The first door installation

After we determined what pre-hung exterior doors will meet our needs and budget, we indulged in actually spending the money. It is always more fun doing so after having put some research into a product. It’s somewhat rewarding.

Our friend Drew stopped by to help with the door installation and we decided to have a test run with the back door.

The process is similar to the window buck preparation and installation. To begin with, we prepared the masonry opening to make sure that the buck fits in with a little thermal break gap that we can spray out with foam.

Off the shelf, doors with frames come in standard widths (typically 32 and 36 inches) and standard heights (typically 80 inches). We had to decide what door size would fit into our masonry openings.

A 38 inch wide masonry opening would have room for a thermal break gap and a two by six buck on each side. That leaves us with a 34 to 34 ½ inch opening (depending on the width of the thermal break gap), just enough to fit the frame of the 32 inch wide steel door we purchased.

The door height is 80 inches (6’-8”) which is pretty good for a basement, and just about enough for a tall guy like me (6’-7”). I won’t fit through if I were cowboy boots, but should otherwise.

By the way, this was all figured out before we purchased the doors. I had made a couple of trips to the store to measure and re-measure the outer door frame dimensions to determine what would fit.

Back to the basement: We pre-assembled the buck, then made sure it was square and big enough to receive the door and frame. This one is different than the window buck because it only has the two sides.

We set the buck into the masonry opening and then put shims on all four sides while making sure it was plumb, level and square. Before we fastened it to the wall we checked once more that the door and frame would fit.

Each side of the buck is anchored into the masonry opening with five 4 ½ inch long, ¼ inch masonry tap screws. Like with the window buck, and as mentioned above, we prefer a small gap – a thermal break – between the buck and the masonry that we can spray out with foam.

Next we set and shim the door and frame into the buck, making sure the assembly was level, plumb and square. Ideally, we have a minimum of 3/8 to ¼ inch gap between the door frame and buck, which eases the installation. That gap will also be filled with low expanding spray foam to eliminate air leakage potential.

Another quality control mechanism that is recommended is to check all weather stripping gaps between the door and frame. These gaps along the top, bottom and sides should all be the same size. If not, you are guaranteed that the doorframe is not square.

Last but not least we fastened the door frame into the buck with the supplied 3 inch wood screws and tested that the door opened and closed properly.

We still have to install the locks, but there is no immediate urgency. So we leave that task and the security storm door installation for another day.


About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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