Door Repair

Original door which we replaced.

Original door which we replaced.

After 2 years living here in our little fixer-upper house, Tim and I decided to replace the door between the house and the garage.  Saturday morning we did some serious assessment of the doorway, pulled off the exterior trim, went on Menards.com to price out doors, and realized it would probably cost about $250 to do the repair job (about what we’d been anticipating).  Our old opinions about the difficulty to be expected were solidified, and we decided that if we didn’t want to tear apart our whole house we’d need to do a slightly less traditional repair job.  Let me explain.

The door being replaced opened onto a landing on our basement stairs – in our opinion a dangerous place for a door.  There was damage done to the door frame where weight or force or both had caused the screws holding the door hinges to strip the wood out, leaving gigantic holes where there should have been a solid place to affix hinges.

This is where the old door’s hinges were. There were 3″ screws holding the door on ineffectively.

In order to “do the job right” we’d literally have to cut out stairs, just to get trim off the existing frame so we could fit a new door frame into place.  I have no idea why someone would put in stairs after trim, but the house was built a long time ago, and maybe it had no basement before being moved onto our lot in the 70′s or 80′s – or whenever it was moved.

We decided we were going to get a door, put it on the outside of the frame where the screen door had been, and have it open out into the garage.  This would eliminate the need to remove the frame, it would make the stairs safer, and it would keep us from having to figure out some way to screw hinges into stripped-out holes.  One potential problem was that the original screen door had been attached only to the garage-side solid wood trim – plenty of support for the light wood screen door, but not quite ideal for an insulated metal door.  But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

We went to Menards and found a simple door on sale for $169, as advertised online, but we chose to go get our other supplies before loading it onto our cart.  After meandering through the store for Great Stuff foam, shims, etc. we came back to the door aisle only to discover that we were in the “wrong” door aisle, and we found instead the BARGAIN DOORS aisle!  If real life had sound tracks like movies, this one would have been angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus!

We pulled doors out, looked, measured, and talked for a long time before settling on a ”cull” door that had no frame or hinges, no bottom seal/finish piece, and had two spots of damage to the hinge edge on the garage side where it looked like someone had scraped it with the tines of their ”bobcat”.  It was only $5!  We had to  go through the store a bunch more times to get sill sealer, hinges, a planer, chisels, and some other stuff, but we finally got out of there.

This is my blurry picture of the price tag! We were very excited!

At home we discovered that our new door was 2 inches narrower than the original, but we chose to go with it and install it differently.  Tim measured and cut a 2×4 to fit the height of the frame, and then proceeded to hand-plane (for the first time- it took him a while to figure out how to get the planer to work in smooth arm motions) the wood into more of a 1-1/4 x 4.  Hand planing was the single-most time consuming part of the whole process, so we’ll fast forward to installation.

The blue edge butting up to the white door is the piece Tim hand-planed. He did a great job, and as you can see, it turned out pretty.

We put the newly planed piece on the hinge edge of the frame directly between where the old screen door was and the old inside door was, in that middle gap that is usually air space.  Tim chiseled out the hinge indents (they have a special name, but I can’t remember what it is) and installed the door.

Before trim and paint, the installed door.

It took us a while to get the door to fit just right since the bottom of the door frame was significantly narrower than the top, but some planing of the door frame took care of that.  We then installed the handle and dead bolt, measured for the strike plates (if that’s what they’re called) and chiseled them out too.  We put quarter-round trim in the inside of the door for it to stop against, since we’d installed the door exactly between the other two stopping points.

This is the quarter round and the hand-chiseled indent for the hinge.

When they were in we painted, re-trimmed, put in the bits of sill sealer, and my visiting dad put in the piece to finish the bottom of the door – apparently Menards sells that too.  All done!

It took us about 12 hours and 2 trips to the hardware store, which was great in our opinion.  Anyone who has ever done home repair knows that it usually costs at least 1/3 more than expected, so (seasoned home-repairers that we are) we were really excited to come out $175 under budget.  I think it was the most satisfying home repair project we’ve done so far, and it looks Great!

An odd angle, but this is the finished product!

Thank God that the project worked out so well…we were expecting more work, more time, and more money, but He made it all go so much better than we ever could have hoped for.

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