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I got nice solid core prehung interior door. It seems to have pretty weak frame, though and I see that hinge screws are protruding through it and the door is attached to the frame with nails on opposite side to prevent swinging. When I removed those nails, door weight immediately skewed the frame. So I put those nails back for time being but I will have to take them out before install and likely unscrew hinges at least partially.

In addition I have 1+" wider opening than this frame and I would like hinge side to go as close as possible to stud. This leaves me with 1" gap on the lock side and I plan to put 1x4 there.

All in all, it seems that a lot of things that need to happen to install it right, so I am wondering if it's advisable to just remove door from the frame and then install frame level, plumb and square where I need it and then reattach the door with 3" hinge screws. That would make my life lot easier but I've read in some places that it's difficult to install the frame right without a door. Not sure why.

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    If you install the door jamb close to the 2x4 on the hinge side and leave a 1" gap on the latch side, be sure your finish trim will cover that large a gap. – Jim Stewart May 15 at 2:21
  • Many doors open onto a perpendicular wall on the hinge side. If you place the hinge side of the jamb close to that wall, you may find your new finish trim will not fit in the space and would have to be ripped. A properly shimmed door can be secure with 1/2" or more of shimming on the hinge side. Often people put in a higher quality door and wider trim than the original and so should put the bulk of the shimming on the hinge side to accommodate the new wider trim. – Jim Stewart May 15 at 2:41
  • An experienced expert can shim with those light tapered shims, but with your large gap you might be better off using 1/2" or 3/4" plywood or pine to build out the rough opening on the hinge side. You would use three pieces 6" or so long and 3.5" wide placed where each hinge will be. Using a long level get them in the same plane, square and plumb. Then attach the jamb on the hinge side through those heavy shims and use the light tapered shims on the latch side. – Jim Stewart May 15 at 3:02
  • My only experience with installing prehung doors has been replacing original interior doors in our 1971 built tract house with much higher quality doors. The rough openings were out of plumb, out of plane, etc. How good are your rough openings? – Jim Stewart May 15 at 4:03
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    Thanks for mentioning trim. Actually, it's a reason I want door shifted one way as much as possible. I am installing 3 1/2 " wide casings and on the latch side I have heat register which is too close. Gaining this extra half inch will allow to avoid notching the trim. – Uncle Meat May 15 at 7:24
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In response to your question about a door being difficult to install the frame right without a door, getting the door frame square, following the walls, besides plumb on the sides and level at the head, which should result in a square frame, can be difficult. The small gap that is typical of doors will reveal a lot if there is any minor discrepancy in the jamb when it does not have a door to follow. The door itself acts as a big square to gauge the jamb by. Also, some doors are not perfectly flat. Having the door in place at the time of setting the jamb allows the jamb to be tweaked a little here and there to get the door to set properly to the door stop. Using my method below is how I get past issues of weight, easier centering of a door when I have a specific spot I want the jamb in the opening, and aligning it within a wall width with allowances for tweaking.

In cases when a door is very heavy or even a lighter door that is a 36" leaf or 8' tall, I will remove it and install the jamb only to a point. After the top corners of the jamb are shimmed tight enough to keep from shifting around in the opening, and set with one finish nail so it doesn't fall out by the top and set bottom hinge plumb from the top corner and set with one finish nail also. This way if the door is light enough or at least not too heavy, the door could be set back in its place. After it is set back in place I will remove the middle screw of all three hinges and that's where the shims will go. I will rip my shims unless they're already about an inch and a half wide. I will typically rip a wider shim to no wider than 2 inches so it fits between the two remaining screws that holds the hinges in place. I failed to mention this first... the floor is checked for level at the opening so if one leg of the door has to be longer than the other that is done before the door jamb is even set in the opening so there's no gap at the bottom of the jamb, where they meet the floor.

