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How to install a door in an interior wall

How to install a door

Cutting into an interior wall is a fairly simple job for someone with intermediate carpentry skills, especially if you take it step by step.


Whether to open up a floor plan, add a new closet, provide entrance to a room or one of the many other reasons, remodelers often need to cut into existing walls. Before you start, make sure you have all required permits and check with local building inspectors regarding codes. Here’s how to install a door in an interior wall:


How to install a door

Step 1

Locate the opening. For side 1 of the opening, if possible, use an existing stud for one side of the new rough opening. It will act as a guide for your reciprocating saw and make installing a new header easier.

If this is not possible, open up the wall at least one full stud width on either side beyond the opening. This will give you room to work and make installing the new framing easier, although you will have to replace new wall cladding to match the old (plaster, drywall, paneling, etc.)

How to install a door 1

After laying out the rough opening, score the line across the header with a utility knife. This will allow you to snap the drywall cleanly at the top after you’ve cut down the sides.


Step 2

Use a tape measure, level and chalk line to snap a horizontal line at the top of the opening and vertical lines on the centers of the studs outside the opening. Score along those lines with a utility knife so you can carefully pry the wall covering loose with a pry bar, snapping it off cleanly at the score lines.

Check the wall cavity as soon as you can see inside for any plumbing or electrical lines. If you are qualified, move them yourself or call a plumber or electrician to move them for you. Continue to remove the wall covering until all wall studs are exposed.


How to install a door 3

Use a stud for a cutting guide if you can. If this in not possible due to layout restrictions, tack a straight board to the front side of the wall and use that to help make a straight cut. Any holes left over from tacking the board should be covered by the door trim.

Step 3

Use a reciprocating saw with a demolition blade, if possible, to cut the opening at the other side (side 2). It is often possible to cut to the exact rough opening on the second side (as opposed to opening up beyond as with the first side). Keep the shoe of the saw tight against the wall covering to avoid excessive vibration, which can damage the wall covering.

How to install a door 2

Cut the studs away from the bottom plate using a reciprocating saw with a bi-metal or rough demolition blade.

Step 4

Cut the nails attaching the studs to be removed at top and bottom with a reciprocating saw and metal-cutting blade. Cut the fasteners holding the drywall to the studs on side 2 so you can remove the studs without damaging the drywall (an oscillating multi-tool with a metal-cutting blade is ideal). Mark the specific dimensions for the new rough opening (about 2 inches wider and 1 inch taller than the door frame) on the top and bottom plates and install full studs on either side with toenails or screws.

In many cases, a structural header is not necessary. But when it is, install jack studs to the full studs (with the jack studs at the rough opening dimensions), and then install the header on top of the jack studs and place blocking (cripples) on top of the header. Use a toenailing technique or screws driven at angles.

Cut the bottom plate with a handsaw, reciprocating saw, or for the cleanest cut with minimal damage to adjacent floors, use an oscillating multi-tool. You’re now ready to install the door (link here to feature on website for installing a door.)

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Special conditions

Load-bearing walls must be temporarily supported before removing any studs. Put temporary plates at the ceiling and floor and install temporary studs or posts between them. You can install them a little bit away from where you’re working to leave yourself some room, but stay within a couple feet of the new opening.

To cut into masonry and brick walls, install temporary supports during cutting and headers, no matter what the span. Use metal box or concrete headers. Some brick walls may not need temporary support, as any bricks that may fall out during cutting can be replaced after the header is installed.

–By Rob Fanjoy

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