DIY Tips for Installing Doors and Windows

Pre-hung doors and windows of just about any size are available for both interior and exterior purposes. These comes with the jamb and the trim molding already assembled so all that is required is to open the wall, adjust the framing to the proper size and slide the new unit into place. Using one of these will make adding a new opening simpler and a pre-hung unit will have jamb measurements printed on the packaging to make building the frame easier.

installing a jamb extension to build out a door or window jamb

Installing a Pre-Hung Door

Remove the trim molding from both sides of the jamb but don't remove any nails, screws or other device holding the door stationary within the jamb. Slide the unit into place and set it flush with the surrounding wall plaster on the hinged-side of the door. Be sure the trim molding will lay flat against the wall and jamb when installed. Check the other side of the wall and if necessary the jamb isn't flush there also, install a jamb extension to build it out. Use carpenter's glue between the jamb and extension to help blend the two pieces of wood without a visible seam. After the glue has dried, sand the seam to to remove any roughness.

diagram pre-hung window

Installing a Window

Remove the interior and exterior trim molding but leave the stabilizer keeping the window sash in place until installation is complete.

Install a window from the outside of the house. Set the jamb flush with the exterior wall and add a jamb extension on the inside if necessary. Nail short pieces of 1x3 to the exterior siding and bump the jamb against it to keep the unit flush with the exterior siding while completing the installation.

using shims to square a pre-hung door

Shim the Jamb

Slide shims between the jamb and jack studs to hold the unit in place. Drive the shims from each sides to form pairs around the frame.

For doors, place the shims near the hinges and every 12 inches or so along the header. Space shim pairs about every 12 inches around a window jamb, along the header and sill.

using a level to set a pre-hung door plumb

Make the Unit Plumb

Adjust the unit until it is plumb and flush inside the jamb. Hold a level against the side and adjust the jamb until the centered bubble indicates the unit is plumb. Check the unit face and make sure this plane is plumb as well. Avoid causing the jamb board to bow by forcing the shims too far into the gap, they should be snug but not jammed in the space.

adjusting the reveal to square a door installation

Check the Reveal

Also check that the door or window is square in the jamb with a consistent space (reveal) around all the moving parts. Reposition the shims to adjust the reveal.

Drive 3 inch finishing nails through the jamb, the shims and into the wall studs to secure the unit in place. Space nails at 12 inch intervals around the jamb. When it's secure use a handsaw to cut the shims off flush with the wallboard and siding. Remove any stabilizer holding the moving parts in place and make sure the unit functions properly. Re-attach the moldings that were removed earlier to finish the installation.