September 15, 2015
I took a short day at work yesterday so that I could come home and work on my front door, which I’m happy to report is finally hung and even works . Actually, I would even say that it works perfectly. All of the clearances around the door are exactly right. The door opens and closes easily. It closes flush with the doorjamb. The latch works. The hinges work. Everything is just as it should be and on top of everything else, it looks beautiful. It really does. I’m so happy about my door! I have been thinking about and planning this for so long that I can barely remember a time when I wasn’t worrying about it. To have it finally be done now is a big, big deal. I have never built anything with my hands that I have been so proud of and happy with.
Getting to this point with my front door has been kind of a long road. The process started several months ago when my friend, Gregory, spent a day with me showing me how to build my own front door, something I will always be grateful for.
After I had my door built, it sat in my garage for many months as I tried to figure out how to properly hang it. Those of you who have been following my blog might remember that the plans I purchased from Tumbleweed specified a rough opening for my door that was too small for the door specified in the plans, a fact I did not realize until I had already built both the rough opening and the door (see this post for more detail on that). In addition to a nonstandard sized front door, the front wall of my tiny house is also pretty non standard. That wall is over 6 inches thick which means that I can’t simply go down to my local hardware store and buy a door jamb that will fit my rough opening any more than I could buy a door that will fit my rough opening. So, in addition to figuring out how to fit my custom front door into a space that was too small, I also had to design and build my own custom door jamb, something I have definitely never done before. I have been thinking about how to do all of those things since last March and it wasn’t until this weekend that I finally felt like I had a reasonable plan and could see in my mind how it would all come together.
I wish I could say that Tumbleweed had been able to help me with any of this, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Despite tumbleweed’s president, Steve, commenting on my blog with a promise to help me with the rest of my build, I have yet to get anything really useful out of them. When I asked them how to handle my rough opening being too small for my door, they simply told me to cut down my beautiful, hand made door. When I asked them for drawings showing how to create a doorjamb that would fit my rough opening, they simply told me to buy a door jamb kit at Lowe’s. At this point, I have basically stopped asking them for help anymore because I seem to always end up waiting a long time, sometimes even delaying my build, for an answer that is usually not worth implementing. I’m kind of at peace with all of that now, though. In the end, I think the solution I came up with for my front door is quite beautiful and better than anything anyone at Tumbleweed would have ever come up with even if they had bothered to spend any time on it.
The process of hanging my front door began on Friday when I borrowed Gregory’s table saw to transform the 15 feet of 2 x 8 select tight knot cedar boards I purchased earlier in the morning into a custom made door jamb. These were pretty complicated cuts on pretty expensive wood so definitely took my time. I was very careful about what I was doing and I’m happy to report that I didn’t make any serious mistakes which I think is kind of amazing given that I have never even installed an exterior door jamb before, much less created one by hand.
Friday was also the day Sheila took the time to paint the entire door a beautiful burgundy red which exactly matches the roof and all of the window trim.
On Saturday, I began the more difficult and stressful door hanging tasks, the worst of which was hacking ½ inch off the header of my front door rough opening. This combined with shaving ½ inch off the header of my door jamb was the solution I finally came up with for giving me the extra inch of space I needed to install my door in the rough opening that was too small without cutting down my beautiful front door. Shaving down the header of my rough opening was something I knew was going to be unpleasant and in the end, it ended up being just about as unpleasant as I expected. It basically involved holding a combination of circular, reciprocating and jigsaws above my head and making a bunch of different cuts at the right depth in perpendicular directions across the header while sawdust and chunks of wood rained down on my head. I had to take several breaks and I also entirely drained both of my 20 V Max 3.0 Amp-Hour Lithium Ion batteries doing it, but I eventually got the job done. It was messy and the final result didn’t look very good. However, my doorjamb and my door now fit inside my rough opening and none of this will ever be visible, so I am quite happy about having done it even though it wasn’t very much fun.
