Home Improvement--General/Exterior door replacement


Greetings Tony...I own a single family home which was built in 1950. I've lived here for 36yrs.and for the most part I've done alot of improvements & renovations over the years. I know my limits, so beyond that I seek out pro's if need be. My question is that my side door (which is the main access into the house) is in need of a "New" door. The existing door is of metal clad with glass which has a plastic grid to give it a 9 pane look. the plastic frame is cracked in several places and the door itself is in need of replacement. It is 29-1/2" x 76-3/4"..I believe in todays standards that 36" door is the min. To replace the door with a larger one of 36'' would mean a great deal of alterations to fit it because of the construction interior walls on each side of the door.I do not have the finances to hire a contractor to do that extensive job, so I am looking into just replacing the door and not the framework around it. Do you have any advice on what type of door to use? In terms of wood...metal...etc;
Thanks for your time...Ken

Hi Ken,

It does indeed require considerable alterations to increase the size of a door opening.  Not only are the inside walls you mentioned a concern but maintaining the load carrying capacity of the framing is essential. From a framing standpoint, a longer header would be required along with new studs and jacks to support the header. Framing aside, siding  and possible trim alterations would be required on the exterior along with drywall or plaster work and trim modifications on the interior. Considering the complexities involved in changing door sizes let's see if I can help you find a way of replacing the door with one of the same or similar size.

The door you described seems to be a 2'-6" x 6'-8", 9 lite exterior steel door unit. This is narrow, by today's standards, for an exterior door but still available. See this Lowes exterior door unit as a possible solution for your project.  

Door manufacturers are constantly trying to stay competitive by introducing better designs, using less expensive or longer lasting materials or simpler construction practices.  Unfortunately these constant changes makes it difficult to change out the door slab and have it fit the old jamb properly.  Misaligned hinge mortices, small changes in the width and height of the slab from model to model as well as variations in threshold design and height are some of the more common problems encountered when attempting to fit a new door slab in an older jamb.  Because of the difficulties of fitting newer door slabs into older jambs I seldom make the attempt and always recommend that my clients replace the entire unit. This is my advice to you also.  

To determine the rough opening size for your existing door remove the interior casing.  This will expose the entire door jamb as well as the surrounding framing.  Hopefully the rough (framing)opening will be wider and higher than the actual door jamb.  The rough opening is usually framed one to two inches wider and one to one and a half inches higher than the door jamb size so there is room to level the door unit when it is installed. Compare the available rough opening size to the actual size of the exterior dimensions of the door jamb to determine if the new door unit will fit.  Pay particular attention to how the existing door jamb meets the floor.  Some older doors set lower into the floor than many newer doors and sometime multiple layers of flooring decrease the clearance between the bottom of the door and the floor. Just make sure that the new door will clear the finished floor.

If the rough opening provides adequate room for the new door, changing it out should be fairly straight forward requiring only basic carpentry skills.  If the rough opening is only slightly undersized it is sometimes possible to enlarge the opening a small amount by sawing or chiseling away some of the jacks or header. (USE EXTREME CAUTION NOT TO COMPROMISE THE LOAD BEARING CAPACITY OF THE FRAMING)

If a new door unit simply cannot be made to fit the existing rough opening I would strongly consider attempting to repair the existing unit.  The plastic(PVC) trim and accompanying gasket that secures the glass is available through special order from most home improvement stores. Repairs to the door slab itself or the jamb may be achieved using body filler.  You may find the following articles helpful: (this article explains how to make repairs on wood using body fillers)  Woodpecker Damage Repair.  (this article discusses common door repair issues and solutions) Door Repair.  additional information on exterior doors : Door Replacement   Threshold Adjustment

I hope my insight has been of some benefit in helping you with your door replacement project.

Good luck,  

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Tony Wood


I can answer a wide range of home improvement and maintenance questions. My expertise is in carpentry, painting, framing, siding/boxing, doors, windows, decks and screen and glass enclosures. Wood's Home Maintenance Service


I am a life time resident of North Carolina with over 30 years experience in multiple facets of the industrial, commercial and residential construction industry. For the past 23 years I have owned and operated Wood's Home Maintenance Service , providing services primarily in Johnston, Wake and Sampson Counties of North Carolina.


Several Home improvement articles published on Angie's List and other online forums.

High School graduate ~ proficient in CAD (computer aided design), Open Office program suite.

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