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What makes a high-quality door replacement? Best and worst practices

June 10th, 2021 | 8 min. read

What makes a high-quality door replacement? Best and worst practices

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Any home improvement project is an investment you don’t want to get cheated on. 

A door replacement might seem like a minuscule project, but there are essential steps in the process that make a massive difference between a high-quality and low-quality installation.

Even if you pay for a more expensive, high-quality door, an improper installation will guarantee failure in the door’s functionality, and you’ll be paying for repairs or another replacement sooner than expected. 

Not only is it essential to get every part of your door system replaced, but the steps taken during the installation that ensures the door will work properly and last are crucial as well. 

Video: "What makes a high-quality door replacement?" below.

Southwest Exteriors has been a local door replacement contractor for over 30 years. We only want to offer the highest quality products with the highest quality installation and service, and we’ve seen many doors that have failed due to poor installation. 

This article will walk through the entire door replacement installation process and outline what makes a high-quality and low-quality installation. 

Knowing the details of a door replacement installation allows you to choose the right contractor for your project and helps ensure you do not end up with an inferior door replacement. 

What makes a high-quality door replacement?

Because there are many parts to an entire door replacement, you must know what goes into the installation and what makes it of quality. 

This section will cover all aspects of the door replacement process, from removal to finishing touches.

Removing the existing door

The removal of the entire door system must be done with care to avoid damages to the wall. 

First, the trim must come off. This should be done by using a chisel around the caulk to score it and loosen it from the wall. A pry bar is then slid between the trim and wall to separate the two. 

As the two are pried apart, any caulk that remains attached to the wall should be continuously scored throughout the removal process. This ensures that the drywall will not come up with the trim.

If the trim is pried off the wall without any prep, there will likely be damage to the wall that will need repair before installing the new trim.

Once the trim is removed, the hinges are unscrewed, then removed, and the door system is taken out. This includes the side and vertical jambs, slab, and threshold. 

During this removal process, there is going to be a lot of dust and debris that comes off with the door. A high-quality installer will continuously vacuum and clean the work area during the entire process. 

While cleanliness may or may not be most important to you, it’s a small detail that the high-quality, caring installers will take time to ensure.

Installing the new door

Now that the door frame is bare and ready to go, it is time to install the new door. 

The door should first be dry fitted to the frame to ensure it is the correct size. If it were not the proper size, then the correct size could be ordered immediately, and construction should stop. 

If the door were too small and the installers just filled the extra space with foam, this would be an improper installation, and the door would not function as efficiently as it should.

Weather seal and threshold

First, the weather seal and threshold should be installed and caulked in place. The threshold is the ribbed metal piece at the bottom of the door. Once this is sealed in, the jambs and door can go in place.

Leveling the door 

The slab, or the part that swings open and closed, is connected to the side and vertical jambs. The jambs are like a frame around the slab, and there is about a ¼ inch gap between the jambs and the slab. 

Because the foundation of a home shifts with time, no opening is perfectly square. The purpose of the small gap between the slab and the jambs is to allow for leveling the door. 

Once it is ensured that the door fits properly, it will be placed in the frame to be leveled both horizontally and vertically.

Doing this makes sure that when the door is opened at any point in its swing, it will not move. If the door is not leveled in both directions, it will leave open spaces around the edges, allowing light to seep through.

Extra space around the door also allows air to escape from your home and outdoor air to come in. There is not a proper seal around the door, so it is not insulating your home the way it should.

Screwing in hinges and inserting shims

After the door is leveled properly, the hinges are screwed in. High-quality installers should use screws that are long enough to penetrate through the door jamb to the frame of the wall, typically 3.5 inches long.

This secures the door to your home, which will stabilize it and ensure it will last. If shorter screws are used, the door can become loose in a short amount of time and cause another replacement.

To keep the door leveled and in place, shims must be placed between the slab and jambs. Shims are very thin, slightly wedged pieces usually made of wood or plastic. Because they have a wedge shape, they are able to fit in the jamb to maneuver it one way or another to level the door.

Skinny wooden wedges jammed between a door frame and the jamb.

Example of wooden shims.

Now the door must be foamed in around the shims. An expanding foam is best to be used to fill in any small gaps between the shims, jambs, and slab. 

