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Hangs Doors Fast - Contractor Advice Articles

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Hangs doors FAST! – Carrier Slocomb, from 35 years in the trades.

Sounds like bragging, but trust me when I say that we had plenty of carpenters after us, trying to steal the secrets to our fast methods some we even caught spying through the windows while we worked! Come see why

Before I met Bill (not his real name) he’d been trimming production homes in thee DC area for 15 years. He got his start with Ryan Homes, moved on to NV Homes and Winchester Homes, and trimmed for a lot of smaller builders in between. To say he knew the trade is no exaggeration; I’ve never seen a more precise cutter than him. Frankly, precision was all Bill had left to conquer, as every other trick was old hat to him.

Speed was as important to Bill as precision was, as builders we worked for paid us subs less and less each year, while selling their homes for more. Bill was used to earning a six figure income so he learned how to ramp things up. And part of that ramping-up was hiring and training me in everything he knew.

And what level of training it was too! Bill taught me that while concrete men and framers cut to within 1/2 and consider it a decent fit, trimmers cut between 1/16” and 1/32. Snug is good. Snug is called for. A length of 14’ baseboard, chair, or crown mold that bows out in the middle and, with a slap hugs the wall under pressure is our ultimate goal. Because of Bill I learned to cut within a hair. With plenty of practice, you will too!

Hanging a pre-hung door fast
Pre-hung doors are everywhere; you can’t miss them. It’s a wonder any carpenter would want to go to the bother of making a custom door when you can buy flush and 6 panel doors for every conceivable application. Setting doors is your start point, so begin by placing each door unit next to its correct opening. Tools needed: 2’ level, nail gun & hammer, a battery lantern for dark closets, pliers, chisel, and an empty 5 gallon drywall bucket full of baseboard scabs and shims. It goes without saying, keep gun safeties intact and wear eye protection.

Place pre-hung door on its side, hinges at top. Using pliers pull out shipping staples along inside jambs, holding split jamb together. Stand door up and pull nail out of door at lock-set area. Now gently hammer off the bottom shipping scabs. But leave the cardboard shims in place on the door slab.

Carefully pull split jamb apart & lean its door-less half on a nearby wall. Place your scrap base against both studs where they meet the floor. Make sure everything you need is within easy reach. Now mount the jamb on the scrap base so it sits 5/8 above the subfloor this raises the door so that it clears future carpet, wood, or vinyl. With door in place, push the hinge jamb against drywall (space for shims). Plumb door slab (not jamb) with the level. Mark the drywall, double check plumb, and then drive a nail through the casing adjacent to the top hinge.*

Here’s where most people tear their hair out, but know that if you hang enough doors they become second nature. Just realize that the first nail is the ‘truth nail’, because it reveals whether the opening is square or wracked.

If the frame is square the door will fit snugly and the work goes quick, but if not there are tricks you can employ to make your work look righteous.

Always plumb the door along its lock-set edge with the bubble at center. With one nail at top, and the door plumb, mark the wall and drive a second nail adjacent to the bottom hinge. Check plumb again, both by eye and level. On the lock-set side, press jamb and door slab firmly against the opening, making sure the jamb edge is snug against the door’s cardboard scrap. While keeping pressure on the jamb, remove your hand from the door. If the door pops open then the framed opening is wracked. If not, and the fit’s good then drive a nail into the casing adjacent to the scrap cardboard piece. Stand back and eyeball your fit. Do the jamb and casing on the lock-set side sit about 5/8 above the floor, clearing carpet, or does it sit 1 or higher? If so then pull your nails, cut 5/8" from the bottom hinge side jamb and casing; thus lowering the hinge side to match the higher lock-set side. Remove the door slab only when done to cut the down-slope angle. Finish nailing the casing, top and sides, without pinching the cardboard.

Are the door and jamb good in one spot but won’t meet in others?
Gently place shims behind the jambs at the hinges, middle, top, and in four places along the lock-set side. Do not stuff shims or use expandable foam. Now switch positions to be on the inside. Close & pull door. Examine your fit. Working from the worst fitting spot backwards, plant your chisel blade in the stud and gently push the jamb until it firmly meets the door slab. When you achieve flush, nail the jamb through the shim, anchoring it in the stud. Follow this same levering procedure for a flush fit around the entire door. Nail the jamb in place but not through the door stop. Stand back and eyeball your work. Your door should be plumb and the door slab flush to the jamb, so finish shimming, nailing, and sinking nails.

Now gently fit the split jamb into the set frame, attaching it with just a few jamb nails through the shims, and plenty of nails through the casing. If needed, remove the hinge pins & cut the door slab to match floor level. Move on to the next door and hang it. By the fifth one you’ll be right quick. First successful door? Go out later and have a celebratory drink. *Steel studs? Just screw in trim screws in exactly the same nailing pattern. Hand nailing? No problem, just follow the same procedures.

Carrier Slocomb spent 35 years in the trades in southern Connecticut and the DC/Baltimore area. He now works as a Construction Health and Safety Officer in the metro DC area.

Like anything else, these strategies are footed in common sense. Common sense is something we’re supposed to learn early on; however, common sense in business is usually a well fought over talent, one that we gain at huge personal cost. Yes, it took me thirty-five years to even get most of it right. --Learn more about my strategies for contractor success at www.thriveorsurvive.net, under the heading Pro Desk.

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