Category: Doors & Windows

How To: Install a Prehung Door

Prehung doors can make your life much easier, but you still need to know a few essentials in order to get the job done right.

How to Install a Prehung Door - Detail


Doors come in countless different sizes and styles—from modern, flush interior doors with standard dimensions to massive, traditionally designed entryways. By comparison, there are dramatically fewer installation methods; in fact, there are only two. A door is either prehung in its own jamb, or it’s not. Installing a prehung door is considerably less complicated, but that doesn’t mean there’s no sweat involved. The following tips can help you avoid common setbacks.

- 6-foot level
- Wooden shims
- 2-1/2-inch finish nails
- Hammer and nails (or nail gun)

It’s no problem to stray somewhat from the steps outlined here, but remember that no matter the techniques used, the goals always stay the same: Get the door jamb level and plumb; keep it flush with the drywall surrounding it; and maintain a uniform 1/8-inch reveal (the space between the door and the jamb).

When you set out to install a prehung door, begin by measuring the rough opening into which you are placing it. The opening should be one or two inches larger than the door itself. That wiggle room enables you to shim the door, bringing it to the level-and-plumb position critical to proper functioning.

How to Install a Prehung Door - Bob Vila


Set the door into the rough opening. Has flooring not yet been installed  beyond the threshold? In that case, shim beneath the door jamb to account for the height that will be added once the floor’s installed.

Next, make sure the hinge side of the door is plumb, meaning perfectly vertical. Having checked that the door is still centered within the opening, stabilize it by adding shims to both sides, near the top. Check the alignment using a level. If the door’s plumb, hold the hinge side so that it’s flush with the adjacent drywall, then nail into the jamb at the point behind which you added shims. Go on to place shims in a few more positions along the hinge side; check level once more; then nail through the jamb wherever you shimmed.

Close the door and confirm that its top portion is level. Don’t waste time reaching for a measuring tool, though, if you notice the reveal isn’t uniform between the door and the jamb. That’s a sure sign things are amiss. Make adjustments by shimming the latch side of the door. Shim less when there’s too little reveal; shim more when there’s too much of one. Continue tinkering until the reveal along the top is uniform.

On the latch side of the door, bring the jamb flush to the adjacent drywall. The reveal ought to be 1/8-inch here; if it’s not, then adjust the shimming you have added already near the top of the door on this latch side. Once finished, nail through the jamb where you have shimmed. Now place additional shims six inches from the bottom of the door, as well as above and below where the strike plate will go. So long as the reveal remains uniform, proceed to nail the jamb at each position where you have added shims.

To finish, go ahead and put a few more nails through the shims you nailed previously. Your pre-hung door is now level and plumb, with a uniform reveal!

Quick Tip: Door Hanging

Door hanging can be exacting. Fortunately, these handy pointers make the task a little easier to handle.

Here’s some tips for easier door hanging. For this type of door, measure five inches from the top of the door to the first hinge, ten inches from the bottom for the second, and place the third hinge centered between the two. Plough out the mortises with a wood chisel or a router. Align your jamb to the door edge, leaving a three-sixteenths-inch clearance at the top for the swing. Plumb and level the jamb and use a longer screw in each of the hinges to reach the jack stud.

For more on doors, consider:

Quick Tip: Hanging Double Doors
Toss Your Keys: 9 High-Tech Door Locks
Know Your Door Styles: 10 Popular Designs

How To: Install Vinyl Windows

With only basic tools and limited experience, you can install vinyl windows yourself, saving the cost of hiring a contractor for the job.

It can be easy to install vinyl windows. First, make sure the window frame is plumb and level. Wrap the window frame with insulation, or pack the insulation into the void between the frame and the window. Center the window in the opening, making certain the reveal is uniform on all sides. Use shim singles to secure it in place and check for level once again. Finally, drive two quarter-inch stainless steel screws into all four corners. There you have it.

For more on windows, consider:

Replacement Windows 101
Installing a Vinyl Window (VIDEO)
Know Your Window Styles: 10 Popular Designs

How To: Shim a Door

Did you know you can use cedar wood shingles to shim a door? You can. Here's how it's done.

When installing a new door, use shim shingles as extra support between the jack studs and the door jamb. Use two cedar shingles, one vertically and one horizontally, adjusting until they fit snugly. Use three sets of shims on each side—one on top, one on the bottom, and one in the middle. Use three screws to fasten the door jambs to the frame.

For more on doors, consider:

Hanging Double Doors
Know Your Door Styles: 10 Popular Designs
Shimming, Centering, and Hanging a Door (VIDEO)

How To: Install a Pre-Hung Door

To install a pre-hung door, you need some basic tools, a commitment to precision, and most importantly, a good deal of patience.

Here’s a tip on how to install a pre-hung door. First, lift the door into place, then be sure it’s plumb. Always use your level on the hinge side. Nail through the casing and remove the factory clips, so you can test the swing of the door. Then shim the door with scrap shingles along the hinge side and secure the jamb. Now you’re ready to put your finish moldings in place.

For more on doors, consider:

10 New Uses for Old Doors
How To: Install a New Door
Know Your Door Styles: 10 Popular Designs

Quick Tip: Hanging Double Doors

If you've ever tried hanging double doors, then you know it can be tricky. For top-quality results, keep in mind these tried-and-true tips from the pros.

The tricky part of hanging double doors is that they have to meet in the middle. After hanging each door, check to see how they come together. It’s seldom perfect the first time. If they overlap by more than one-eighth of an inch, you’ll need to plane some off both doors. For smaller overlaps, only one door needs to be planed and sanded until you get a perfect fit.

