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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Installing the Back Door

It was finally time to install the back door at my garage conversion project (see these posts). The old back door was damaged and needed to be moved because of the new utility room wall that will soon be framed. I found a great door at Hailey's Salvage (this post) that will coordinate well with the rest of the home.

I started by adding treated trimmer studs on either sides of the door. I used treated because they come in contact with the cement at the bottom and this will help them not to absorb water and rot. I measured the exact dimensions of the door and framed the entire doorway, leaving around 1" around the door for the doorjamb with some wiggle-room.

If you can find a pre-hung door already in a door jamb it will be easier to install. We didn't have this luxury so I made the door jamb and even installed the door in it before placing it in the doorway. It doesn't always make sense to do it this way, but it allowed me to make sure my doorjamb was the right size to have around 1/8" gap around the door for a perfect fit.

The framing was level so installing the door was pretty straightforward, starting with the hinge side and working my way around the door to make sure all the gaps were parallel and the door fit right.

Now I could start thinking about the exterior trim. These old houses are tricky because they use trim that is hard to find these days. You have to be creative and basically custom make each piece. For the door and window casings, the original was a full inch thick (not 3/4" like most boards are today). It needs to be this thick because of the depth of the wood siding that butts up next to it. So, the stock I start with is 5/4" x 4" Paulownia. This may require some explanation.

First, Paulownia is a light-weight wood similar to balsa except stronger and resistant to splitting. It's very popular for exterior trim because it's naturally resistant to rot and decay. I get mine at Walker Ace Lumber and it comes already primed. The 5/4" x 4" boards are actually 1 1/8" by 3 1/2". That will work for our purposes, though I'll have to rip them all down to 3" wide to match the other window and door casings.

The other trick is what to use for that little trim that is on top of the door and windows. It's actually called a drip-cap. They sell it at the home stores like Home Depot, but theirs is a little bulkier than the historic stuff. I prefer the one that Walker Lumber has because it's shape is right and it's made out of PVC. PVC is a great choice for exterior trim because it won't rot. This especially good for a drip-cap because if it's wood it will eventually rot.

My technique is to first cut the top trim and the drip cap and nail them together as a unit. The drip cap has a lip on the back that actually slides under the wood siding. This is very important in keeping the water out of the house. I install the top trim first and then I can see where I need to cut the siding to install the side pieces. I make a chalk line and cut it with my jig saw upside down at an angle (like you're about to do a plunge cut). I find that using the jig saw like this is a little more accurate than trying to do it with the reciprocal saw.

The trim goes in quickly with some long trim nails. For this installation, make sure the nails are galvanized. This will help prevent rust showing up from the nail heads.
Pink siding with a green door? Why not?
Just kidding, it will get painted... :)


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