Repair or replace: interior doors that will be moved

jweistSeptember 19, 2012

My question is another variation of the "repair or replace" quandary. I am doing some remodeling in the interior of a not-fancy house built in 1910. I want to match the original trim and door design.

The project involves moving four of the original doors to new locations or replacing them with new doors that are made to the original specifications. The doors are 6 foot 8 inches tall and have six horizontal raised panels. They are 32", 34" and 36" wide. The doors will be painted, to match other doors and trim.

I'll include a photo. There is a sixth panel at the bottom of the door that is not completely shown.

I am paying someone else to do the door and trim work, not having much experience myself with moving doors. The cost of new solid wood doors, pre-hung and made by an Amish shop in Ohio is about $400 per door including shipping (based on three different price quotes). My carpenter charges $75 per hour total for himself and his helper.

My carpenter has observed that to move the existing doors and to get the locks and latches lined up, and most especially to true up the doors in a house where few joints are square would take a good deal of time. He believes that it will be cheaper to buy the new pre-hung doors. New doors of course will require installation labor.

My question is: does that sound about right? Meaning, does it sound right that at $75 per hour, the labor involved in moving and truing an existing door will likely be near or more than the $400 plus installation for a new door?

Thank you for your help.


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Our contractor moved 6+ doors in our 1840's home renovation. To the best of my knowledge it wasn't much additional work. Your house may be differnt. I love my old growth doors. Someone later on may want to strip your doors and new doors would be different. If you do go the new door route please keep the old doors for the next owner. I wouldn't let my contractor throw out anything - he kept and reused trim, floor boards, doors, windows, etc. but that's me.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 11:47PM
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Experience is the key. If he has very little (and how often are doors moved?) then, yes, it could take a while.

But after a door or 2, he should have it figured out. It seems hard to believe that new doors + their installation will end up being cheaper than just moving the originals. Sounds to me like hanging a door that is not pre hung is taking your guy out of his comfort zone.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 3:51AM
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The only contractor we ever hired to do any work was my brother in law. He does have 40 years experience and does really good work. He charges $30 an hour (yes that is cheap for most contractors but it was not a family rate he is not that nice).

When it came to the exterior and interior doors and windows for the addition he built us he insisted on non pre-hung windows and doors. He insisted that they were a huge waste of money, the manufacturer was just charge for a very simple frame that was way easier to build in place and adjust slightly as needed. He also did move one interior door for us from the upstairs of the main house to the addition.

Clarion is right, he is obviously out of his comfort zone. I watched and helped my brother and law hang the two exterior doors in my kitchen and my hubby and I will have no problem trying to tackle the bedroom doors that we will be installing in the addition upstairs ourselves. I think your contractor can handle it. It seems a shame to order new doors when you have perfectly good doors ready to use. Of course I am not paying myself $75 an hour so I will not be worried about how long it takes me to accomplish the task.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2012 at 10:12AM
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My carpenter has observed that to move the existing doors and to get the locks and latches lined up, and most especially to true up the doors in a house where few joints are square would take a good deal of time. He believes that it will be cheaper to buy the new pre-hung doors. New doors of course will require installation labor.

In an old house, doors were often custom-fit to the spot, compensating for any out-of-true framing by removing some of the wood on the door.

There's where the problem is ... check your doors by measuring the bottom to lower hinge, distance between hinges, top of door to top of top hinge, and bottom of door to bottom of latch. Check corner angles and heights of doors.

You will probably find that no two doors are identical, which might mean a lot of tedious custom futzing and fixing.

When I had a door replaced in my 1890s adobe, the handyman specified "undrilled with no hinge mortises". That way he could drill the doorknob hole to match the existing catch position, and didn't have to make a mortise for the door half of the hinges.

If you are using half-mortise hinges and rim-mounted locks and latches, it's a lot easier. But if the corners have been adjusted for a wonky door frame, it's too hard to un-wonk it.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 11:46AM
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If the doors have been altered over the years as the house settles. they are unlikely to fit another opening without further alteration.

Adding wood back can be a PITA (but can be done on painted doors).

    Bookmark   September 22, 2012 at 1:54PM
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Thank all of you - - bostonpam, clarion, Kali615, lazygardens, and brickeyee - - for all of your good advice. You saved me from an unpleasant and expensive experience and prompted me to look for, and eventually find, a great outcome. I did not go with the "replace with new doors" guy. You persuaded me that he was not the person I wanted hammering and sawing on my old building. I spent several months tracking down someone who loved working on old houses. I was so impressed with his work that I expanded the project. The whole thing cost $42,000 but it ended up being worth every penny. I could not be more pleased with the result. I now see how easy it is to slip into the reasoning that, "well, Mr. #1 is here; he's willing to do the job; seems competent enough; I really don't want to look further." I am greatly indebted to all of you for nudging me out of that framework. As you can see by the date, it took a while to get the job done. But the wait and the change in direction were worth it. Thank you again for your help with this good outcome!

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 7:07PM
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Thanks for the follow up. But you know the rule....must post photos!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2014 at 8:29PM
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Yes please post pictures.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2014 at 3:56PM
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