How to Replace a Double Door – Starting the Basement Project

By | October 4, 2016

Recently we tackled a big job to kick off the basement renovation, so I thought I’d share a few tips for how to replace a double door, DIwYatt style.

One of the biggest issues with replacing a door is to make sure you get a good tight seal, so it doesn’t leak. Not only does it hurt the efficiency of your home, but it also opens a door, literally, to a bunch of other problems. In our case, this has been needing to be done since we moved in, but we just never got around to it since the basement hasn’t been a priority. But, not only was it frustrating to not have a key or a deadbolt on that door, it also let a bunch of dirt, leaves, moisture, and bugs in. Melissa has been wanting to do this project for awhile. Judging by the amount of dead bugs on the floor, that’s no surprise.


The first, and most important step to get the right sized replacement door. That seems like it wouldn’t be that hard, but even after careful measuring, we’ve found it’s really easy to get wrong, especially if you decide to change door styles instead of going back with the same door size and layout. Our old door was made up of a 30 inch door and a 30 inch window panel next to it. We wanted a larger door, so in our case, it was better to go back in with a 36 inch door, with two side light windows.

Getting the door home is also a challenge, so the trailer came in handy. The shipping pallet the door was attached to was very helpful in getting it home and around to the back of the house.


The next step is to start removing the old door. If you don’t plan on saving the old door, it’s pretty quick to destroy and remove it that way, but we wanted to at least donate the door to the local Re-Store, so we needed to be careful with the removal.

We started by removing the interior trim, as well as cutting the caulking between the brick mold (exterior trim) and the house.


The plates for the striker and deadbolt also needed to be removed, because the screws that hold them on are long enough to gain strength from the jack-stud.

At this point, the only thing holding the door in place is the nails through the brick mold into the house. To start, we used a hammer and a scrap block on the inside to start pushing the old door and nails out of the house. Once the door was started, we were able to use a pry bar to remove it the rest of the way.

The last thing to do to get the old door out is to pry up the door sill. When you put a door in, you want to use an exterior caulk that will withstand the weather and keep the water, bugs, and air out (or in). In an odd turn of events, our old door looked like it has been set in place using liquid nail instead of exterior caulk, perhaps one of the reasons it wasn’t sealed very well. But, it did make it hard to remove. We used the pry bar again to get the sill free and we were ready to take the door out of the opening.


It left a bunch of residue that had to be removed, but you’ll need to remove any old caulk as well, because it could prevent the new caulk from forming a good seal.



If you hadn’t guessed it, pretty much the theme of this post is getting a good seal. If you can do that, your door project will likely go just fine.

After scraping the liquid nail from the opening, we were ready to put the new door in. A couple of things to check at this point are the squareness of the opening and the flatness of the sill.  Tom Silva from This Old House has a couple of good videos explaining how to do this. Here is one that we watched prior to tackling this projects. It’s a little more involved than you need, but it will give you some good background information. You can skip ahead to the 12:00 mark if you’d like.

Luckily, we had a square opening and a flat sill.

After opening it up and removing the moving handles, we did several test fits to be sure what our installation approach was going to be. At this point, we marked and pre-drilled the holes where the screws would hold the door to the house would be. Melissa was already excited because this was quite the transformation already.


We ended up laying the door down on it’s exterior face on some blocks so we would have easy access to the interior side of the brick mold and the bottom of the sill plate for applying caulk.

First, remove all the old caulk off the house with a scraper or putty knife.


You’ll need to use exterior caulk. Melissa almost goofed and bought the wrong kind when she ran to get some mid-project.


You also need to apply two think lines of caulk along the concrete.


You want your beads of caulk to be THICK unless you want your door to leak. You’ll hear Tom Silva stress this at about 12:35 in the video above, and you’ll hear him get annoyed about having to repeat himself at about the 12:43 mark.


After applying the caulk, we carefully lifted it into place. It’s heavy, so you may want to enlist the help of a neighbor. Melissa was able to help me with this step.

Once it was in place, we started working on shimming the opening around the screws and getting it secured in place. This step is important to make sure your door frame is true so your door will seal and swing correctly.


Once everything is in place, you can cut off the excess shim lengths. A hammer and chisel work well for that.


Next we used some minimally expanding foam to fill in the gaps between the door and the frame.


The next step was to caulk around the brick mold and fill in all of the exterior holes to prepare for painting.


Again, too much caulk is better than too little here. Just smooth out the bead with your finger for a nice clean, paint-able look.


Then, we painted the door and the door frame and the exterior door trim with white exterior paint and we were done, at least from the outside. Of course, we also had to add the hardware. When we replaced the locks and knob on the front door when we moved in five years ago, we actually bought the matching hardware for this basement door. Melissa had totally forgotten about that and wanted to buy a new one, but I knew where it was stashed in the garage. For as much as she complains about the messy garage, I did pretty well finding it.


Melissa has been working on painting the interior of the door as well, and we had to add new trim, as well, so we’ll be back with a post about that pretty soon.


As for the outside, we’re already enjoying this upgrade a lot. Not only is it a wider door to come in and out while carrying things like table and chairs, but it’s also nice that it’s white to match the rest of the exterior trim on our windows and doors. Oh, and it no longer leaks.


The old door:


And the new one:


Much better. Much more secure (it actually locks with a deadbolt!) and much-better sealed. Thanks to a good caulk job.

Any questions on replacing a door? Leave us a comment, below.

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