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A basement door is in bad shape and getting replaced. We got a few quotes and are trying to understand which makes the most sense for us. The motivation to replace the door is water leaking through it (which is a separate problem due to a stairwell drain backing up we hopefully resolved) and a better air-sealed basement/house. We realize even a new door will not prevent leaks if there is flooding up against the door outside, but overall it feels right to replace a rotting door.

First, photos and orientation about the door as-is. Below that I'll share the two strategies contractors proposed for the replacement.

door overall

door from outside

bottom of door with gap from wood rot

As you can see there's a few unconventional things about the door.

The block walls on either side are not well connected; there is a wood sill plate over the top but not oriented to really hold those walls together. The house was built 1968 and there's just one story and an attic above this door without much weight on it.

The opening for the door is also too big and is not exactly even. Wood and insulating foam and maybe cardboard were used close the gap between the prehung door and the blocks.

top of door

side of door

zoom in on framing gap

The most concerning issue about how the gap around the prehung door is handled, is that the prehung door appears to basically not be secured to the house at all. This next photo shows how the hinges are missing screws (same for all 3 hinges) which I expect are meant to go through the prehung frame and into the house's door frame. I haven't put a lot of weight into the door to test it, but it looks like a heavy hit against the door could bump the prehung door out of the foam-filled gap, since it is not screwed into any wood adhered to the blocks.

zoom in on hinges

##Quotes we got landed on similar prices but with two different approaches.##

My question is basically, is option A suitable, or are we much better off with option B? Again our goals are mainly air-sealing and reducing water infiltration rates if there is flooding in the stairwell outside. The downside of option B is it reduces door width, and it was already just enough space to get furniture and appliances in there (which may someday need to come out / be replaced).

Option A

  • Supply and install a new basement door, scope includes the removal, haul away and disposal of the existing door. The new door is a 6 panel colonial door with no windows, double bore lock set. Leave the existing double 2x4 above door, seal the new door in place with caulk and foam as necessary. Customer to supply new lock set with deadbolt. No changes to the door opening will be made unless found necessary when extracting the new door and damage is found. At that point, any such work would be additional time and materials. Door Options:
  1. Steel door with standard door jamb and wood brick mold - $1,525.00
  2. Steel door with rot resistant door jamb and pvc brick mold - $1,738.00 Leadtime since special order 3-4 weeks
  3. Fiberglass door with rot resistant door jamb and pvc brick mold - $1,933.00 Leadtime since special order 3-4 weeks

This contractor said they'd go with a 32" door, basically just redoing how the previous one was done but with a new door and rot resistant jamb.

Option B

Remove and replace basement door

  • Remove existing door
  • Attached pressure treated wood to fasten door correctly
  • Install new 30" x 80" 6 panel fiberglass door with composite frame and brick molding

The difference is option B using a 30"-wide door and securing that to additional framing squeezed in between the prehung door and the block walls. We're thinking that for decades it's been okay that the door is secured as poorly as it is, and we're not sure how we'd get our 30-31" appliances and couch in and out of the basement with the narrower door.

We're not concerned about breaking and entering. If anything, other access points with windows are our weak point. When I say 'secure the door' I'm more concerned about its durability/integrity.

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    Using appropriate masonry type screws (such as Tapcons or drilling for anchors in the correct locations) would secure the door hinges and frame directly to the concrete with the wider door. That was just sloppy/lazy work by whoever put this one in.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 16:05
  • @Ecnerwal given the 32" prehung door leaves some gap (but not enough for wood against the blocks): would it make sense for a new 32" prehung door to be screwed into the blocks directly on the hinge-side, then fill the gap on the other side with wood/shims/foam? (I don't have an intuition for framing and would hope these contractors would but I appreciate more expert opinions here.)
    – cr0
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 16:15
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    As the OP wrote, a 30" door would present serious problems for moving appliances in and out. This should eliminate this option from any consideration. I just supervised bringing in a new washer and dryer through a 32" door at a relative's house. I cannot imagine trying this through a 30" door. Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 1:37

1 Answer 1

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32” door with 4 tapcons per side (a few more if the block isn’t filled) with plastic shims between the jamb and the block (plus spray foam and trim to protect the foam from UV breakdown) would be adequate.

Placement in the block opening is flexible… if it was me, I’d center it to get foam on both sides. (Plus, I wouldn’t expect the block to be plumb.)

You didn’t ask, but a bit of dirt excavation and replacement with gravel might help with exterior water pooling.

Edit to add one last point: ask the contractor to backprime every bit of exposed wood on the jamb, especially the end grain at the bottom of the jamb legs.

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  • Thanks for these suggestions. The water pooling was actually from water bubbling up through the stairwell drain. We've reduced inflow to that drainage pipe network and it seems ok now.
    – cr0
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 16:43
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    If the door is centered in the gap, how are the tapcon screws digging into the blocks? The screws are going through plastic shims on both sides?
    – cr0
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 16:44
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    The screws for doors are almost always going through shims. Because door rough openings need shimming to get the doorframe true. Just make sure you have shims where the screws are. Tapcons come in many lengths - 2-3 inches would be quite reasonable here. I agree with this answer.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 17:03
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    Yes, the shims would take up space between the block and the jamb. As a subtlety, some will put the shims on top of the screw, so that micro adjustments can happen as you're screwing stuff together. Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 17:03

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