Now back at securing the hinges. With the middle screw still out and gauging the shims so the gap is adjusted evenly, set a screw that matches the color of your hinges, but is 2 1/2" long so it will tie the hinge through the jamb and into the rough framing. The sequence are used for this is to shim the top hinge as close as can be figured and set the screw in the top hinge, all while reading the gap from the top hinge to the corner and get it even with the rest of the gap along the hinge side. You will need to confirm that there will be the same size gap on the latch side as well. With the bottom hinge presumably plumb to the top corner that could be set also with its screw in place. This leaves the middle hinge to be done, this I typically remove the hinge pin, tap the shim in or out as needed to get both knuckles to line up perfectly and so the pin drops in after I set the screw. This should get the jamb perfectly straight according to the door.

After the hinge side is squared away and presumably the gap is even across the top of the door since the jamb has been corrected to hit the floor, if necessary is no more than setting the final shims in 3 if not 4 different places on the strike side after you apply your 1X4 and finish off the set of your door making sure that the door stop is hitting the door evenly in all places along it's length.

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    Great tip to re-hinge the center. Prevents squeaking. I like to shim top & bottom hinges just above the middle screw, so that I can re-shim as needed to align/straighten based on the door crack. – P2000 May 15 at 2:37
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    @P2000 The reason for the center screw is twofold. The first reason is it gets the protruding tip of the screw out of the way which makes it difficult to get a shim in accurately, since the tip will compress into the wood shim and throw the gap off a bit. Secondly, the center screw is the most inboard location for setting the screw the farthest from the edge of the framing at the opening the door jamb is set in. That way when the 2 1/2" screws go in, they will have less of a chance to split the framing and loose it's hold – Jack May 15 at 2:59
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    Yes, what I meant was I jam the shim right above that screw, which allows me to re-shim. If I drove the screw through the shim I wouldn't be able to. And until I acquire the skill to get it 100% at first go, I like that ability. – P2000 May 15 at 4:23
  • I added a little more info about your question about setting doors without the leaf. – Jack May 15 at 15:37
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    I read that the door stop is binding a little. When the door is painted that will get really bad. A layer of paint on both surface add up surprisingly. I typically set the hinge side 1/16"-1/8" away, a piece of cardboard is a good gauge, not corrugated, the shoebox kind. The latch side is set with the door thickness, no extra room needed there. The head piece is simply a straight line between the other 2. No binding will happen even after repeated paintings. – Jack May 16 at 20:53
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Personally, I think you'd be better keeping the door and frame intact while doing the majority of the installation of installing the framing. That way, you can operate the door to make sure it swings right in the frame as you go along. Then use your 3" hinge screws to secure everything up.

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  • Yeah, you can't set suitable, parallel margins without the door installed. It's the only way to do this. – isherwood May 15 at 13:32
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This is how I ended up doing it.

I removed the door from the frame and also removed side stops from the frame (they were only attached with few staples). I penciled where stops were. Then I took my time to level, square and plumb the frame in the opening paying especial attention to get exact distance between jambs at the top and at the bottom. In process, I cut jambs at the bottom to make top of the frame exactly level. Working with just frame was fairly easy as it is very light.

To keep it in place I used 2" #6 trim screws placed where the stops are and recessed below the surface. Started with area above top hinge. Shimmed everything right and placed few more of those screws above and below hinges making sure they go through shims. Screws were good as I had to take them out and replace couple of times before getting things to my satisfaction. I only used screws on sides and left top shimmed but with no fasteners.

After I was done with screws, I marked their location to avoid putting nails in the same spots.

At this point I used air shim on the floor and my wife's help to prevent door from falling to align hinges on jambs and screw them back in. Double checked everything and then nailed stops back with 2 1/2" finish screws. Did use it on sides and at the top while making sure that nails penetrate shims.

Voila, the door seems to work great! One little thing I would pay attention next time - I attached hinge side stop a bit too close to the door, so it's getting a bit tight on the last inch before door is fully closed. But it seems acceptable so I decided not to redo it, Will do in future if really bothered.

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