For more on doors, consider:

10 New Uses for Old Doors
How To: Install a New Door
Know Your Door Styles: 10 Popular Designs

Storm Windows 101

Brand-new windows are always nice, but they can be a huge expense. You may be able to get much of the energy savings of new windows at a fraction of the cost by installing storm windows.

Installing Storm Windows

A storm window protects the window on the right; the one on the left lacks storm protection. Photo:

If your windows let in anything other than a view, you may be thinking it’s time for replacement windows. But not so fast! You may want to consider storm windows instead, which offer the insulating properties of replacement windows but for a fraction of the cost. Some experts even argue that when laid over existing windows in decent condition, storm windows insulate better than replacements do. One group in particular has favored the use of storm windows over the years—owners of old houses. Why? Because storm windows allow improved insulation without harming the original windows or, by extension, the home’s architectural character.

Exterior vs. Interior
Storm windows install either outside or inside. In choosing between these approaches, aesthetics are perhaps the main consideration. Exterior storm windows alter how your home looks from the curb. Interior storm windows, in contrast, are virtually invisible from the exterior but are plainly evident indoors.

Window operability is another distinguishing factor between exterior and interior storm windows. Exteriors enable the homeowner to open and close windows at will throughout the year. Interiors—intended as a seasonal measure—seal off the windows they cover for as long as they stay in place (usually a period of months).

Installing Storm Windows - Interior


Track Styles
Whereas interior storm windows comprise a single glass or polymer pane, exterior storm windows are more complex. Most feature either two or three tracks. In a two-track window, the outer track holds a half-pane of glass at the top, a half-screen on the bottom. The inner track, meanwhile, holds a half-pane window, which can be raised (to admit fresh air) or lowered (to keep cold air out and warm air in). Triple-track windows are similar but offer greater configurability.

Frame Choices
Storm window frames are typically made of wood, aluminum, or vinyl. Many consider wood the most attractive, but such frames require regular maintenance to remain in good shape. Plus, the effectiveness of wood frames can be compromised when they expand and contract with the changing weather. Aluminum frames are lightweight, durable, and low-maintenance, but they insulate less well than other materials. Vinyl, which is also low-maintenance, comes in a variety of colors, and that makes it a design-savvy choice, at least compared with aluminum. The downside to vinyl, however, is that over time it becomes brittle and requires replacement.

Installing Storm Windows - Installation


Purchasing Tips
No matter what type of storm windows you decide are best for your home, get the most for your dollar by insisting on some or all of the following features:

• Multiple positioning stops that allow you to modulate the amount of air admitted

• Quality weatherstripping to counteract heat loss

• Predrilled holes to facilitate installation

• Easy-to-clean removable half-pane glass and half-screens

Furthermore, you may wish to consider storm windows fitted with low-emissivity (low-E) glass. This energy-efficient technology helps keep homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In addition, low-E can extend the life of fabrics and floor coverings that come into contact with direct sunlight. Low-E glass may be more expensive at the outset, but over the long term, you can expect to recoup the initial cost through month-to-month energy savings.

When measuring for storm windows, measure the height and width of the window to be covered, from inside molding to inside molding, in multiple positions. Use the smallest measurements to determine what size storm windows you need. Caulking and weatherstripping may be used later to fill any small gaps.

Exterior storm windows attach with a flange—that is, a metal flap—that screws into the existing window frame. It’s smart to caulk the point where the flange meets the frame, but take care not to caulk the weep holes. These perform the important role of allowing condensation to escape.

Interior storm windows attach in a variety of ways—with magnets or clips, or on tracks. One of the most DIY-friendly models comes with a compressible material (for example, rubber or foam) around its edges: As you work the pane into the opening, the material expands to create a snug, draft-free seal.

Bob Vila Radio: Bay and Bow Windows

Bay and bow windows offer more than just light—they offer extra space and in some cases, extra seating!

If you’re looking to bring more light and air into a room, consider a bay or bow window. Both are angled to project out from the house, creating the illusion of a larger room.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to BOB VILA ON BAY AND BOW WINDOWS or read the text below:



A bay window is a set of three windows, usually with a large picture window in the center flanked by two smaller ones that open to allow in air. A bay window can fit into a relatively small area, so if you have two double-hung windows side by side, you can probably replace them with a bay window. A bay window also creates a deep interior space that can be used as a window seat.

A bow window unit may have from four to six individual windows, set at angles that are less sharp than a bay window’s, creating a gentler curved look. It requires more width and creates less interior space for a window seat, but it lets in more light than a bay and its overall effect is to make any room seem much larger.  Remember that if you’re replacing flat windows with a bay or bow, you’ll need a new roof above them!

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.

How To: Re-Glaze a Single-Pane Window

So long as the frame itself has not been damaged, there's no need to spend on a replacement when you can glaze a window that has broken in one or even a few places.

Here’s how to re-glaze those old, broken window panes. First, remove the old glazing compound with a propane torch and a putty knife. Carefully remove the old glass and clean the groove with a soft wire brush. Apply a thin piece of back glazing. Replace the glass and gently place push points every eight inches to hold the pane in. Apply a generous bead of fresh glazing compound and smooth it out with your putty knife.

For more on windows, consider:

Replacement Windows 101
How To: Replace Storm Windows
Fixing Old Double-Hung Windows (VIDEO)

Quick Tip: Tubular Skylights

Consider installing tubular skylights, uniquely designed to be a versatile option for homeowners sick of living in the dark.

Tubular skylights are a great way to bring sunlight into underlit rooms. The adjustable design of these skylights allows them to fit into tight spaces and around difficult framing. The domed cap uses prisms to maximize the effects of the reflected light along the aluminum shaft. It’s easy to install with just a few common tools.

For more on windows, consider:

So, You Want to… Install Tubular Skylights
Know Your Window Styles: 10 Popular Designs
Seeing the Light: New (and Improved) Skylights