Can You Replace A Door Without Replacing The Frame?

Jessica Vaillancourt
by Jessica Vaillancourt

Most of us prefer the quickest, most affordable option when it comes to home DIY projects. It’s not about cutting corners, but about working smarter rather than harder. If you want to replace one of the doors in your home, you might have some questions about the most efficient method. Like, is it possible to replace a door without replacing its frame?

The answer is yes, you can replace a door without replacing a frame. To pull this off, the door frame needs to be in good condition, and the new door slab must be the same dimensions as the old door. You’ll need to install the hinges on the new door yourself. This project is not easy, but it is possible.

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Things to Consider When Replacing a Door

So you want to replace a door in your home. Whether it is an exterior or interior door, you should consider certain factors when deciding to replace just the door. Everything from your current door frame quality to whether you purchase a door slab or a pre-hung door are necessary considerations.

The Quality of the Door Frame

To understand what is right for you and your door replacement project, you need to understand door frames, door slabs, and pre-hung doors. For starters, a door frame is made of three primary components:

  • The sill. This is usually only built with exterior doors. It’s the sealant piece on the bottom that keeps out the elements and keeps in heat.
  • The jambs. These are the wooden pieces on the left and right sides of the door that keep it square.
  • The head. This is the top piece that is metal, or lined with trim. 

Now that you know what makes up the door frame, you can consider what kind of shape the frame is in. Is it in poor condition? If it has the following characteristics, you might need to replace the frame itself:

  • Dents
  • Warping 
  • Deep grooves and scratches
  • One or both jambs are warped or cracking
  • Wood rot

Door Slabs vs. Pre-Hung Doors

Whether you purchase a door slab or a pre-hung door will come down to your needs and preferences. So, what are the differences between the two? Which one should you go with?

If your existing frame is in good shape, and you just want a new door, purchase a door slab. A door slab is a door without the hinges or frame, which needs to be outfitted with hardware and painted or stained.

Door slabs sometimes come with pre-cut door knob holes. This is what you should get if you’re replacing just the door and not the frame. The down side of a door slab is you will have to create the hinges yourself. You will also need to make sure the door slab is the exact dimensions of the old door you’re replacing.

So what about a pre-hung door? Pre-hung doors are doors that come already attached by hinges to a door frame. Pre-hung doors cut down on the work you have to do, because you install the frame and the door all at once. These are good options if you need to gut your old door frame, or if you are newly building your home and have a door hole.

How to Replace a Door Without Replacing a Frame

If you’ve decided just replacing the door slab is your best option, there are some steps you’ll need to take. With a little elbow grease, the new door will look seamless in the old frame.

Step One: Get Exact Measurements of Old Door

A new door slab won’t work in the old frame if it doesn’t have the exact dimensions of the previous door. From the height and width to the placement of the hinges, it will all need to align perfectly.

The good news is that most commercial door slabs come in fairly universal dimensions. The average interior door height is 80 inches.

Once you know exactly what size door slab you need, you can order a door slab from stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s. You can also get a custom-made one from a carpenter.

Step Two: Create the Hinge Slots

Once you have your new door slab, it’s time to create the hinge slots you’ll need to attach the door to the frame. This can be done with a Dremel, or a chisel and hammer.

  • Clamp the door down to a sawhorse. This will keep the door stable for when you chisel out the slots in the side of the door.
  • Measure and mark where the hinges will go. Take measurements from the old door to trace with a pencil where the new hinges will go.
  • Cut into hinge slot outlines with a utility knife. Taking a utility knife, cut vertically down about ¼ of an inch all away around the outline that you traced. 
  • Chisel away the hinge slot. Stick the chisel into the outline cut you made, and with a hammer gently start tapping away the wood. Once it starts to take shape, angle the chisel 20 degrees and keep chiseling until you have a smooth slot. 
  • Install the metal hinges. Place the metal hinge inside the slot. It should sit flush with the door. If it doesn’t, keep adjusting the wood with the chisel. Then screw in the hinges.

Step Three: Attach Door Slab to Frame

Now that you have outfitted your door with hinges, a doorknob, and the paint or stain of your choice, it’s time to attach it to the frame. Lift the door into place, keeping it angled halfway open so you have access to the hinges.

Shimmy the door until the hinges fit into the slots you created. Now drive screws into the hinge holes so the hinges get solidly attached to the frame jamb. Make sure the doorknob is properly installed and the hinge pins are in place.

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Related Questions

What are standard door sizes?

Standard interior door size heights are 80”, 84”, and 96”. Standard interior door widths range from 28” to 32”. Exterior doors can vary, and often come in larger sizes. A standard exterior door height can range from the most common of 80”, up to 96”. Their width is usually around 36”, but can be narrower or wider.  

Are pre-hung doors expensive?

Pre-hung doors are generally more expensive than door slabs. Taking into account the price of the door itself plus professional installation, pre-hung doors will cost anywhere from $300-$500. A generic, commercial-bought door slab can be as cheap as $50. But it’s also possible to spend thousands on a customized, handcrafted door slab.

Jessica Vaillancourt
Jessica Vaillancourt

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