Framing for a New Exterior Door

This story shows how to frame for a new exterior door.


Once you've determined the location for a new entry door, check for obstacles in the wall. Often a quick look from the basement or crawlspace will tell you what's hidden inside the wall above. But expect the unexpected when cutting into a wall and work carefully to avoid damaging utility lines.

Water pipes or electrical cables can often be moved without a great deal of difficulty, but check with a plumber or electrician first. Drainpipes and heating or air-conditioning ducts are difficult to move; if one is in the way, you may have to relocate the doorway.

Also determine what sort of stairway you will need outside. By looking at an existing door's bottom in relation to the house's siding, you can tell how high the stairway will need to be. Consult manufacturer's instructions for the correct width and height of the rough opening you will frame. The method shown here minimizes drywall work.

Prestart Checklist

Most of a day to cut a drywall opening, make a frame for a door, and cut the siding

Tape measure, stud finder, drill, flat pry bar, hand drywall saw, circular saw, reciprocating saw, level, framing square

Removing wall materials, cutting lumber and building wall framing

Determine that no electrical, plumbing, or duct lines are in the way, or plan to move the lines.

Framing lumber (either 2x4 or 2x6), header lumber (2x6 or larger, plus 1/2-inch plywood), 3-inch screws, 16d and 12d nails

Step 1

Use a stud finder to determine the locations of your studs and plan the opening. Use a level to draw lines for the final rough opening and check for square, plumb, and level. Draw lines 1-1/2 inches outside these from floor to ceiling. Cut out and remove the drywall.

Step 2

Use a circular saw, then a reciprocating saw, to cut through each exposed stud in two places. If you are confident of your measuring and cutting skills, you can cut the bottom of these studs to serve as the bottom of the cripples, but they must be cut straight and square.

Step 3

Pry away the studs and pull them off the bottom plate. For safety while you work, pound exposed nails out of the exterior wall or bend them.

Step 4

Mark the locations of king and jack studs. Studs are 1-1/2 inches thick. Check that the distance between the jack studs equals the width of the rough opening.

Step 5

Assemble a king-and-jack-stud combination. Cut the jack stud to the height of the rough opening, minus 1-1/2 inches (to allow for the thickness of the bottom plate). Cut the king stud to reach from the bottom plate to the top plate. Place the jack stud on top of the king stud and nail or screw the pieces together.

Step 6

Tap the king-and-jack combination into position and use a level to check that it is plumb. Place the jack stud about 1/4 inch inside the layout line (it will move over when you drive the fastener).

Step 7

Angle-drive nails or screws to attach the studs to the bottom plate. Also angle-drive fasteners down through the faces of the studs. Attach them to the top plate the same way.

Step 8

If you will use an existing stud as a king stud, cut a jack stud and attach it to the existing stud. Carefully align the front edge of the jack stud with the front edge of the existing stud.

Step 9

To construct a header, cut two (three with 2x6 framing as shown) pieces of 2x6 (or larger) to the width of the rough opening, plus 3 inches (to allow for the thickness of the two jack studs). Cut 1/2-inch plywood spacers. Working on the floor, stack the pieces with the crowns facing the same direction (see next step) and use a square to make sure they are aligned. Fasten the pieces by driving two 3-inch screws or 16d nails every 8 inches or so.

Step 10

Sight along the header to determine its crown, where it bulges upward in the middle. Place the header, crown side up, on top of the jack studs. You may need to tap the header into place.

Step 11

Attach the header with angle-driven screws or nails. If you have removed a wide section of drywall, you can instead drive fasteners through the outside face of the king studs.

Step 12

Check that the opening is square, level, and plumb. It need not be perfect, but it should be pretty close. If you have doubts set the door temporarily in place to make sure it will fit. If the opening is not square, you may be able to remove fasteners at the top and move the king studs over.

Step 13

Cut short cripple studs to fit between the header and the top plate. Tap them in where the old studs used to be. Drill pilot holes (short pieces like this are prone to splitting) and attach with angle-driven screws or nails.

Step 14

Use a reciprocating saw to cut the bottom plate straight down to the floor. Pry the plate out.

Step 15

Drill 1-inch holes through the siding at each corner. Slip a reciprocating saw blade into a hole and cut through the siding, using the jack studs and header as guides. (If you have stucco siding, first cut away the stucco.

Step 16

Have a helper or two catch the siding and sheathing section as it falls. Cut the section into disposable pieces and cart it away to the trash.

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