Excerpt from my regular column in the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Question: My husband and I want to have new doors installed for the bedrooms, bathrooms and closets of our 50+ year old Montecito home and we just read an advertised special sale at the big box hardware store for pre-hung doors for $60 each with another special offer for the installation. Is this a good deal and what all is involved with replacing our doors?
Your Handyman: New quality doors that are correctly installed would be a nice upgrade for your home and you are wise to do a little research before making the purchase. The two most basic categories of interior doors are hollow core doors and solid core doors. The door that you see on the big box store promotion is more than likely a hollow core door which is simply a wood frame with a thin sheet of wood veneer or masonite on the front and back, and the interior of a hollow core door is usually filled with corrugated cardboard baffles. A hollow core door will be your least expensive option but will provide very little sound insulation for a bathroom or bedroom, and is easily cracked or broken if kicked or pounded on by an angry youngster. A popular style of hollow core door is faced with six or more molded masonite panels with a stamped wood grain to simulate real wood.
A solid core door is not made from solid wood but like the hollow core door is a frame with a veneer or masonite facing, but the interior of the door is typically filled with a solid particle board material giving it much more strength, insulation and weight. A solid core door will provide good sound insulation, will have a more substantial feel to it, and should survive even the most vigorous tantrum by a child or grandchild.
Both types of doors can be purchased either as either just a loose (slab) door or pre-hung. Pre-hung means that the door comes with hinges already installed that attach it to a new door jamb and that a hole is already bored in the door for the new lockset. The door jamb is the three sided wood frame that cases and supports a door with one vertical side having the hinges and the other vertical side having the strike plate and hole for the latch. In order to install a pre-hung door the existing wood casement trim which frames the jamb on the old door will have to be removed from both sides in order for the old door and jamb to be removed by the carpenter, and then new casement trim will need to be installed after the new door and jamb are installed. If your existing door jambs and casement trim are in good shape and you don’t want the extra work of replacing and painting them, then the old door can be unscrewed from the hinges, the carpenter will size a new slab door to match the old door, and just screw it onto the existing jamb using new hinges. The same is true for your locksets which can be disassembled off the old doors and then easily installed onto the new doors if money is not in the budget for new locksets.
I personally think that you will be much happier in the long term if you spend the extra money for solid core doors, or maybe just switch out a couple of doors at a time rather than do the whole house at once. Most people appreciate the extra privacy and durability afforded by a solid door.
Finish carpenters pride themselves in he ability to correctly hang a door, it is a skill that is only acquired with much practice and you want to be sure that you hire an experienced carpenter to hang your new doors whether they are pre-hung or loose. If you decide to opt for the installation special at the big box hardware store, make sure that you meet the contractor who will actually hang your doors, request references for recent similar jobs, and take the time to call a couple of the references. When it comes to installation services, the big box store is more playing the role of a referral service rather than a local general contractor, and the people who do the actual work often are based in communities far away from Santa Barbara. Contractors live or die by their reputation and a good rule of thumb is to hire local when possible. Santa Barbara has no shortage of highly skilled carpenters who can expertly hang any type of door and it will be much easier to work out any problems that may occur with a local contractor as opposed to someone based out of town.
Owner, YourHandyman & Construction
CA License #935259