There was a time in my life when I thought installing a new door kit was a pretty simple thing. Just take out the old one, put in the new one. Nice little half-day job that makes the place look better and the wife feel more like fixing up a batch of homemade biscuits. Good stuff, Maynard.

Nowadays, I figure it’s going to be at least a three-day job. And that’s if things go fairly well and I don’t discover rotted out flooring and floor joists when I take out the old door

So, after an extended period of several hours of sobriety and a sincere prayer for God’s blessing on the work of my hands, I decided to kick off my first day of retirement by replacing our front door. 

The old door was a plain, hollow-core slab with no glass. Definitely a fine candidate for replacement. And, with the temperature on New Year’s Day headed into the sixties and the wind blowing from the south, it was a fine day for replacing a door on the north side of the house.

I figured it would be a good idea to remove the new deadlock and entrance handles. Removing the deadbolt was quite simple and straightforward. Different story on the entry handle set. Being as it had been a few months since the installation, I had no memory whatsoever of how to find the hidden screw that would allow for removing the base cover.

Fortunately, I still had another kit that has been patiently waiting for two years to be installed on the back door. I pulled it out, unfolded the directions and soon had that sucker disassembled. Next, I took the door off its hinges and removed the storm door.

Then, I removed the interior and exterior trim and started tearing out the old frame. With some careful but determined prying and a few judicious hammer blows, I got the whole thing torn out in a relatively small number of pieces. 

Much to my delight, I discovered all underlying frame members to be completely free of any moisture, termite, earthquake, or other obvious damage.

I lugged the new door unit up onto the porch and leaned it against the wall. After double- and triple-measuring, I determined that it was a couple of inches shorter than the old unit, mostly due to having a threshold that was about an inch-and-a-half thinner than the old one. I rigged up a filler piece to go at the bottom and that took care of that particular gap.

When I set the door in place, I discovered another discrepancy. When the unit was forced in against the frame opening, the door wouldn’t close completely. Snug at the bottom on the non-hinged side but with a quarter-inch gap at the top. So, knowing I’d have to custom fit the jambs and the trim, I set it so the door would close and then shimmed in around the frame molding and fastened it in place. Then I shimmed in around the jamb and anchored it. 

Every piece of exterior fill had to be tapered and hand planed to fit. Since the new unit was built for modern walls and our house was a few decades past modern, I also had to custom fit fill pieces to extend the jamb so it would be flush with the interior walls.

Then I had to adjust the threshold so the door would close smoothly, or at least semi-smoothly. Turned out, there was a slight bulge in the old floor near the center of the opening. Drilled a couple of holes through the metal threshold and used a pair of three-inch screws to anchor into the sill and force it down just a bit. 

At least now I don’t feel like an NFL linebacker trying to tackle Derrick Henry whenever I close the door.

Three days … so far … still have some puttying and painting to do. But it is a beautiful new door. And I had homemade biscuits for breakfast yesterday.


Doc Arnett was a professional educator and bi-vocational minister for more than 40 years. He currently pastors the Community Church of South Haven.

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