Door hanging instructions

Doors that creak or fail to hang properly can be the source of much annoyance. If you are hanging a new door, or refitting an existing one, a fair amount of care and precision is needed. Otherwise the door may fit badly and, possibly, not close. There should be a minimum gap between door and lining on an outside door.

With an outside door, there should be a clearance of under A in. (or just over 1 mm) — a relatively tiny gap — around the top three sides, and about in. (3 mm) at the bottom.

Doors may be hung left- or right-handed. Take into account the immediate area of the door swing and the proximity of any other door when deciding on this.

All-timber doors expand and contract, dependent on weather, much more than doors made of man-made boards, which are relatively inert. A new door should be left in a room for 48 hours before hanging so that it may adjust to room temperature and humidity.

Cutting the horns. When a door is in transit, the ends are protected by four “horns” or “joggles”, which are an extension of the long rails or stiles of the door. It is best to leave these in place for as long as possible, preferably until you are finally ready to hang the door.


1. Lay the door firmly on trestles.

2. Cut off the horns with a handsaw.

3. Plane the ends smooth, using a block plane.

Planing to fit. Doors usually have to be adjusted to fit a frame even of the same nominal size. This is done by planing the door to fit and is termed “shooting” the door. The door must be firmly held when being planed. A home-made support can be made, consisting of a piece of 3 in. by 2 in. (75 by 50 mm) timber about 20 in. (or 500 mm) long, with an angled notch around 2 in. deep and 2 in. wide (50 by 50 mm) cut in it. A wedge, about 10 in. (or 250 mm) long, will hold the door edge firmly in the notch. It should be tapped carefully in with a mallet.

The cross rails and the long rails are best shot with a jack plane — a long plane. Shoot the door from either end, to ensure an accurate line free from hollows.

1 Offer up the door and, using the frame as a template, mark any adjustment on the door face edges. The door may have to be wedged temporarily in position while you mark it, with wedges at the bottom.

2 The hanging or hinged stile should be adjusted first. Once this is a good fit against the jamb, the opposed lock stile can be planed to fit. The lock stile must be slightly bevelled to close correctly. For a door 2 in. (5 cm) thick, this should be in the order of a 1/16 in. (2 mm) bevel.

3 Adjust the head of the door. Test the fit with the hanging or hinged stile in place. Allow a little less space above the lock stile than the hanging stile; this compensates for the fact that, in time, doors tend to drop slightly, generally as a result of wear on hinges.

Adjustment of an outside door depends on the type of step and whether draught excluders or weather seals are fitted. An outside door its best hung with what is termed a “kick”, i.e. when the door is open, it is slightly out of vertical, increasing the bottom clearance). This may be necessary in the case, for example, of a porch floor, which may have a slight fall in the direction of the door.

The “kick” is achieved by varying slightly the amount by which the hinges are recessed.

The hinges. Generally, doors are hung on cast-iron butt hinges. Pressed-steel butts are also used but these are more liable to rust. Nylon hinges are strong, self-lubricating and cannot rust. Aluminium hinges with stainless-steel pins and nylon bushes also do not require maintenance. Brass hinges are best used for oak or teak doors.

Painting steel hinges to prevent rusting may impair hinge action and is never very neat.

Hinges are made in a range of sizes.

A 4 in. (or 10 cm) hinge is best for a door of average size. With heavy doors, it is advisable to use three hinges in order to spread the load. When three hinges are used, slightly smaller — 3 in. (or 7.5 cm) hinges — can be used. A third hinge also helps to prevent distortion in the middle of a stile.

Top and bottom hinges should be fitted to line up visually with the edge of the rails.

This is how to hinge a door:

1 Place the door in the frame on wedges to hold it firm.

2 Mark with a pencil the frame and the door some 6 in. (or 1.5 cm) from the top and 9 in. (or 2.3 cm) from the bottom, as this lines up with standard top and bottom rails. Where an intermediate hinge is used, it should be fixed half way between these two points.

3 Take out the door, place the hinge on the marked position on the door frame and stile in turn, inside the pencil lines, and mark round one leaf. Position the hinge marks so that the hinge knuckle just clears the door and the frame.

4 Set a marking gauge to the thickness of the hinge flap. Then mark the front surface of door and frame for the depth of the hinge.

5 Hang hinges on the door first, attaching the fixed leaf. Cut back the slot for the hinge recesses. Chisel downwards, with a sharp blade, along the marked lines. Use the chisel bevel-side downwards when chopping diagonally as this makes it easier to remove waste. Make a series of chisel cuts across the grain, all to the gauge-line depth, then pare with the grain to take out the waste. Leaves of butts are generally tapered slightly. With the outer surfaces of the leaves held parallel, there is a gap between them. Cut the bottom of the hinge recesses with a slight slope to correspond with this taper.

6 Position the door in the opening so that the loose part of the hinge is on the inside of the door frame. Place a wedge under the door and set a piece of packing at the top to bring the door up to its correct height.

The packing should be either 1/32 in. (1 mm) or 1/16 in. (3 mm) thick, depending on whether the door is an inside or an outside one.

Parliament hinge. Where a door has to be able to fold flat against a wall a Parliament hinge can be used. This holds the door well away from the frame and causes the door to swing especially wide initially. This means that you need to plane a fairly heavily angled bevel on the lock stile.

Rising butts are hinges which lift the door progressively as it opens, to clear carpets. They also enable the door to be lifted off, as the hinges are in two parts. Note that an advantage in being able to take doors off easily is that they are, on the whole, easier to paint when laid flat.

When using rising butts, the first 3 in. (7.5 cm) or so of the head (top) rail should be planed with a slight bevel on the inside edge so as to give initial clearance. Fixing the door. To complete the hanging of the door:

1. Start the fixing holes with a bradawl.

2. Initially hang the door with just one screw in each hinge.

3. Check that the door swing and clearances are correct and make adjustments where necessary.

4. Once you are satisfied, insert a second hinge screw, then check again.

5. Having made any necessary adjustments and before final fixing, remove the door and apply two coats of paint to its bottom edge; you cannot do this later when the positioned door is ready for painting.

6. When finally fixing the door, make sure to countersink heads of the screws; if they protrude, they will affect the closing of the door.

  • Adjustments are made by removing the door and chiselling out the recesses. If a recess is too deep, a piece of card can be placed between the hinge leaf and the recess.
  • When a door catches on the hinge side, impart a slight bevel to the door.
  • A door should remain open in any position. If it does not do so, this indicates that the screws are wrongly positioned. You must remove the door and adjust the position of the screws slightly.
  • Where a door is badly out of true, the leaf of the hinge may need repositioning. Note: Plug the existing holes before you make new screw holes for adjustments.

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