At some point in time, and as a homeowner, or landlord, you’re going to need a new interior door.
The reasons for such a purchase can vary. Mahogany, smooth faced doors, were popular in the 1970’s and 80’s. So, if you’ve recently purchased a home from that era, you may be looking to update that rather plain look to the more in vogue, smooth raised panel door. Other than that, basic roughhousing can also contribute to change. That’s why on those cold winter days, we in the retail building supply biz encourage those parents with small children to have them learn and participate in indoor games using real hockey pucks and baseballs, as opposed to some insulting ‘Nerf’ replica. How a child can hone his stickhandling and shooting skills, or learn how to throw a decent curve ball, using some similar shaped piece of foam, is beyond me. Or sometimes, like Oscar Pistorius, you fear an intruder has occupied your bathroom, providing you with just reason to blast through the door with four rounds of gunfire, only to discover it was actually your supermodel girlfriend brushing her teeth, oops! Hey, it happens.
So, for those reasons, and certainly others, replacing an interior door is sometimes necessary.
First, let’s review a few terms. You have a door “slab”, which refers to the panel that moves, the door “frame”, which holds the door in position, and the “pre-hung” door, which includes both the door, hinges, and the frame, all as one unit. So, if a door has been damaged, or is no longer in style, you have the option of replacing only the slab, or the slab and the frame, which would require you ordering a pre-hung door. Due to the work involved in having to cut out the hinges, drill for the door knob, fitting the door stop and cutting the frame, slabs and frames are rarely ordered separately, since this would require an assembly from scratch by the carpenter. Today, it’s economically more feasible to simply buy a door slab already hung in its frame, hence the term pre-hung. In most circumstances, it’s easier for your finishing carpenter, and certainly the ‘do it yourself’ homeowner, to replace a door slab with a pre-hung door, as opposed to replacing a slab for a slab.
Fitting a new slab door into an older, existing frame will be a painful exercise, due to the purchaser having to cut out the hinges, drill for the knob, then hand plane the door so that it fits into what is often a frame slightly out of square.
What about purchasing a pre-drilled slab that already has the hinges cut out? The chances of the hinge and door knob placement of this new, pre-machined door, matching your 50-year-old frame, is between none and zero. Then you’re left with having to modify either the hinge placement on the door or the frame, using wood fillers to patch up the differences, which will look horrible. Only in the case of the existing casing and frame having extreme, irreplaceable value, should a homeowner pay a finishing carpenter to replace a slab for a slab. Otherwise, order a pre-hung door every time.
When purchasing a pre-hung door, be sure to measure both the width and height of the existing door slab. The door slab sizes in a pre-hung unit range from 12-36 inches wide, in two inch increments, and are a standard 80 inches high. Measuring the height of the door slab you’re replacing is important because door slabs in the olden days were 78 inches high. Plus, and in the case of a basement, or under a stairwell installation, the original door could have been cut down even further to fit an opening.
Can a pre-hung door be cut down to size? It’s not easy, but yes. Best bet when faced with a door slab that’s shorter than 80 inches? Custom order it pre-hung to size.