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I want to add a door closer to the door from an interior hallway to an unheated garage. When I bored a hole to attach the bracket to the upper part of the door I discovered that the door is hollow. I think the very high torque exerted by the levered arm of the door closer would rip regular toggle anchors through the outer skin of the door.

The door seems to be primarily wood construction. It's hollow and there's no steel skin. Maybe it's filled with insulation. I live in eastern Ontario.

How can I secure the arm of the door closer to the hollow core door?

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    The thermal benefit of a solid door will probably pay for its cost in less than a decade. And don’t tell your insurance broker that the thing preventing fire spread from your garage is essentially cardboard. Mar 2, 2023 at 1:34
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    Door between a garage and "interior" should be fire door, not a cheesy hollow-core that will burn out in 15 minutes. Or less...
    – Ecnerwal
    Mar 2, 2023 at 14:10
  • @Ecnerwal That is actually a requirement in the International Residential Code. Mar 2, 2023 at 16:19

5 Answers 5

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Use self-closing hinges that screw in place of one (or more) of the existing hinges. These will mount into the solid frame of the door where the manufacturer expects screws to be and designed the door to be strong enough to hold screws.

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  • The drawback to self-closing hinges is that they slam. There's no dampening of the closing force. They also need to be adjusted seasonally to accommodate open windows. (Mine slam in the summer if I don't ease the hinge spring tension.)
    – isherwood
    Mar 1, 2023 at 19:18
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Through bolts and maybe a backing plate.

The simple answer is that you need to spread the load, and you need to remove the load from the exterior door skin. Sleeve bolts are common in situations like this. You'll see a pair or quartet of heads on the inside face, but they're not terribly obtrusive. Also, a decorative steel or brass plate can be used under the opposing bolt heads to further distribute force.

If you find that these start to squish the door, add spacer bushings the diameter of the sleeve to extend it to the thickness of the door.

I have spring hinges on the door to my garage. They're ok, but the door slams instead of closing in a controlled manner, and I have to adjust the springs twice a year to account for open windows. The door closes much faster if the interior isn't sealed, even in a 2400 s.f. home. I would certainly prefer a proper closer.

And I agree with those who tell you that you need a proper fire door in that location, or at least a steel-clad door. Some degree of fire blocking capability is strongly warranted.

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  • If going with through bolts I'd definitely favor a backing plate so the heads don't pull through the skin with time (or if you over tighten). But as noted, this really isn't the place for a hollow-core door, even if local inspector lets you get away with using one.
    – keshlam
    Mar 2, 2023 at 14:56
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I'm concerned that you wrote that you attached to the "upper part" but discovered that it's hollow. The fact of being in the upper part should mean that you avoided the hollow part. Either you were not high enough, or you have an unusually flimsy door with no internal frame.

You should be able to mount a storm door closer close enough to the top of the door that it will fasten to the solid framing inside.

If the door closer, or the door, don't lend themselves to doing it that way (using solid structure along the top) I would cut a piece of plywood large enough to be fastened to the door's top and side internal framing, and about 4 inches tall, and fasten the closer to the plywood. Alternately mount the closer to the door with bolts that go all the way through the door, and use very large washers on the outside of the door for strength. These washers could even be a large piece of plywood, but if mounted on the outside like that it doesn't have to extend all around to the frame.

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  • That's correct: the interior framing of the door is surprisingly narrow at the top. That is, it doesn't extend low enough on the door to catch the screws on the bracket. Mar 2, 2023 at 20:57
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The best answer is probably self-closing door hinges which can be purchased at almost any hardware store. There are also quite a few available online.

When purchasing you will want to measure your current hinges and note the corner profile and number of screws since hinge shape and size varies. Maybe remove one hinge and take it with you or take a picture and trace its profile.

There are also other types of door closers that don't require a screw mount.

As an aside, I'm surprised your door between the house and garage isn't a solid fire door. I don't know about fire codes in Canada but in the US I think they are mandatory everywhere. Might want to check it out.

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  • Are there self closing hinges strong enough to close an exterior door and engage its latch and to do so without slamming it violently? I think, if that was practical, it would be a lot more common to have storm doors built that way without the annoying piston arms.
    – jay613
    Mar 1, 2023 at 19:03
  • Most fire doors are steel panels filled with foam. This is not out of the ordinary.
    – isherwood
    Mar 1, 2023 at 19:10
  • @isherwood - Understood, but if it were steel I think OP would have mentioned it. Mounting screws can be securely fastened in a steel panel. Doesn't seem to be the case here.
    – HoneyDo
    Mar 2, 2023 at 0:23
  • @jay613 - Yes there are. I have some on the door going into my garage. The tension on them is easily adjusted to control force.
    – HoneyDo
    Mar 2, 2023 at 0:28
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Hollow core wood door are common.

They all have solid wood frame that is 3/4 inch thick.

You can mount your door closing device into it.

In places where you have holes into the hollow part, use nuts and bolts and some shims and drill through so you can tighten it from both sides.

Alternative as described by other is to use the self-closing door hinges. They are actually adjustable in force, but do not have soft closing capability, so it will slam.

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