Home Improvement

That’s My Jamb (aka: How To Hang A Door)

Hope you guys had an awesome Labor Day. We split time between family and house projects which is pretty much our sweet spot. This week is going to be especially hairy thanks to having book stuff nearly every day, but we did manage to eke out a few things to share and hope to be back to normal next week (might not be as on top of comments until then either).

But back to my jamb. Or should I say my jambs? They don’t have casings yet, the leftover doorknobs will be upgraded to these backplated-versions, and one door still needs to be painted like whoa – but boy does it feel good to have two doors hanging on this side of the hallway. And because a bunch of you requested the full play-by-play, here’s how we added jambs and hung both doors – complete with details on carving out a spot for hinges and a doorknob.

Until last week, things have looked like this. The door-less laundry room wasn’t a big deal, since it actually made working in there easier. But the plastic drop cloth closing off the storage room was less than pretty and less than convenient.

Installing these two puppies gave me a whole new respect for doors. They’re a relatively complex operation, at least considering how much I took them for granted.

On top of the hardware (hinges, dooknob, strike plate) the doorway itself was made up of three separate trim pieces. All of which we’d be installing.

We debated purchasing a pre-hung door for the laundry room (one that comes already placed in a jamb, which saves you from having to carve out spots for the hinges and knob) but we had trouble finding one that matched the style we wanted for the storage room door, plus it was hard to beat the price on the slab (aka: not pre-hung) version. And since the laundry room door was an existing door that we’re reusing (it used to lead to the storage room), I’d be stuck making a jamb for that one anyway. So we decided to attempt making a jamb for that already-owned door first and if all went well (or at least okay) we’d proceed with hanging the other door from scratch too.

Well, not totally from scratch since Home Depot sells these $19 jamb kits for doors up to 36″ wide (ours are 32″).

Besides coming in three pre-cut pieces (two sides, one top) the nice thing about the kit is that the two side pieces already have a rabbet joint cut on one end so that the top piece can sit nicely across the two. Ours needed a slight trim to fit into the framed doorway, so I was just careful to cut it off the non-rabbeted end.

We propped up the door on the ground using some scrap wood so I could construct my jamb with gravity on my side. I leaned the side pieces in place, but couldn’t place the top piece until it was cut down a little bit.

I measured the width from jamb-edge to jamb-edge, but had to account for both the fact that it was sitting in the rabbet joints (so it’d need to be a little shorter than my measurement) and that I wanted to give it about 1/8″ of breathing room around the door too.

Once that was cut, I started the process of mortising/routing out the spots for the hinges on the jamb – since they need to be recessed into the wood to work. Since they were already attached to our door, I marked where the hinges should go on the jamb based on their door placement.

Once I had marked where on the jamb each one should go, I used a spare hinge to trace out the shape that needed to be routed out.

I purchased a compact router for $99 at Home Depot (it’s called a Rigid 1-1/2 HP Compact Router) and an $18 bit meant for work like this. I had done some of this work by hand before and it wasn’t super fast or super precise, so I decided it’d be worth the investment this time around.

Before taking my new router for a spin on the jamb, I practiced on a scrap board first. My freehand attempts weren’t great, so I started clamping some other wood scraps as sort of a guide. You can see how that worked out for me on the routed hinge spot on the far left of the board below. Muuuch cleaner.

When the time came to make my official first cut on the jamb, it came out awesome (if I do say so myself).

With both spots for the hinges cut, I could nail my three jamb pieces together. I used a 2″ nail through the side pieces into the top.

Here’s the jamb that Sherry and I pushed loosely in place within the framed door to the laundry room. You can see that we started the process of hanging this door before we did any of the backsplash (took us a while longer to tackle the glass one).

The next part is the most persnickety: getting every side of the jamb level and plumb. We did our best, adding shims – especially under the hinges – to help us adjust things where needed. Once we were satisfied, I nailed the jamb into the door frame on all sides.

I lost Sherry to Teddy at that point, but thanks to some shims under the door I could hang it myself by screwing the hinge into the jamb. Here was the moment of truth.

The moment was a bit of a whomp whomp because it didn’t work. Sad trombone. It was a little tight on the top corner.

I checked all my levels again, and it turns out that the top corner had slipped out of plumb when we turned our attention to the bottom. So I shoved a couple more shims in there to correct it and things were back in working order. Now that the door closed well, I could attach the strike plate (where the door latches), and nail in the stop molding around the jamb.

I was pretty darn happy with how it turned out, though it was definitely not speedy.

A little while later (we finished up the backsplash and the counter in between these two doors) it was time to wrestle this puppy into place (the glass isn’t frosted, it’s just covered in protective plastic).

Since the door didn’t have any hinges, I’d have to route out spots for them on both the door and the jamb this time. And since it’s a heavier door, I was adding three hinges. Instead of carefully clamping scrap wood each time around to guide my cut, I decided to make a template out of my practice board. Here’s where I marked where I needed to cut (using my jigsaw).

