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).
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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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