How to Build a Tiny House – Part 12: How to Hang a Door

By Staff
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How to Build a Tiny House – Part 13: How to Hang a Door

Check out these step-by-step instructions for hanging the doors in your tiny house.

January 2015

By the Editors of Skills Institute Press

Good things do come in small packages. Just ask internationally recognized small living expert, Jay Shafer. Ranging in size from 100 to 120 square feet, Jay Shafer’s DIY Book of Backyard Sheds & Tiny Houses (Skills Institute Press LLC, 2013) features beautiful small houses can be used as guest cottages, art or writing studios, home offices, craft workshops, vacation retreats or a full-time residence. Whatever your building goal, this book will teach you how to plan and build your structure from the ground up. The following excerpts from chapter four, “How to Build a Tiny House,” shows you how to hang a door.

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Jay Shafer’s DIY Book of Backyard Sheds & Tiny Houses.

Looking for other steps? Check them out in How to Build a Tiny House.

Hanging the Door

Once the jambs are in place, you can install the door. The process involves fitting it to the opening and attaching the hinges.

Fitting the Door: If a ready-made door is too large, you can plane it to fit. A solid door can be trimmed by any amount, but do not remove more than 1 inch from the bottom or sides of a hollow-core type. If you are hanging a shop-made door, you will need to cut a bevel along the lock-set edge.

Hinges: A solid-core door, or any type taller than 80 inches, requires three hinges. Hollow-core doors or solid ones shorter than the standard can be hung with only two. The size of the hinges depends on the width and thickness of the door (chart, below).

To attach the hinges, you first need to cut shallow insets called mortises in the door and jamb. The best tool for making them is a router. On both the jamb and door, cut the mortises as long as the hinges and 1/4 inch narrower than the width of the hinge leaves. When installed, the leaves will extend past the contacting edges of the door and jamb by 1/4 inch, preventing the hinges from binding. If you choose hinges with square rather than rounded corners, you will need to chisel out the corners to fit the hinges.

Choosing Hinges.

Determine the required height of the door hinges according to the width and thickness of the door, as specified in the chart below. The width of the hinges varies with the door’s thickness; for a door up to 1 3/8 inches thick, you need hinges 3 inches wide; for a 1 3/4-inch-thick door, 3 1/2-inch-wide hinges are required.


Attaching Hinges

1. Routing the Jamb Mortises.

Purchase a hinge-mortising jig (right), or make a template to guide the router: With a saber saw, cut a piece of 3/4-inch plywood about 6 by 12 inches.

Make a cutout centered along one edge, cutting it as long as a hinge leaf; for its width, make it as wide as the planned mortise, adding the diameter of the router bit’s template guide and 3/4 inch for the thickness of the fence. Cut a 2-inch-wide fence the same length as the template and fasten it to the template with four countersunk 2-inch No. 6 wood screws.

Mark the top of the upper hinge on the side jamb by measuring down 7 inches from the head jamb. Mark the bottom of the lowest hinge 11 inches above the bottom of the jamb. If you are adding a third hinge, locate it halfway between the other two.

Clamp the template to the jamb so the fence is against the edge of the jamb on the side where the door will open, and the top of the cutout is aligned with the upper-hinge mark. Fit the router with a straight bit and template guide, then adjust the depth of cut to the combined thickness of the template and the hinge leaf. With the router flat on the template, move it in small clockwise circles within the template cutout (right, top) until the bottom of the mortise is flat.

Reposition the template and rout the middle and bottom mortises.

For rectangular hinges, square the corners of the mortises with a wood chisel.

2.Transferring the Hinge Locations.

Working with a helper, prop the door in its frame.

With your helper holding 2 1/2-inch nails as spacers between the top of the door and the head jamb, drive wood blocks under the door to wedge it tight against the nails.

Drive a shim between the door and the lockset-side jamb about 3 feet from the floor to push the door against the hingeside jamb.

With a utility knife, nick the edge of the door at the top and bottom of each hinge mortise in the jamb (left).

Rout the hinge mortises on the door.

3. Attaching the Hinges.

Separate the two leaves of a hinge by pulling out the pin. Set the leaf with two barrels in a mortise on the door and mark the screw holes with an awl.

Remove the hinge leaf, drill pilot holes for the screws provided, and fasten the leaf to the door (left).

Install the other hinges on the door in the same way, then attach the matching leaves to the jamb.

A Hinge-Mortising Jig

A commercial hinge-mortising jig has templates to fit three different hinge sizes and spacings. Adaptable to doors either 1 3/8 or 1 3/4 inches thick, the jig can be used for mortises on both the jamb and the door. In the model shown here, plastic spacers are inserted in the jig to change the size of the hinge cavity. 

4. Hanging the Door Temporarily.

Lift the door into position and slip some wood blocks under it. Shift the door to engage the barrels of the top hinge, then slide the hinge pin in partway (left).

Pivot the door to join the bottom hinge leaves and slip the hinge pin in partway, then fit the pin in the middle hinge.

5. Marking the Bevel.

Standing on the door-stop side, close the door—its front edge will hit the edge of the jamb, preventing it from closing fully.

Holding the door against the jamb, scribe a pencil line down the face of the door where it meets the jamb (right).



6. Beveling the Door Edge.

With a ruler, extend the pencil line across the ends of the door, marking the angle of the bevel.

Holding a jack plane at the same angle, guide it along the door edge (left). A portable power planer that can be set to the desired bevel angle—3 to 5 degrees— is also handy for this job.

Continue planing until you reach the pencil line.

Rehang the door as in Step 4, inserting the hinge pins all the way this time. Install the hinge-side door stop, butting it against the head-jamb stop.

Pass a dime along the hinge jamb to check for the correct clearance between it and the door; use a nickel to check the clearance at the top and other side of the door. If necessary, take the door down again and plane any high spots. Use a block plane for the top or bottom of the door, working from the edges toward the center to avoid splintering the end grain.

When the door fits properly, drive all the nails home and sink them with a nail set, then fill the holes.

Reprinted with permission from Jay Schafer’s DIY Book of Backyard Sheds & Tiny Houses: Build Your Own Guest Cottage, Writing Studio, Home Office, Craft Workshop, or Personal Retreat by Jay Schafer and published by Skills Institute Press LLC and Four Lights Tiny House Company, 2013.Buy this book from our store: Jay Shafer’s DIY Book of Backyard Sheds & Tiny Houses.