Here’s my wooden guide in action on the door, as I routed out the spot for the first hinge.

Once I had the three hinge mortises made on the door, I propped it up and loosely held the jamb pieces in place so I could mark the hinge placement on the side jamb piece. I also put some shims up top to ensure that I didn’t run into the same problem we had last time (having a tight fit up top).

With the hinges traced out on the jamb and my wooden template at hand, it was pretty quick work to route out the spots on the jamb.

I’ll fast forward a bit, since the process was the same from here the second time around – we nailed together the jamb pieces, brought them into the space, and then leveled, shimmed, and nailed everything in place. With Sherry’s help I got the door hung much faster this second time around… and it worked great! We were relieved. There were high fives and a fair amount of bad moon-walking.

Our dancing was cut short because this door still needed a knob. I bought this $19 kit to help drill the holes for the doorknob precisely. It wasn’t the sturdiest thing in the world, but it was worth the money just to have some instructions to follow – and the right size drill bits handy.

Basically it clips onto the door, using the strike plate as the guide for where it should go (of course, I had to add the strike plate first).

Then using one of two cross bore bits (depending on the one your knob requires) you drill a big honkin’ hole through the door, per the instructions.

Then you use the other bit to bore through where the latch will go.

If all goes well, you end up with something that looks like this.

The part it didn’t cover – and maybe this is just specific to the knobs we own – was routing out a spot on the end for the latch to recess into. I used my router freehand, so it didn’t come out perfectly but it does the trick just fine (we can smooth things out with caulk or wood putty before we prime/paint).

The victory was that it was hung, it closed securely, it stayed open when you opened it (some doors that aren’t hung level slowly close themselves when open), and it looked pretty – even in its unpainted film-covered state.

Since the wood floor was a little short of extending all the way to the door, I nailed in a couple of extra hardwood pieces to create a little horizontal threshold. We actually really like how it looks, so we hope it works with whatever flooring we end up with in the storage room. I do wish I had extended the wood flooring just an inch further into the laundry room so the tile didn’t peek through (d’oh) but I’ve been comforted by noting how many other thresholds/floor changes don’t align perfectly with the doors that I never really noticed before this project – so maybe nobody else will notice either? Until I pointed it out on the internet.

We plan to paint it when we spray all of the molding, and obviously the casings and such will go in when we do the rest of the room. We also ordered two more door knobs with the decorative back plates that we need, so they’ll match the other rooms off of this hallway.

We did tons of laundry last week for the first time since the laundry room door went up and it was AWESOME to be able to close the door. It really does make the laundry substantially quieter. But what we’re really loving is not having to wrestle that plastic drop cloth every time we go into the storage room. Life is good when the drop cloths come down.

It’s pretty exciting to stare down the barrel of close-to-done when it comes to this little addition of ours (if you can call the laundry room that, since it used to be unfinished space). On one hand it feels like it has taken us a while to get this far, and on the other hand it’s pretty amazing that this room wasn’t even drywalled a month ago – especially since our first and second houses’ kitchen renovations took us over four months each (and those were already finished rooms to start with). In the words of Dory: just keep swimming.



Chasing Waterfalls (Homemade Laundry Room Counter)

That’s right. You can call me T-Boz. Let’s talk about our new shelf in the laundry room, which is sporting a sweet arm band waterfall edge and some light natural stain. It was a simple DIY project involving some wood and some stain/sealer for a butcher block like effect.

We deviated from our usual mocha stain choice because we were inspired by a few rooms we’ve seen with light cabinets and tile mixed with with natural wood to add some texture and warmth. Here’s a wider shot for you. Ignore the missing filler/crown/toe kick/baseboard/hardware situation. We’re also chasing that stuff (you know, along with the waterfalls).

But first we have to talk about installing our appliances since I meant to cover that a while ago. It wasn’t all that big of deal since it was just re-attaching what I had unattached during the demo process. But one challenge was setting the washer pan under the washer and attaching it to our new overflow drain, so I thought I’d talk through how we did it (we couldn’t find many detailed tutorials about that step). The washer pan is the thing that usually sits under a washing machine when it’s on the second floor – that way if it springs a leak, the water hopefully won’t flood your upstairs, rot the floor, and send the washer plunging through the joists onto something valuable below. A nightmare scenario, no doubt, but in my head it always plays out like some Wiley Coyote cartoon. Either way, it’s not something I want to experience.

All of the contractors & plumbers we talked to actually said it was an optional thing to have a pan and an overflow drain (there’s no code dictating it in our area). One even told us that he wasn’t sure it made much of a difference (his opinion was that if your washer’s gushing water, a pan and a drain aren’t going to do much). We heard from others that it can save you a ton of trouble for those slow leaks you might otherwise miss, so we decided to be better safe than sorry, and had the plumbers put one in when they were here moving all of the other hook-ups (it was included in the $375 plumbing fee). