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A. Spruce
So You Think You Can Install A Door

Here's a question for all you hot-shots around here.

How do you replace a door slab when the opening is hour-glass shaped and there's no straight or square point of reference?

1 - The "X" axis is hour glass shaped, meaning the center of the door is narrower than the top or bottom.
2 - The "Y" axis - front to back - show's plumb.
3 - The existing door was a former dutch door, meaning two halves and four hinges. The halves were permanently connected into one door, but the 4 hinges remain.
4 - The replacement door panel is a full glass door with a 6" wood perimeter.

You only have a 48" level, measuring tape, and plumb bob to work with.

Bonus question: How long will it take you to install the new slab into the existing opening with the existing hardware, and how much do you charge for your services?

Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door

Unless the hinge pins trace a Euclidean line, they will bind. That problem is the hardest to surmount. To get them into a line will require deeper mortises in the proud spots, shims under the hinges in the low spots; meaning that the center hinges in the door's edge will not be mortised at all, but on spacers so they align. Those same hinges will be sunk correspondingly deeper into the jamb, so they line to the top & bottom hinges. Those ones have to be plumb to each other too, not canted to the curvature of the jamb. The remedy of course is to use a rabbet plane to straighten the hinge side jamb and true it up. May be possible to add tapering shims to the jamb and straighten it that way. But at the very least the hinge side has to be true or you get into the goofy mortising to maintain a straight hinge line.
The odd shape can be graphed by shimming the door blank into place against the opening and tracing the outline, test and repeat.

Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door

Or you can treat the door like the curved, oddly shaped rear doors on a van. In that case, the hinges will need to be special so they align themselves in a straight line.

Charge? I'd pay to see it done.

Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door

Amateur here, but I fail to see any issues. If the previous door was opening correctly with the hinge alignment and you are keeping the same hardware, i would think its the same as installing any other door. If standard practice is to properly square and plumb a regular door, the same would apply. With the angled sides in this case, top corner to bottom opposite corner should still match the inverse, showing the opening is square. Additionally, the top left length of the jamb should match the top right length, same for the bottom. This would help identify any skew in the side angles.

Thus practically the same amount of time and cost. Only my opinion.

Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door

I thought of another way: strap & pintle hinges. They have enough slop in the action and are conformable to weird jamb situations as described.

Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door

Put up a curtain rod and use an old blanket?

If this is an exterior door, use a shower curtain liner or visqueen instead. Add duct tape in windy or rainy conditions.

I'm assuming that the jamb is not removable, otherwise you'd just pull it out rehang the whole works straight, level, and plumb. As others have stated, the hinge pins must be colinear (sharing the same axis). You might find it easier to install just two extra-heavy-duty hinges rather than trying to align multiple hinges on a curved jamb.

P.S. -- That's a pretty limited set of tools. No hammer, screwdriver, chisel, or utility knife?

Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door

first question did you get a call to do this and are stumped?

the first thing that i would do is fix the old dutch door together with metal strips or strapping locking the two halves together making it one unit

from there i would make a template from the old door to use and trace onto the new door yet keeping the new door about 1/8" or 3/16 larger. from this the hinges can now be put on based on the template or by making a story pole off of the hinge locations on the jamb itself. now put the hinges on the new door and hang the door in the jamb... after this fine tune the fit by scribing the door to the jamb and plane to door to the fit...

or do the intelligent thing. remove the door casings. cut the jamb free and replace it with a new jamb which is square, plumb and level. this will easily cut an hour off the time it takes to fit a new door to a out of wack opening

Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door

You don't.

You sell the client a new frame and slab and rip it all out starting from ground zero.
Otherwise you will charge them T&M for custom onsite milling to custom fit their new slab into their out of square opening and make it work as best as possible in their out off square door jamb.

Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door


Can one bring a pocket SWISS ARMY KNIFE w/25 attachments and bypass the limitation?


Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door

only if macguyver comes along for the ride dj :D

A. Spruce
Re: So You Think You Can Install A Door

Sorry to have neglected this topic. Love all the great comments guys. :cool:

This was an actual install that I recently had to do. The limitation on the tools were for figuring out the 3-dimensional characteristics of the opening. It's all I had with me to work with. As for setting the door, I had a full compliment of implements of destruction - with the exception of a chisel. :rolleyes:

The hardest part was figuring out a point of reference to transfer the shape of the old door/opening to the new slab. The old slab looked like it had been hewn by buck-toothed beavers. I started with a plumb-bob in the center of the jamb and taking sequential measurements down both sides. Problem is, I had no way to track a center point on the new slab to transfer the measurements.

After a number of different efforts I came to lining up the center-lines of the old and new slabs and tracing the old slab. The old slab had good reveals around it's perimeter and the jamb, and this was the easiest way to go about the shape.

The hinges were the old square style and as I said, I managed to get out of the shop without a chisel, but thankfully it was easy enough to remove what the router couldn't with a utility knife. As is to be expected in a situation such as this, there was a slight bit of binding, but it wasn't too bad. Once hung in the opening, the reveals were very close to the original door.

As for tearing out the jamb and replacing it with a plumb/square one, well, that wasn't going to happen. This door had windows framed tight up against the jambs on each side, There were no shims on either side, just the jamb tight against the framing. What they'd like to do is push the wall out about 5 feet, they just don't have the funds to tackle such a project. House is stucco exterior and plaster interior with coved ceilings inside. If they do this, then the door will probably be replaced with a french door, at the very least it will be replaced by one that is not hour glass shaped! :D

It only took 5-1/2 hours to complete the project ... :o Every time I do a project, no matter what it is, I sure miss my work truck that was fully stocked and laden with tools and supplies for nearly any eventuality. Retirement has it's benefits, this ain't one of them! LOL :p

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