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How to Install an Automatic Door Closer

How does automatic closing with customizable speed and power sound to you? Installing an automatic door closer can check all those boxes while meeting code and keeping you safe.

An automatic door closer attached to a multi toned wood door. iStock

Garage entry doors, fire doors, and some entrances in residential building complexes are often required to have some sort of automatic closing system to meet code. The idea is that if a car is running in the garage, fumes won’t enter the home. Or, if there is a fire in the room, the door is guaranteed to be shut. While spring-loaded hinges are usually the bare minimum, an automatic door closer is a major upgrade.

With customizable speeds and closing power, this system is worth the upgrade. But, it’s not as easy to install as a spring-loaded hinge. Here is everything you need to know about how to install an automatic door closer.

Tools and Materials for Door Closer Installation

Everything else you need will be included in the door closer kit. Most even come with paper templates you can tape to the door for precise drilling locations without the need for measuring.

How to Install an Automatic Door Closer

Installing an automatic door closer may involve a bit more work than installing a set of hinges, but it’s definitely a DIY-friendly job. The following instructions will help.

Step 1: Identify the door-swing direction

A close up of a door hinge mounted on a mossy green door and frame. Getty Images/iStockphoto

There are a few different ways to install an automatic door closer, and you want to ensure you’re installing yours correctly. First, you need to identify the swing of the door, which you can do by standing in the door jamb with the door open and your back to the hinges. If the door is on the right, it’s a right-hand-swing door. If the door is on the left, it’s a left-hand-swing door.

With the swing of the door determined, choose which side of the door you’ll be installing the closer assembly on. Generally, you’ll want to hide the closer from the rest of the living space, so you’ll typically mount it on the garage- or room-side of the door.

Step 2: Mark the drilling locations

If your kit contains a template, there may be options for left- and right-hand doors. Find the template the fits the door, cut it out with a utility knife, and tape it to the door according to the directions.

If your kit didn’t come with a template, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to determine where to drill. Be sure to measure from the hinge side of the door. Using your pencil, mark the distance of each set of holes from the hinge. Placing the speed square against the top of the door, mark a vertical line at both pencil marks. Use your tape measure or the rule on the square to mark the height of each of the holes on these vertical pencil lines.

Consult the instructions to determine the drilling location on the door jamb to attach the swingarm.

Tip: Laying out four holes with a tape measure and speed square can be tough to do accurately. If you can mark two holes, you’ll be able to drill the others when the closer is in place for a perfect installation.

Step 3: Drill the holes

Throw on some safety glasses, and if you’re drilling through a metal door, gloves are helpful as well. Using a power drill with a smaller drill bit in place, drill your pilot holes on the marks you just made before stepping up to the appropriate bit (usually 3/16, but check the instructions). Don’t drill all the way through the door; a depth of ¾ inch is typically enough.

Step 4: Install the door closer body

Most door hardware of any type uses #3 Phillips bits, so tighten one into your drill for this step. Using the screws that came in the kit, attach the door closer to the door according to the directions. Be sure to pay attention to the instructions so you’ll know which way is up when you’re installing the door closer.

Step 5: Install the swingarm bracket

With the #3 Phillips bit still in the drill, use the included hardware to attach the swingarm’s bracket to the door jamb. It’s sometimes easier to separate the arm from the closer for this part, as one of the holes can be very difficult to reach with tension on the closer.

Step 6: Attach the swingarm to the closer and adjust it

If you removed the swingarm from the closer, it’s time to reattach and adjust it to close correctly. Check the directions that came in the kit, but this often means loosening the set screw on the arm and adjusting it so that the jamb side of the swingarm is perpendicular to the jamb.

How to Adjust a Door Closer

The door closer will have adjustment screws that allow the user to dial in the speed and pressure at which the door closes. Check your local code for the appropriate speed, but it’s usually supposed to take a door around seven seconds to close and latch. These screws usually take hex keys, but some adjust with a standard screwdriver.

A Door Closer Installation is DIY-Friendly

Once you’ve dialed in the speed, install the cover and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You’ll have a door that meets code with much more adjustability than spring-loaded hinges. While each kit is a little different, the installation procedures are almost entirely the same and well within the capabilities of a DIY’er. Just measure, mark, and drill carefully and you’ll have no problem tackling this job on your own.