How to hang a door

Replacing an internal door can sound like a complicated task, but our simple step-by-step guide will help you fit one in no time

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Replacing your doors is an easy way to refresh the look of any room. Whether you’re looking to change all your internal doors, or you just have a few that could do with an update, it’s an easy task to complete that just needs patience, careful measuring and little know-how.

As doors in many older houses aren’t a standard size, you might need to trim a replacement door to fit the existing frame, or even have one specially made. However, you shouldn’t cut more than 10mm off each side edge of a flush door (or 5mm off a panel door) or you could weaken the structure. Bear in mind that the old door frame may not be straight either, so you’ll need to make allowances. Buy new hinges the same size as the existing ones or reuse the old hinges if they’re in a good condition.

What you need:

  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Wood plane
  • Hard point hand saw
  • Safety goggles
  • Sandpaper
  • 25mm Chisel
  • Hammer or wooden mallet
  • Drill
  • 2mm and 3mm HSS drill bit
  • Workbench
  • Wooden wedges
  • Penny coin
  • Internal door
  • 2-3 suitable door hinges
  • Screws

How to prepare for hanging a door

Before you start to fit a new door, leave it unwrapped in its intended room for a day or so to allow the wood to acclimatise. Wood can swell or shrink depending on the moisture level in the air, so this will allow the timber to settle, preventing the need to more adjustments after fitting. If your door is panelled, make sure you fit it the right way up. If in doubt, refer back to the manufacturer or retailer’s website to check the correct direction of the panels.

You should also consider which direction you want your door to open. Most doors open into a room, rather than out of a room – unless space is a real issue. You should also consider whether you want the door to open towards the corner wall of the room or against the main wall of the space. Make theses decisions now as they will determine where you position the hinges on the door.

How to measure for a replacement door

If you have an existing door to replace, simply take note of its existing measurements, noting the the width, height and thickness of the door. Choose a new door that most closely matches these measurements, rounding up, not down. For example, if you measured 1978mm (high) x 757mm (wide) x 44mm (thick), rounded up, the nearest standard door size would be 1981mm x 762mm x 44mm.

If you have a frame but no door, measure the internal height and the width of the frame. The height is measured at two points (left and right) and the width is measured in three points (top, middle and bottom). Use the largest of both measurements to determine what size door is needed and round up the measurements to find the nearest standard door size.


Step 1

Measuring the new door to size

If your old door was a good fit, use it as a guide for the new one. Lay the old door centrally on top of the new one and mark around it with pencil, so you can see where to you’ll need to cut away any excess from the new door. If you don’t have the old door to use as a template, use the frame to measure the fit of the new door. Use a pencil to mark the top of the frame height on the door edge.

Step 2

Cutting the door to size

With the door securely held in place using a workbench, transfer this measurement to the bottom of the door and mark across. Using a saw and wearing goggles, cut the door to length. If you have to remove a lot of excess wood when cutting down the height of the door, cut from both the top and bottom of the door. Be sure to measure equal amounts, so you keep the symmetry of the panels and use a plane for finer cutting. Next, check the hinge side of the door fits neatly to the frame and mark the door to the frame width. Use a plane to remove equal amounts from each side of the door until you reach the desired width. It should now fit neatly in the frame, but keep checking the fit until it’s correct. Smooth any sharp edges with sandpaper.

Step 3

Measuring the hinge positions

Once your door is trimmed to size, you need to measure where the hinges will go. Hold the door up in the frame using wooden wedges and use a penny coin to make an equal gap around it. Mark the position of the existing hinge cut-out at both the top and the bottom of the door.

Step 4

Fitting the hinges

Using these marks to position your hinges, draw around each one using a pencil. Measure the thickness of the metal hinge plate and mark a line on the face of the door to the same depth. Use a sharp 25mm chisel and mallet to cut around the pencil marks of the hinge recess. Then, holding the chisel at 45°, make a series of stepped cuts approximately 5mm apart, ensuring each cut is made to the depth you’ve marked for the hinge plate.

Take care when chiselling in the same direction as the grain so you don’t split the wood. To prevent this from happening, make several smaller cuts, rather than just one main cut.

With the chisel flat side down, remove the wood from the new hinge recesses and put the hinges in position. Using the hinge as a guide, drill pilot holes for each screw in the hinge plate to prevent the wood from splitting. Use a screwdriver to fix the screws in place and tighten them up well.

Step 5

Hanging the door on the frame

Position the door at 90° to the frame and place the wedges beneath the door. To begin with, only fix one screw into the bottom of each hinge. With the first screws in place, check the door opens and closes easily and smoothly, and doesn’t stick or jam. Once you’re happy with the fit, put the rest of the screws in. Once the door is in place, double check that you are happy with how easily the door opens.

If the door isn’t hanging correctly and is rubbing around the edges, try loosening the screws a smidgen, as the tightness will affect the movement of the door. If the door looks like it’s spaced evenly in the frame, except in one area where it catches, you might need to remove the door and plane off a bit more wood to rectify the problem.


Common mistakes

When cutting a door to size, remember the old adage ‘measure twice, cut once’. To avoid removing too much wood when cutting the door to size it’s a good idea to test the fit of your door before you go too far. Before you test-fit your door, partially hammer four nails into the frame at the depth of the door to prevent it from falling through. Hold the door up when measuring it against the frame but remember the door needs to have a gap beneath it. Simply insert two wooden wedges or screwdrivers underneath to keep it in place. Make sure there is a 2mm gap around the top and sides of the door, a penny coin is a great way to judge this measurement.

Using the wrong hinges can make your door sit incorrectly in the frame, causing it to drag or jar. When fitting hinges to the door, use one of the new or existing hinges to mark where the screws are going to go. Hold the hinge in the correct place and mark with a pencil where the centre of the screw holes are. Then simply drill a shallow hole using a drill bit that’s a little smaller than the diameter of the screw.

If you’re using new hinges that are larger than the original ones, you may also need to enlarge the hinge recess in the frame. Hold the new hinge up to the frame, overlapping the recess, and draw around the new hinge end where the excess needs removing, then remove this excess wood using a chisel and mallet.