I started the door installation by trying to get the custom door jamb in as plumb as humanly possible. One of the first things I did was to remove the integrated threshold. Yes, I had gone to all the effort to rabbet out the jamb to integrate the 1" threshold in an attempt to ensure that the jamb was perfectly square... but I very quickly realized the folly of that plan when I did a test fit of the jamb in the opening. The problem is that the floor is not level. That meant that in order to have a plumb and square jamb, I'd need to shim up the threshold. I'm perfectly comfortable shimming most things, but I didn't want to shim under the threshold, since there could be a lot of pressure with people stepping on that many many times over the years. Handily, I didn't glue the pieces together but instead just screwed them. Uninstalling the threshold meant just unscrewing it. As it turns out, I was doubly glad I took it out later, as you shall see.
I decided that rather than centering the frame in the opening, I'd instead make sure the hinge side was as tight to the jack studs as possible. I wanted that side to be essentially part of the wall (as much as possible) and so I minimized the number of necessary shims.
The typical way to install a frame is to first level the top and then plumb the hinge side. In this case, I don't care at all about the top and so I concentrated almost exclusively on making sure that the hinge side was perfectly plumb in both the X and Y planes. I did so using a combination of my laser level and a regular 6' bubble level:
The laser was right through the center of the back row of hinge screw holes ensuring plumbness back to front and then the clamped on bubble level ensured plumbness side to side. I had previous spent a minor amount of effort trying to get the actual walls to be plumb and square and it paid off here, as I only needed to put two very thin shims in to get everything pretty nice.
I flip-flopped on whether I should install the hinges on the door first or the jamb first. In the end, the choice was clear if only because of how I intended to secure the frame to the jack studs. I got six 3" long #12
screws and drove them through the back screw holes on the hinges. The goal was to get into the king studs to ensure as solid a connection as possible.
It turned out that finding those screws were far more of a pain than I'd thought. I almost exclusively buy "heavy duty" screws these days, like Spax. They are thicker, made of higher quality steel, have self-drilling heads, and don't taper like common wood screws -- e.g., they are much stronger and are far less likely to pull out of wood once they are sunk. But when I went to the two big box stores to get my screws, I discovered plenty of #8
, and #14
screws... but absolutely no #12
screws. Eh? That was true of all heavy duty brands. I ended up having to get some plain old #12
wood screws, which was not at all ideal, but what can you do.
After the hinge side was in and plumb, I quickly squared up the top and latch side, just to keep them in place.
Now it was time to move the door. I got out my old-reliable hand truck and enlisted the help of my wife. She's not typically much help for heavy things, but I figured that if the weight became that much of an issue that she couldn't help, then I was likely doing something wrong anyway.
The move went without a hitch. I lifted the bottom end of the door while she pulled the saw-horse out of the way. I then eased the door down and went to the other end to push it up-right. In the meantime, my wife brought the hand truck into position and I "walked" the door onto it. Once on the hand truck, it was an easy matter to wheel it over to the other side of the room. I made sure everything oriented right so that when I wheeled the door into position, the hinges would be facing in the right direction. Simple!
The next order of business was getting the door up on shims to bring it to the perfect height to align up the hinges. The bottom of the hinges were exactly 12-1/2" off the ground so in theory, I'd just need a 1-1/2" shim -- like a 2x4! Well, as I was sort of expecting, the fact that the floor isn't perfectly level meant that the the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor when the door is opening all the way was actually a bit less than that. I experimented with a few materials until I came across the perfect combination -- a piece of 1/2" plywood and 3/4" particle board. I walked the door up on the shims and voila!
I couldn't ask for a better fit. I had a very minor struggle, again related to the non-flatness of the floors. The floor mildly tilts upwards away from the door and so the hinge side of the door on those shims wasn't perfectly plumb. That meant that the top hinge was easily screwed in, but the bottom hinge was angled away from the door by 1/8" or so. I ended up having to carefully move the shims forward (hammer them forward, actually) so that the door could "lean back" a little. That done, I screwed all three hinges into the door.
And that was it for the heavy work! Could installing this door really be that easy?
Yes, that's the bottom of my door pretty much flush with the OUTSIDE of the 3/4" thick latch side of the frame. The top of the door wasn't quite so dramatic, but it too was proud of the opening. After all that effort making sure everything was plumb, my door simply wouldn't close.
It's All in the Angles
The problem was that the gap between the door and frame on the upper hinge was significantly more than the gap by the bottom hinge. That strongly implied that the door jamb wasn't plumb after all. I got out my laser level and... eh? Sure enough, it wasn't plumb in either direction!
It turns out that the weight of the door swinging on the hinges was enough to dramatically move the entire free-standing wall around! My previously mostly-plumb was wasn't even close. Oh, and even worse, the gap between the king stud and jack stud on the hinge side was also wider. I had essentially pulled the jack stud away a little bit out, just by the weight of the door. My pansy wood screws did nothing to keep them tight together!
My first order of business was getting the wall back towards some semblance of plumb. I concentrated first on the forward-back motion and used a clamp to tighten down the distance until the wall was as it should be:
That made a noticeable difference. I then used a spreader clamp to push the wall left to plumb it up in the side-side motion. After all this, I noticed that my previously perfectly plumb hinge jamb wasn't actually plumb anymore, but it would be if the shims were gone.
