The British public have had a love/hate relationship with the humble internal door. At various times it has been fashionable to discard doors altogether with many people opting for a more open plan layout.
However, in practice, internal doors very much own their place in the modern home. Having internal doors means it is easier to budget and cheaper to heat individual rooms rather than having to heat the whole of downstairs just to keep you warm in one room.
From a safety perspective, many loft conversions and extensions are only granted planning permission if internal doors are fitted to restrict the spread of fire. From a sanity perspective, a family with children will appreciate the ability to close a door to minimise the noise of children’s boisterous play.
But the internal door serves more than a practical purpose. As well as separating living spaces and acting as a minimiser of noise, the internal door also adds a design detail to your overall décor. With thousands of designs to choose from Victorian to ultra-modern, it can add appeal and even value to your home by creating a warm, cosy feel to potential buyers.
Tackling indoor DIY projects can leave some of us running in fear of failure. But the truth is, fitting and fixing a door is easier than you might think and does not necessarily need the skills of a professional joiner.
To install a door, you just need to have the right tools, to prepare properly and to measure accurately.
Before you fit your new doors, you will ned to remove the old ones. Most door hinges are secured with flathead screws (single line), use a flathead screwdriver to remove these. Sometimes these can be covered in paint, so you may need to scrape the gloss off with the edge of your screwdriver to clear the groove. This will ensure that you have enough purchase when undoing the screws.
It is often easier to unscrew the half of the hinge attached to the door first. Alternate between the top and bottom hinge screws to prevent the door from flapping whilst unscrewing, leaving a top one until last. It may help to place a small block of wood or another screwdriver under the door whilst doing this to prevent it from dropping as you unscrew.
Having removed the door, store it out of the way. Remove the other half of each of the hinges from the frame.
Once you've painted your internal doors, you'll need to double check the dimensions before fitting. There are many potential different variations in door dimension, dependent on the age of your house. Therefore, you should order a door which is as close to the original dimensions as possible.
When you offer up the door to the opening, it is likely to be slightly too long or too wide. Having removed the door furniture off the old door, lay it exactly on top of the new one, lining up the top corner of the hinged side. You can then use the old door as a template. If the new door protrudes at the end or at the side, you can then use a pencil to scribe the line to accurately record the end which needs to be altered.
If the area to be removed is only a matter of a few millimetres, you can use a surform block plane. Available from most hardware stores for around £8.00, a surform (surface-forming tool) is like a cheese grater for wood, enabling you to easily trim off a small amount of wood.
If you need to remove a couple of centimetres, a standard plane works well for this job, enabling you to shave thin layers of wood off at a time. However, if there are three or more centimetres to be removed, using a plane can be a very time consuming and inefficient way to trim your door. In such cases, you may choose to use a handsaw to take off the majority, using the plane if necessary for an accurate fit.
If your new door is the same thickness as the old one, you can use the same doorstop. The doorstop is the piece of wood that the door meets up to on its closing edge when closed. However, if your new door is deeper you will need to remove and reattach the door stop so that it allows the new door to close fully. This may involve trimming the doorstop. Once you are confident that the door will fit in the opening, you can attach the hinges.
Hinges on a door and frame are inset so that they do not interfere with the operation of the door. The easiest way to cut an inset is to use a hammer and chisel, with a hinge cutter. This a metal template, these are available in various sizes to suit and will ensure that you do not cut your inset too deep or wide. You may need to cut a wide or longer inset into the frame also.
Fitting catches and new door handles is a fine art and can sometimes involve a little trial and error. Assuming your door is supplied pre-drilled for the spindle, you will only need to chisel out the section for the main barrel of the handle mechanism. A hammer and chisel are perfect for this task, and, as the work being performed is inside the door, the face plates will hide your chisel marks provided you stay within the lines of the handle, latch and catch.
With the best will and intentions mistakes still happen. If you do make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world!
Whether you have ordered too short, cut too short, or discovered that the doors in your new home are too short, it’s not always necessary to order a new door. It’s possible to lengthen your door. Here’s how:
The key is in choosing a piece of wood which is from the same wood type as the rest of the door. Most modern doors are made from softwoods such as pine. In older properties such as Victorian, Edwardian and in pre and post-war houses the doors are more likely to be made of oak.
Try to choose pieces which closely match the grain pattern of your door. Rather than attaching just one piece, attach three pieces to match the direction of the grain on the rail and stiles. Having the removed the door and matched the thickness of the attachment to the bottom rail glueing and screwing the piece on is relatively easy.
Glueing first, holding the two pieces level is made easier with a couple of G clamps. Once the glue has dried, you can add screws to strengthen the joint ensuring that they are countersunk deep enough to not catch on the carpet. To ensure your extension pieces don’t split, drill pilot holes first. If you have over-compensated by adding too much, countersink your screws deeper to allow you to plane the door to your required length.
Taking on DIY projects can seem a little daunting at first. However, with careful planning, preparation and the right tools, fitting, repairing and replacing doors is a relatively simple task.