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How to Recreate the Look of an Antique Closet Door

Ask This Old House general contractor Tom Silva travels to Pittsburgh to replace a bi-fold closet door with one that is more appropriate for the house

Steps:

  1. Start by removing the old door from the closet opening.
  2. Measure the width of the door opening and order a door that size or smaller, to make it easier.
  3. Cut the 2x4 studs to length and then secure them to the sides of the door opening using framing screws and the drill. Use additional 2x4s or rip down additional stock as needed until the opening is roughly 2” wider than the width of the door.
  4. Check the opening for level at the top and plumb on both sides. If it’s slightly off plumb on the sides, that can be corrected with shims.
  5. To make sure the header stays level, hold the level at about eye level and make two reference marks on both sides of the rough opening.
  6. Measure from the reference mark to the header on both sides of the opening. Transfer the measurement of the shorter side to both sides of the jamb on the pre-hung door. This will make the door level.
  7. To get the correct height for the jamb, measure from the reference lines on the rough opening down to the floor on both sides. Then, measure from the reference line on the jamb to the bottom of the jamb. If the jamb is longer than the measurement from the opening, it will need to be cut.
  8. Cut the jamb to length based on the reference measurements.
  9. The door may also need to be cut down slightly to allow the door to swing properly.
  10. Remove the door from the jamb.
  11. Hold the jamb into the rough opening and line up the reference marks from the jamb and the rough opening. Be sure that the edge of the jamb is flush with the face of the wall.
  12. Slide shims behind the door jamb on the hinge side so that it has a roughly even gap as the other side of the jamb.
  13. Predrill some holes in the jamb and the rough opening. Then, secure the jamb to the opening with framing screws.
  14. Hold the level against the edge of the jamb just screwed into the opening. Once the level is plumb, pull the jamb out as much as necessary to meet the level, add shims behind the jamb to hold it in that position, and screw it into the rough opening the same way as before.
  15. Rehang the door in the jamb to check how it swings before securing the rest of the jamb.
  16. Secure the striker side of the jamb to the rough opening using the same method.
  17. To even out the gap between the door and the jamb, add shims to the middle of each side of the gap between the jamb and the rough opening. This should push the jamb inwards, closer to the door. Secure those shims with screws.
  18. Install the reproduction door hardware to the door using a screwdriver and the pieces that come with the hardware.
  19. Add a door casing to the outside of the door frame to give it a finished look.

Resources:
This job is best done by two people. It helps to have an extra set of hands to remove and reinstall the door, to hold the jamb in place while it’s being secured, etc.

While Tom always prefers to repurpose and reuse old doors and old door hardware, it’s not always possible to find an exact match to what is already existing in the house. Plus, depending on the condition of the door and hardware, it could be a significant amount of work and a labor of love to restore the door and hardware to a usable condition.

The five raised-panel, pre-hung door Tom installed is manufactured by JB Sash & Door. The reproduction hardware Tom used is a Putnam Classic Interior Door Knob set in oil-rubbed bronze, manufactured by Rejuvenation.

All the other materials Tom used to install the door, including the level, drill, and screws can be found at home centers.


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