How to Order a Wood Entry Door

Measure twice, three times even, to save yourself from installation headaches—or worse, having to buy another door.

Prehung
Measure the width of the door frame's rough opening between the jack studs. Then measure the height from the underside of the door header down to the top of the subfloor. The prehung assembly will be 2 inches narrower and 1 ½ inches shorter than the opening to leave enough room for shims and insulation.

Slab
First, measure the width of the existing opening between the jambs inside the stops. Then measure the height from the finished floor to the underside of the head jamb. Your final door dimensions should be ¼ inch shorter and narrower than these measurements so that the door will swing freely in the opening. Next, determine the door's thickness by measuring from the interior edge of the jamb to the interior edge of the stop.

Finally, check the opening for square. Put a 2-foot level against the sill, the top, and both sides. If any surface is out of level or out of plumb by more than ¼ inch over the length of the level, order your door slightly larger and trim it to fit.

Talk Like a Pro

1. Width comes first. Give your door dimensions in feet and inches; first the width, then the height.

2. Use the lingo. A door 3 feet wide by 6 feet 8 inches tall, the most common size, is called a "three-oh, six-eight."

3. Know your right from left. Doors, like people, come left-handed and right-handed. A right-hand door has its hinges on the right side when you look at it from the outside. A left-hand door has its hinges on the left.

Pro Tip: Tom Silva, TOH General Contractor, says, "When replacing a vintage door with a new one, you often have go the custom route to match the 2-to-2¼-inch thickness of most older doors."

Buying a Salvage

For as little as $300, a salvaged wood door will give an entryway an authentic, one-of-a-kind link to the past. Be prepared to strip, repair, and refinish it yourself or pay about $700 more for a completely restored, ready-to-install slab. Measure as if you were ordering a new slab (above). Unless you find a door that fits your opening exactly, get one just a bit bigger and cut it down. "As a general rule, you can shave up to 1 inch off the top rail, 2 inches off the bottom rail, and 1 inch off each side, just as long as the cuts are proportional," says Bob Reed, a millwork restorer at The Stripping Workshop, in Washington, D.C.
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