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Replacing Doors

Replacing doors falls into two categories: (1) replacing just the door, (2) replacing the door plus the frame. The first is easy, but the second is within the skill set of the average do-it-yourselfer as well. Here, we'll cover the first case only.

To remove the original door, open it far enough to expose the hinges and give yourself ample working room. Whenever possible, put a wedge under the door on each side to take the pressure off the hinges. One on each side helps prevent the door from falling in either direction after the pins are removed. In most cases, the door is attached to the frame with a two-part hinge - one part attached to the door, the other to the frame.

Take a hammer and a flat-head screwdriver, with a thin blade and flat, sturdy handle and tap the pin on the bottom hinge upward. Try to get it about 7/8 of the way out then stop. Tap the top pin up the same amount.

Pins can stick for any number of reasons. If the door hasn't been used for a while, or if the hinges are rusty or painted over, you may find it necessary to apply rust remover or paint remover first. Usually tapping with persistent, sharp blows is enough to do the job, however. Avoid scraping the frame with the blade of the screwdriver.

At this stage, it's helpful to have a partner to ensure the door doesn't fall after the pins are completely removed. Remove the bottom pin first, while holding the edge of the door to prevent movement. Take care to keep your fingers out of the space between the inner door edge and the frame. If the door moves, you'll get a nasty pinch. Holding, or with your partner holding, the outer edge of the door remove the top pin.

With luck, the door will still be balanced on the hinges and you can insert your fingers into the inner edge and lift the door away. If necessary, grab the outer edge and the top and lift away.

Provided the old door isn't too warped, it can be useful for size comparison with the new door. New doors sometimes need to have the bottom trimmed an inch or two. Trimming is best carried out at the location you bought the new door, if possible. Measure the old one before you purchase.

If you need to replace the hinges, unscrew the hinges from the frame and the old door. If you plan to reuse the old hinges, now is a good time to clean them and dust the hinge cracks with carbon or silicon powder.

It's possible to use sewing machine oil or light grease to lubricate hinges. But, over time, that causes them to accumulate dirt and grit and eventually wear and squeak. A better method involves using a kind of powder popular with professional locksmiths.

This very fine carbon or silicon powder is sprayed inside the lock to keep tumblers rotating smoothly. It makes for a good lubricant for hinges, too, and can be easily wiped away cleanly.

Check the door frame and ensure that the screw holes will stand up well to reuse. If necessary, fill with wood putty, let dry, then drill a small starter hole for new screws.

Screw the refurbished or new hinge into the door frame. Measure and trim the new door to size and attach the hinge. Set the door onto the hinges and work the top pin in first about half way. Then work the bottom pin in part way (at least half, if possible).

Tap the pins in the rest of the way. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.