My home was built with white 6 panel hollow core interior doors. I have long hated them. Thus this project was born.
I also hate cheap brass lock sets and hinges. (On a side note I hate my builder – no one takes pride in their work anymore)
I know that my doors are all Mastercraft. I started by purchasing a Mastercraft 6-panel Oak door. I scrapped the frame, finished the door and hung it. I did this to avoid the need to drill the lock set hole and mortise the hinges. I considered that the effort to do all that work offset the $30 difference between a blank and the prehung door.
After this first door I learned a few things…
1. Even within the same manufacturer the hinges are likely not going to align exact. Thus requiring chisling.
2. For $40 you can purchase jigs for the lock set hole and hinge mortises.
3. If you watch the ads the blanks go on sale often (at Menards)
4. The pre-hung all come with brass hinges and will need to be swapped out (this is further complicated if the hinges are a different style (square, 1/4 round, 3/8 round) than the existing door frame.
5. Pre-hung will run you roughly $30 more than a blank.
By purchasing the jigs and using blanks I will invest $1300 for 12 doors. (This factors the jigs, stain/poly, door blanks, hinges, brushes, sand paper, lock sets, mineral spirits and latex gloves.)
If I were to use pre-hung I would likely spend $1400-1500 for the project. Not to mention the countless adjustments to get them to fit.
What I purchased….
Mastercraft Oak 6-panel Blanks (Menards)
Brushed Nickle Schlage Lock set (Menards)
Minwax Semi Gloss Poly
Brushed Nickle Hinges (Home Depot)
Despite reviews for the latter I found it to work well.
Thoughts on the purchases….
Doors – The doors can be purchased any where. I went with Menards because they provided the best value. None of the retailers take particular care of the doors when stocking so you have to really look them over. Some slight rubs and scrapes can be sanded but remember these are veneered so you only have so much give.
Also, did you know that a pre-hung door is 29.75” wide and a door blank is 30” wide. I did not and this resulted in my first door not fitting. Thus I had to cut down the door for the fit. Re-mortise the hinges. This only requires removing a quarter inch of material. I chose to make one cut on one side instead of two. This was done to minimize the risk of damage to the door as it was handled on the table saw. These doors are heavy and the risk is high that you could damage them. The edges of the doors have a 1/2 in strip of solid oak. I used the uncut side for the hinges to utiilize the full half inch for strength.
(Note: oddly enough the pre-hung doors also indicated that they were cut on one side only – this is not easily noticed unless you look for it.)
Hinges – You can purchase individual hinges at Home Depot including screws for $2.68 in my area. Pay attention because they sell the hinges both with and without screws for the same price. Odd.
Jigs – Both of these jigs worked well and were easy set up. The hinge mortise jig could be more sturdy but it performed well. The lock set jig I used to start the holes then removed it. To keep it in place requires screwing it to the door on the edge side. Since I was not mortising the catch I did not want the holes. Both jigs come with the bits needed. They were easy to set.
I put one coat of stain and two coats of poly. Sanding between coats.
Aligning Hinges – Now I measured the hinges on the original doors several times. I learned that pre-hung door hinges will vary by a 1/16th of an inch door to door and even hinge to hinge on the same frame. I also found that measuring and routing the hinges can also vary the hinge fit because if you are off even a 1/32in and off on two hinges you are now off by a 1/16th. The hinges are mortised exact so this variance is a pain and I had to chisel some relief on the first two door jams to get the fit to work. I found this to be very frustrating. If you think about it even your pencil line and how you line up to it can cause this variance.
So measure each door several times.
The solution – What I chose to do is mortise the middle hinge exact. Then I mortises the top and bottom hinges 1/16 bigger on the top and bottom of EACH mortise. Thus the mortise was 1/18 in longer than the hinge.
It is important that you spread the extra cut to the top and bottom of the mortise because you will not know till install if the hinge is to low or too high.
Do not pre-drill the hinges on the door…
When installing I mounted the top and bottom hinges on the frame. Mounted the middle hinge to the door. I mounted the door at the middle hinge to the frame. This hinge fit exact. The top and bottom hinges then fit the mortises at the top and bottom because they (mortises) were over sized (the hinge screws I had did not require pre-drilling). At worst this would leave a 1/8th in exposure of the mortise which I felt was acceptable. Stained and mounted likely no one will notice. However none of my exposures were that large.
This made the install very easy.
Other issues you might find.
Be wary of how tight the original door is to the frame. If it is too tight you might consider cutting the door down more than the original by 1/8th to allow for expansion and avoid rub. Be careful you don’t over cut it is an expensive mistake.
I based all my measurements on the door I was replacing NOT the door jam. However you should measure the door jam for square. I had one jam that was framed 1/14 different at the bottom than the top. Cutting the door at an angle would have been difficult so I chose to cut square. Then I used my sander to fine tune the door to fit the jam where needed. This requires some additional stain and poly work but that is minimal. Also keep in mind that the doors will swell so allow for it.
When sanding and staining be sure you support the door sufficiently to prevent sag or warp.
I chose a liquid stain as I have found gel stains difficult to get a consistent application.
I followed this sequence
1. Cut to size on table saw
2. Mortise hinges and drill lock set (measure multiple times, measure each door and label the blanks to match the specific door you are replacing)
3. Stain side 1
4. Stain side 2
5. Poly side 2 (hang 1 edge off side of table and poly the side – wide excess from bottom side. Apply two coats min. sanding with 220 grit between coats.)
6. Flip and repeat #5 hanging the opposite edge off the table and applying poly.
7. Mount middle hinge to door
8. Mount top and bottom hinge to jam
9. Position door and mount it at the middle hinge. Door is now attached to the jam.
10. Fit the top and bottom hinges to the door mortises. Screw in one screw in each only.
11. Check fit of door when closed (if anything is wrong adjust)
12. Install last screws.
13. Install lock set.