The other thing that was difficult for me on Saturday was chiseling and drilling out the holes and indentations for the hinges and the door latch in my front door. It was time-consuming and stressful work because I knew if I made a mistake, it was pretty much unrecoverable. There was no way I was going to spend 20 hours building another door. It especially upset me that despite how careful I was about measuring and marking where to drill the 7/8 inch hole for my door latch, my spade bit still ended up going somewhere else. In fact, the spade bit got so far off-center that it almost went through the edge of the door. I can’t imagine how I would feel right now if that happened. Luckily, even though the door latch is a little bit off center, it still works and if that is the worst thing that happened to my door during this whole process, I’m okay with it.
Perhaps the hardest thing for me to do on Saturday was to quit at 4:00 PM so I could go to a dinner that Sheila and I had planned weeks ago. Before we quit for the day, I was able to prop the door jamb pieces into place and see that things seemed to fit. I felt like I was so close to getting the front door hung that it was nearly impossible for me to let it go for the day. However, the universe seemed to be conspiring to force me to take a break before finishing everything which I later found out was probably a good thing.
I took the day off on Sunday, but decided to come home from work early to finish everything up on Monday. As usual, the work I had left to do on the front door took longer than I thought it would. I started working at about 2:30 PM and I didn’t finish until about 8:00 PM even though Sheila even helped me for the last couple of hours. I was so upset on Saturday when I had to go to dinner and couldn’t finish hanging the door, but I soon discovered that I never would have been able to hang the door on Saturday, even if I hadn’t had to go to dinner. I think it really was really a good thing that I had to take a break on Saturday and come back at it today. The universe was taking care of me once again.
I’m trying to remember exactly what took all of my time yesterday afternoon. I remember tackling quite a few tasks. Here are some of the things I had to do before I could finish the installation:
- Trim down the sides of the doorjamb by 1/16 of an inch because the gap between the door jam and the door was a little too large when I loosely fit everything together on Saturday.
- Add flashing to my threshold.
- Stain the pieces of my door jamb.
- Screw the legs and header of my custom doorjamb together.
- Cut the wood and metal threshold pieces to size and put in place. I made the wood part on Friday out of a piece of cedar siding I had leftover.
- Prop the door jamb into the rough opening, put shims around the outside and clamp it into place to see if the door would still fit.
- With the door jamb clamped in place, use a minimum number of screws to hold it in place so I could release a few of the clamps and put the door into the opening, attaching each hinge with just one screw.
It was at this point that I unfortunately discovered that the door didn’t quite fit anymore. Having trimmed my door jamb by 1/16 inch, the door was now catching on the upper left corner. To fix this, I had to take the door back off the hinges, take all the screws out of the doorjamb, remove the door jamb and then trim a little bit of wood off the top of the left doorjamb leg so I could put the doorjamb back into the rough opening and lift the whole left side of the doorjamb up about 1/16 inch before screwing it all back into place. That’s probably what took me the longest amount of time (and created the most frustration). After that, I put the door back on hinges only to discover that it was then catching a little bit on the lower left corner. Luckily, I was able to fix that problem much more easily by simply by removing one screw near the bottom of doorjamb, reducing the shim and screwing the doorjamb back into place. Once we finished with all of that, the door finally began to open and close easily which was wonderful.
One of the last things we did was to screw the threshold into place, adding a bead of caulk underneath it before we put the screws in. It took a few adjustments of the screws on the threshold to get the bottom of the door to clear the threshold properly, but we finally got it all to come together. I then carefully marked, drilled out and chiseled out the spot for the strike plate while Sheila cut and installed the weather stripping.
With all of that done, we rather unexpectedly found ourselves suddenly finished. After nearly a year of planning, designing and building, we finally closed the door and heard the most perfect sound: the sound of the latch clicking into place as the door rotated around and closed perfectly inside my door jamb. I’m not sure I have ever done anything so simple that has felt quite so rewarding. Opening and closing doors is something we do every day without thinking and totally take for granted. Now that I know what is involved in building and hanging your own front door, I don’t think I will ever think about doors quite the same way again.