly, begin by replacing the casing (if either the exterior molding or interior trim) was damaged during the old door removal) and adjusting the shims for a perfect fit. Here’s a quick guide to get you on the right track:

  1. Check Alignment: Confirm the casing is square and plumb with the door frame. A little off can mean a lot of trouble.
  2. Level Up: Utilize a level to adjust shims behind the casing. It’s like a mini workout for your door, making it straight and level.
  3. Mind the Gap: Keep an eye on the reveal, ensuring it’s consistent all around. It’s like checking the margins on your term paper.
  4. Cut It: Using a utility knife, cut the shims flush with the framing.
  5. Nail It: Secure the casing with finishing nails, and don’t forget to caulk the edges for that neat, draft-free finish.

There, you’re all set!

16. Installing New Lock and Knob

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Once you’ve got your door properly aligned and the casing in place, installing a new lock and knob is your final step. First off, don’t sweat it—this part’s easier than it sounds. Grab your screwdriver and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.

You’ll want to make sure everything’s lined up just right for a smooth operation. Take a moment to check that your lock and knob work like a charm before calling it a day.

Thinking of a little upgrade? A high-security or smart lock could be just the ticket for extra peace of mind. Plus, picking a style that matches your door? Chef’s kiss for curb appeal.

There you go, you’re all set!


And there you have it! You’ve just tackled installing an exterior door like a pro. It’s not every day you get to boost your home’s curb appeal, security, and energy efficiency all in one go.

With your new door snugly in place, you’re now ready to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Remember, it’s all about taking it one step at a time and keeping a cool head.

Great job on making your entrance something to be proud of!

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