Before messing with that, though, I wanted to secure the jack stud to the king stud and to make sure that the door jamb could be supported independent of the hinge screws into the wall. For the former case, I got out my F-clamps and squeezed the studs together (took quite a bit of force) and then drove in some 2" #14
heavy duty screws through the king stud and into the jack. When I loosened the clamps, I was heartened to see that the studs didn't move at all.
I then got out a 4" long lag bolt with a 3/8" hex head and drove that through the jamb and into both of the studs. I first used my spade bit to carve out space for the hex head, since I wanted it flush. That's a far beefier piece of steel than my screws, so the hope would be that that would hold the whole thing in place even with the longer hinge screws removed. It did.
With the shims gone, the frame was back to being as perfectly plumb as I could hope for. That all did make a big difference, but not a complete one. The door was still hinge-locked on the bottom.
I've worked around that problem in the past using cardboard shims, but this time around I got a commercial hinge shim product that uses consistent sized plastic shims. I put two under the jamb side of the bottom hinge and that was all it needed. I now had a (mostly) consistent reveal all up the hinge side.
But it still wouldn't close. I now hit the latch side of the frame in a more consistent manner rather than more on the bottom than top, but that's of minor comfort when it won't close.
I had tried to calculate how much space would be needed in advance using Sketch-Up. I knew I'd need slightly more of a gap on the latch side due to the thickness of the door and so I created a Sketch-Up model with exact sizes and worked out the angles involved in opening and closing the door. According to my calculations, I'd need just over 1/4" of space and so I rounded up to 3/8".
Well, that used the very big assumption that the door would like perfectly flat on the hinge side, and that simply isn't the case. Even though the hinges are mortise in both the door and jamb, there was still enough play to give a 1/16" to 1/8" gap between the door and jamb when closed. That extra gap completely invalidated my earlier measurements and meant that I'd need more space on the latch side.
So... I needed to remove the latch side of the frame. This did mean pulling out the old reciprocating saw (thought I was done with that!) since I had nailed that side of the frame in rather than screw it. Handily, since I did screw the frame together, I was able to unscrew the side from the top:
That was mostly lucky that the screws were far enough on the outside that I could get to them on each side of the wall. The far screw was actually in the space between my two walls and so I was able to get it out with a right-angle drill extension.
I then re-attached the latch jamb backwards -- with the rabbet on the outside. That gave me an extra 3/8" to work with and that was just the amount of space I needed. A few shims along the length of it to keep a consistent reveal on the door and it finally closed!
Now on to the hardware. I have some door hardware jigs but they are all unusable this time around, since they assume a maximum of 1-3/4" doors and mine is 3". So I had to do all the measurements and drilling by hand, and hope I was accurate.
The first question I had to answer was if I wanted the hole at 2-3/4" or 2-3/8", since the door instructions said I could use either. I arbitrarily chose 2-3/4" since it might give me more flexibility space-wise in the future. It turns out that it's a darn good thing I chose that size since my door handle only works with that size! Emtek custom makes their handlesets and so they don't make them that flexible. I discovered well after the fact that I had explicitly selected 2-3/4" when I ordered the handle in the first place. Good thing I coincidently made the same decision when I drilled the hole else that would have been a massive pain to fix!!
Drilling the hole through two layers of MDF and one solid core door was notably easier than drilling through a fiberglass exterior door (the previous door I did). There's one exception. I could instantly tell when I hit the Green Glue layers. All forward progress stops; it starts smelling like something is burning; and the hole saw gets completely gummed up. I needed to drill for a couple of seconds, then pull out the bit and carefully scrape off all of the burnt gunk sticking to it. Eventually, it cut through. Want to see how Green Glue looks after it's installed and has been compressed between two layers for a few weeks?
Still very wet and sticky and still green, although the color isn't showing up in the picture.
Another 1" hole and then some free-hand work with a router and a chisel and I had a working handle!
Curiously, I must have chosen the wrong "hand" for the handles, since they ended up with the screws on the outside. That's not a huge deal, but I am going to investigate at some later date what it would take to reverse those. If it's not possible then I won't mind.
That done, I turned my attention to the latch side. That also took just a little bit of free-hand router work (to rough out the bulk) and some finish work with a chisel.
That also shows my temporary door stop, in place just so the door would stay shut when it's closed. And it does! Whoohoo!
Even though the door is installed and it latches closed, it's still not truly functional. For that to be the case, I'm going to need a full threshold; the other half of the jamb (for the outer wall); and decent weather stripping and stops in place. I started with one half of the threshold. It's glued to the floor:
Timing is going to be tricky. I'm going to have to install almost all of the rest of the bits all at once, so that I'm not left with a gaping hole for an extended period of time. The problem is that the jamb is going to stick out on the hall-side a good 1", to accommodate the two layers of 1/2" drywall that I'm going to install there (1/2" because I had some left-over from a previous project). That protruding jamb is going to prevent my current vinyl sheet and rigid foam insulation "door" from working, though. That means that the massive door will need to be truly air-tight at exactly the same time that the outer jamb goes in.
That's all going to be done next weekend, at the earliest. I have some family obligations this week that will keep me away from the theater at least until then.
Still, I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out so far!