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Tool Rentals for the DIY Weekend Warrior:
Woodcutting - Installing a new door

by Joseph Truini

The carpentry skills required to install a new wood door are well within the capabilities of the average do-it-yourselfer. The exact number and types of tools needed depends on the specific door and existing doorframe, but here are some tools you'll likely need:

  • A circular saw to cut the door height down to size, especially if the door is going to swing over a thickly carpeted or tiled floor.
  • A power plane makes it easy to trim the door edges, though you could also use a hand plane.
  • An electric or cordless drill is necessary if the new door isn't predrilled for a lockset.
  • Use a random-orbit sanderto sand the door surfaces prior to applying the wood stain and varnish topcoat if you're installing a stain-grain door, which is made of bare wood.
  • If you're also planning to replace the wood trim around the doorway opening, consider renting a miter saw to accurately cut the new door casings to fit and an air compressor with pneumatic nailer to fasten the trim.

Don't own all these tools? No worries. All six are typically available for rent. Here are the basic steps to installing a new wood door, starting with how to fit the door to the existing opening:

  1. Trim the door to fit the slight imperfections of the existing opening. When you buy a new door, you can assume that it's straight and true and square. Unfortunately, doorway openings are seldom so perfect. There are two ways to trim the door to fit. First, if the old door fits perfectly into the doorframe, then simply lay the old door on top of the new door and trace around it. If that's not an option, you'll have to custom-fit the door to the opening.
  2. Begin by carefully measuring the height of the doorway opening along the left and right vertical side jambs. Measure from the finished floor up to the horizontal head jamb that spans the top of the doorframe. (Be sure to measure to the head jamb, not to the door-stop molding.) Then measure the width of the opening between the side jambs in three places: close to the floor, in the middle of the doorframe, and near the head jamb.
  3. Next, subtract ¼ in. from the overall width to create a 1/8-in. gap along the hinge side and lockset side of the door. Subtract 5/8 inch from the overall height of the door to create 1/8-in. clearance at the head jamb and ½-in. space beneath the door.
  4. Cut the door to the proper height with a portable circular saw. Draw the cut line across the bottom of the door and then score the line with a sharp utility knife to prevent the spinning saw blade from splintering the door face. Never cut off the top of the door.

Trim bottom of door with rental circular saw
Trim bottom end of door with a portable circular saw. To produce
a perfectly straight cut, clamp a straight-edged board to the door and
guide the saw along the board.

  1. Now, you could simply cut along the scored line to trim the door, but to ensure a straight, accurate cut, try this trick: Clamp a straight-edged board to the door to act as a saw guide. Check to confirm that the distance from the board to the cut line equals the distance from the saw blade to the edge of the saw's baseplate. Then simply guide the saw along the board to trim the door to the correct height.
  2. It's not always necessary to trim a door to the proper width, but if you must, use a power plane or hand plane. The only exception is if for some reason you need to remove more than ¼ inch or so of wood. In that case, use the circular saw to cut away a bulk of the waste, and then fine-tune the fit with the plane.
  3. If the door isn't predrilled for a lockset, use a drill to bore the two holes. The larger hole drilled through the surface of the door to receive the doorknob is called the face bore. Most locksets require a 2 1/8-inch diameter face bore hole, which you must drill with a hole saw.
  4. The smaller hole drilled into the edge of the door for the latch is called the edge bore. Drill this hole with a 1-inch spade bit. Each lockset comes with a paper template that shows where exactly to bore the holes. Simply fold the template along its dotted line and hold it against the door at the proper height, typically 36 to 38 inches above the floor. Mark the center of each hole with an awl or nail set, then remove the template and bore the holes.
  5. Use a hammer and chisel to chop a shallow mortise into the edge of the door so that the latch plate fits flush. If necessary, also cut mortises for the door hinges.
  6. Sand the door surfaces with a random-orbit sander fitted with a 100-grit abrasive disk. Brush off the sanding dust and sand again with slightly finer 120-grit abrasive.

Sanding door with rented orbital sander
The versatile random-orbit sander has a round pad that spins in circles
and vibrates in tiny orbits at the same time, leaving behind a super-smooth surface.

  1. Prime and paint the door, or apply wood stain, followed by two coats of polyurethane varnish. To deter the door from warping, be sure to apply finish to both the top and bottom ends of the door.
  2. Screw on the door hinges and hang the door in the doorframe. Check to confirm that the door swings smoothly and closes completely without binding or rubbing against the jambs.
  3. Install the lockset to the door and the strike plate to the corresponding side jamb.

Top 5 rental carpentry saws...

The nest time you tackle a DIY carpentry project, swing into the nearest home improvement center to check out the array of power saws that are available for rent.

Here are the top five most popular rental saws:

  1. Compound Miter Saw -There's no easier or more accurate way to crosscut wood than with a power miter saw. This bench-top tool can cut a wide variety of materials, such as construction-grade lumber, hardwood planks, flooring, PVC trim, wood molding, and decking (both wood and composite). And, of course, it excels at cutting miters, bevels and compound angles. (Note: You can even make accurate cuts in thin aluminum such as weatherstripping or door thresholds... provided you have a quality carbide blade! NH)
  2. Circular Saw - The portable circular is the go-to tool for crosscutting and ripping lumber and plywood. To increase accuracy, clamp a straightedge guide and place to produce perfectly straight cuts.
  3. Reciprocating Saw - When fitted with the appropriate blade, the super-versatile reciprocating saw can cut through virtually any building material, including nail-embedded wood, steel, plastic pipe, sheet metal, composite lumber, asphalt roofing, plywood, particleboard and other sheet goods.
  4. Jigsaw (also called a sabre saw or portable scroll saw) - The lightweight, easy-to-use jigsaw is suitable for making a variety of cuts—straight and curved—in many different materials: wood, plastic, metal, plywood and composites.
  5. Table Saw - Rent a compact worksite table saw to rip wide boards and large sheet goods, such as plywood, down to size. It's also well suited for crosscutting wood boards to length.

Tool Rental Tip: Before renting a tool, think about how you're going to get it home and then back to the store. "Some rental tools and machines are heavy and difficult for one person to lift out of a car," explains home improvement expert Fran Donegan. If necessary, rent a truck or moving van to transport the rental item.

Read more rental tool tips in these articles:

Back to the "Tool Rental Guide"

Concrete Tool Rental Tips

Rotary Drill and Demolition Hammer Rental Tips

Lawn and Garden Tool Rental Tips

Floor Repair Tool Rental Tips

About the author: Joe Truini is a home improvement expert who writes about a variety of topics related to carpentry and plumbing. Joe is also the author of numerous DIY books, including the best-selling "Building A Shed". To learn more about renting tools like those referenced by Joe, please visit the Home Depot website. All photos courtesy of Joe Truini or Makita.