We recently did some work for a neighbor who needed help replacing a worn, dilapidated (and ill-matched) door. We think it turned out well.
(The "before" door)
The original door was in bad shape. Not only was it literally falling apart (delaminating and splitting), but the hinges weren't mortised and it was installed with drywall screws (not rated for exterior use -- and two snapped off while I was taking them out).
The new door is a birch-faced, exterior rated, solid-core 1-3/4in door that will last for the next few decades. We picked it up at Dolan's Lumber and had them do the matching, which means they mortise the hinges and drill the holes for the knobs at the shop which saves quite a bit of clean-up on site (door prep is very dusty). The door was birch faced only because that was the only one that was exterior rated, but it did finish beautifully smooth... better than a primed door.
We hung it on solid brass hinges (with a satin-nickel top coating) for weather resistance and installed a vintage Japanese-made peep-hole. The knob and deadbolt are from Schlage and installed with 5in backsets for a more mid-century look. We also installed an aluminum top and bottom plate to help protect the door itself from the elements as the edges of the door are the most tender — especially the top and bottom.
Some things worth noting:
- As mentioned, having the door shop match your door is a good idea (providing the old one fits well). This is something you cannot do at Home Depot and mortising hinges takes special equipment (or skill with a chisel). I've hand matched all of the doors in our own house with a router and template and will gladly pay someone else to do the work -- the the clean-up... especially for a 150# door.
- We used Behr Ultra flat exterior paint (color: "Falling Leaves"). This finished very well and much better than our satin/semi-gloss incident. The finish is fantastic (almost looks sprayed) when applied with a short-nap roller — see the pix below. I was quite impressed.
- I taped the hinges (and cut tape to shape) prior to installing them. This made keeping paint off of the hinges much easier.
- When drilling the peephole, start with a small bit and precisely measure the hole on both sides as it's easy to tilt the drill and end up with a cockeyed peephole. Drill each hole 1/2 way and meet in the middle. Repeat with the larger spade bit — don't drill one way and let it blast-out/splinter the back... drill from each side and meet in the middle.
- Although a 1-3/4in solid door is heavy, if using leverage and gravity in your favor (and scraps of wood for props and spacers), it's possible for one person to hang it solo.
- The Schlage commercial-quality deadbolts are worth the money. The commercial doorknobs are solid, but the expense is tough to swallow. We used a residential-grade knob coupled with a commercial-grade deadbolt.
- Get your locks keyed to match from your lock-shop. Much better than having two keys or having to do it later.