Advice on re-installing a pre-hung door?

I have a cabin that does a fair amount of shifting between seasons. A year ago I replaced an old door with a pre-hung metal exterior door. I believe the entire exterior wall/frame has shifted enough that the door is sticking badly. I have remove the shims and screws used at door installation and attempted to adjust the shims, but it didn't help much.
My thought was to try to de-install the door with its' pre-hung frame, then trim back the surrounding wall framing with a reciprocating saw so that I have some room to play. Then re-install the pre-hung door and shim it square. I will leave enough room (hopefully) to allow for shifting/adjustment down the road.
Never having tried this, thought I'd ask in advance for pitfalls to avoid or shortcuts. Appreciate any constructive advice (no pun intended).
Cheers Gary
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Hi Gary,

We used to have a mobile home with a steel door in a frame that moved a lot. Every winter the door would start sticking and binding, so I would have to readjust the latch to get it to close properly. Then in the summer everything shifted again and I had to readjust again.
After a few years of this, I decided to pull the door out to see what was going on. To my amazement, there was NOTHING holding the door in place other than caulking around the door frame. I cut the caulk to remove the trim and the door frame literally fell away from the wall!
Anyway, I reinstalled the door frame using shims and screws (not nails) and left a bit over an 1/8" gap between all sides of the door and frame. Then I shot in some of that minimally expanding foam to seal the gap. We never had another problem with the door in the rest of the years we lived in the mobile.
Obviously, if the building itself is shifting around, no amount of fussing with the door is going to solve the problem. Your time would be better spent installing some kind of support under both sides of the door so it can't sag or settle. If the problem is moisture related, try to seal up any openings as best as you can, and if possible add a small roof over the door to shed water away.
Expansion and contraction are normal (though less so with a steel door), so allow enough gap around the door for seasonal changes.
I would be hesitant to start cutting into the wall framing to fix a door problem. Do you have at least 1/4" gap between the door frame and the wall framing? That should be plenty to allow for shimming.
Good luck,
Anthony
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I believe your final question summarizes the problem. I think there is now zero gap between the door frame and the wall frame, at least in a couple of corners. Hence my thought to expand the opening to allow for shifting. Also a good point about support under the door, which I suspect is a big contributor to the problem. Thanks for the response.

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Hmm.. It sounds like the door opening is either out of square, or the wall itself is tilted (i.e. the floor has sagged).
Have you checked the floor with a level to see if the cabin has settled? If so, I'd start with jacking the floor level and installing supports first.
If you really need to start cutting into the framing, I would try a two step approach. Use a belt sander to remove part of the door frame, and an equal amount of the wall framing. For instance, removing just 1/8" from the door frame and 1/8" from the wall would give you a 1/4" gap for adjustments with minimal loss to the structure. 40 or 60 grit paper would make quick work of it.
Anthony
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I performed much the same process this past weekend, removing screws, shims, sealant, etc until the door frame was loose. I tried various shim combinations to try to get it to close easily, but nothing helped. When I thought I was getting close, it was way out of level, and I wasn't going to install it that way.
Looking at the door from the inside (hinges on left, opens towards me), the upper right corner appears to be the problem. Indeed the upper left hinge seems to sag away from the frame much more than the middle or lower hinge. The door is just over a year old, bought new. Could it be that the upper hinge is just shot and needs to be replaced??? Looks fine to me, but heck, what do I know.
Could I swap out the upper and lower hinges and expect improvement, or am I not seeing the obvious adjustment that would make it function correctly?
Thanks Gary
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Mamba wrote:

My guess would be that the hinge-side jamb is not straight; perhaps there is too much shimming behind the top hinge.
Here's how I install a pre-hung door:
1. Stand the door in the opening to make sure it's going to fit all around. I try to do this without removing the nails that hold everything square, but that's not always possible. If the door doesn't fit, you have to shave the obstructing parts of the opening.
2. With the door centered in the opening, decide how much shimming is needed behind the hinges. The last door I installed needed almost 1" of spacers, so I had to cut pieces of plywood.
3. Set the door aside, and install the spacers on both sides of the opening. Use plenty of fasteners, but keep them away from where the hinge screws will go.
4. Remove the nails that keep the door square in the jamb, then set the assembly in the opening against the spacers you just installed. Drill a temporary screw through the frame into the top spacer. You can put this screw through one of the hinge screw holes. Don't drive it all the way home.
5. Use a long level to make sure the jamb is straight and plumb. Remember to check for plumb from both the door and wall edges of the jamb. Add pairs of tapered shims behind each hinge to do fine adjustments. Put one shim in from the front and one from the back of the door at the same time. Push them in and out together to keep the shim surface flat.
6. Put a long screw through the jamb at each hinge. Remove one of the hinge screws and replace it with your long screw. If you're installing an exterior door, you can hide the screw behind the weatherstripping.
You have now done the hard part of the job: getting the hinge side straight and plumb.
6. Make sure the top jamb is square and level.
7. Repeat the plumbing and shimming process on the latch-side jamb. Use one screw through each shim.
8. Close the door and check the gap all the way around. It should be about 1/16" on the hinge side and 1/8" on the other sides. If it isn't, you'll have to pull your screws and re-plumb.
If you get the door plumb and square in the wall, it won't swing either open or closed by itself. Of course, if the wall itself isn't plumb, you'll have to make some compromises--no point in having a perfectly hung door that looks stupid in the wall.
--
Steve Bell
New Life Home Improvement
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Steve,

My technique is very similar. I may have missed it in your list, but I find it easiest to pull the hinge pins and remove the door from the frame while I install the frame. Whenever possible, I also like to fasten the hinge side directly to the stud. Obviously, this isn't always possible if the stud is out of plumb. I also like to replace at least one screw in all three hinges with a long 3" screw that goes into the stud.
I rehang the door on the hinges after I have the hinge jamb plumb and fastened securely. Then I adjust the top and latch jamb as needed.
Anthony

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HerHusband wrote:

Yep; you and I are on the same page. I started out writing for someone who never saw a hammer before, then switched half-way through to an experienced audience.
Sorry about that, Chief. :)
--
Steve Bell
New Life Home Improvement
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Thanks to both of you. I had to leave the door partially installed when I departed last weekend. I will try my best to see if these tips solve the problem, perhaps even pulling the pins and installing the door frame separately. I certainly appreciate the tips. Wish me luck.
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On Thu, 10 Jul 2008 19:10:41 -0700, Mamba wrote:

I would beef up opening so there is no shifting. If it takes extra studs and a stronger header, so be it. Then reinstall the door.
My experience with prehung doors is ignore the instructions and use common sense. I have yet to see a set of instructions with "Think" as step number 1.
--

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Franz Fripplfrappl
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