Once the door has been foamed around, next comes installing the trim. 

Installing new trim

If the new trim is smaller than the old trim, there will be a distinct line visible where the wall texture and color are different. A high-quality installer will retexture and paint the wall that was underneath the old trim to match the rest of the wall. 

The trim is nailed in using small finishing nails. These nails will later be filled with putty and sanded down to cover the nail head. If it is left as is, this is a low-quality installation and will not look as nice or finished as it should.

The trim is then caulked around the edges to seal the cracks. A caulk with no less than a 50-year lifespan should be used on the exterior trim, while a regular painter-grade caulk can be used on the interior. 

When the caulk is applied, it should be smoothed immediately after for a finished look. 

A quality practice, though not necessary, is to install either the interior or exterior trim first, then foam around the door, then install the other trim. This helps with a cleaner application of the foam. 

Now the door is completely installed and ready for use. However, finishing touches still need to be made. 

Painting and final touches on the door

The caulk should be allowed to completely cure for a day before being painted over or else it risks damaging the seal. 

Surrounding the trim and the door should be properly protected and covered to avoid getting paint anywhere else. 

A high-quality, durable paint should be used especially for the exterior trim because it will be exposed to elements like UV rays and water. Sherwin-Williams Duration or Sherwin-Williams Emerald are the top-rated paints for exteriors and wood. 

The paint must also be applied to the proper millage, which determines the number of coats required to get to the proper thickness.

If low-quality paint is used and is not applied to the proper millage, the paint risks chipping, cracking, and peeling. 

Painting the door is the final step in completing the door replacement installation. Once everything is complete, a quality installer will walk you through how to operate your door’s hardware and show you how it functions. 

This way, you can ask any questions you have following the information and be assured that your new door is up to your standards.

Things to look out for before choosing a door replacement contractor

Choosing the right contractor can be overwhelming. When you turn to Google to search for local door replacement contractors, where do you even start? How do you know who is trustworthy and will complete your project to your satisfaction?

Doing proper research on a potential contractor is essential. Asking questions like how long they have been in business, their installation process, and what warranties they offer will help guide you to a quality contractor. 

Knowing what is included in the installation and how they take technical measurements is important to know you are committing to a quality contractor.

What is included in the installation?

For a door replacement specifically, something essential is if they are going to replace the entire door system or just the slab. 

If you’ve adjusted your door at the hinges multiple times because it doesn’t close properly or there is rot anywhere in the door or trim, you will need the whole system replaced for it to function properly.

If a contractor will only replace the slab or tells you it is unnecessary to replace the entire door system, you will not get the best quality door replacement you can. 

The entire door system replacement should consist of the threshold, jambs, interior and exterior trim, hinges, hardware, and slab. 

How do they take technical measurements?

It is important for a door replacement that the door is sized properly to fit the frame. Because the foundation of a home shifts over time, no opening is perfectly squared.

The contractor should measure the door opening to be replaced at multiple points vertically and horizontally to ensure the replacement door will be the proper size. 

A quality contractor will schedule an appointment with you to come out to your home to inspect the door area and take technical measurements. This will ensure that the proper door will be ordered and installed to fit the frame. 

Asking about your door replacement installation details before committing to a contractor is key to ensuring you will work with a trustworthy contractor and get a high-quality installation.

Now that you know what to look for in a contractor before signing a contract, let’s get into the actual installation details.

How do I know that I will get a high-quality door replacement?

Knowing that you will get a high-quality door replacement comes down to choosing the right contractor.

Researching the company and reading reviews from previous clients is where you should start in finding your contractor. If you cannot find any information about them or find mixed reviews, it is a good chance they will not deliver a high-quality service. 

Determining your budget and how important cost is to you is an important factor in choosing your contractor. If you are looking for the least expensive option to get your door replaced, you are not going to get the highest quality replacement. 

Prepare and ask plenty of questions ahead of time, and if any contractor cannot answer your questions or find the answer for you, you should keep looking. 

At Southwest Exteriors, craftsmanship and communication are important to us. We take pride in the craftsmanship of our doors and their installation, and we communicate through each step with you. 

Ready to get your door replaced? Schedule a free in-home consultation with one of our design consultants by filling out our webpage form. Virtual consultations are available for your safety and convenience.