How to install new slab doors

Drum roll, please. Ahem, we finished installing the downstairs doors! Our door project, which we began last May, is finally finished.

Now that we’re finished changing out our old oak doors and trim for white, it feels like we completed a whole-house update.

This is the tiny alcove in our downstairs today with the white doors and trim. You might notice that we have yet to install the doorknob on the door on the left. That’s this weekend’s project.

New doors installed - House Over Head blog

This is what it looked like before.

Downstairs oak doors

This picture shows the whole side of the room with the new louvered door too.

New doors installed 2 - House Over Head blog

And here is the same side of the room with the old doors and trim.

Downstairs oak doors 2

Don’t you agree that it helps our 1984 house to wear its age proudly, instead of looking dated by it? Do you think you might want to try to replace your old doors? Well, if you do, this post contains the 4-1-1 on how to do it.

Side note: This post assumes you’ve already bought your new doors. If you want to read about how we did that, as well as the project to change out our upstairs doors, read here. We did the upstairs door/trim project in a very different order from the downstairs. Upstairs, we started with the doors, then moved to the trim. Adding the doors after the trim is complete is what I’d recommend—avoiding the in-between stage of primed oak jambs

Step 1: Remove your old doors and all their hardware, and lay the new slab door over the old make sure they are the same size.

As you can see from the picture below, the new doors were about an inch longer than the old doors. This was not the case with the upstairs doors. We don’t own a table saw, so we had to measure each of the new doors, load them back in the van, and take them back to Home Depot to ask them to cut the doors for us. They did. Aside from this being a very discouraging way to begin the project, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

New doors are longer than old doors - house over head blog

Step 2: Mark the new door where the hinge will need to go, using the old door as a guide.

marking the hinge- house over head blog

Step 3: Install the hinge router template on the new door, being careful to line it up where the new hinge will need to go.

There are a few ways to do this step. We opted to buy a hinge router template, which cost us about $25. It was worth every penny. Once that is installed, it keeps your router in place. Then, it’s basically like coloring with in the lines with the router until you have a smooth area for your new hinge.

door hinge template - house over head blog

Step 4: Route out the door hinge.

We bought a low-end router for this stage, and it got the job done—but just barely. For the upstairs doors, we borrowed our neighbor’s router, which was a better quality router. Because we’d seen the difference between the two, the cheap router definitely didn’t feel as sturdy. But it got the job done.

- house over head blog

The routed hinge will look something like this.

routed hinge- house over head blog

Step 5: This is optional, but I recommend painting this edge at this point, wrapping the paint a little bit around each side of the door at the hinges. It’ll be easier to paint the installed door if you don’t have to edge closely around the hinges.

painted side of door - house over head blog

Step 6: Hang the door. Yay! But don’t get too excited, you’re not done yet.

Sorry, no picture.

Step 7: Note where the door catches, or overlaps the frame, and take the door off for planing the side or sanding the top.

We have the smallest hand planer, and it totally got the job done for shaving off the extra width of our doors. As for sanding the tops, we were able to use my orbit sander. You could do the sanding in the garage, but we sanded with the doors mounted. More clean up, but easier to keep track of how much sanding is needed.

hand planing -house over head blog

Step 8: Mark where the doorknobs will need to go.

We bought a doorknob installation kit, and it came with everything we needed to install the hardware. It helps you align proper placement of the knob, comes with a door knob drill attachment, and an attachment to bore the hole in the narrow side of the door for the bolt mechanism.

door knob finder

drilling for a door knob -house over head blog

Step 9: Step back and admire your handy work.

At this stage, you’re all done but the painting. And that’s worth celebrating. The picture below shows where there is already a little paint on the edge of the door where the hinges have been routed. That makes it easier to paint the door if you plan to paint after they’re already hung.

Unpainted new doors - House Over Head blog

Step 10: Paint the doors.

This is the final step, and I won’t lie, the most boring. But at this point you’re so close you can see the rewards of your efforts. So keep going. You’re almost there.

Step 11: Celebrate.

You did it. Give yourself a high five. Do a victory dance. Wonder why you waited so long to make this change.

New doors installed - House Over Head blog

Side note 2: I’d like to thank my husband for being a fantastic hand model for this post, as well as for all the routing, planing, sanding, drilling, and hauling doors to and from Home Depot, which made this project possible. He’s a champ. 

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7 thoughts on “How to install new slab doors

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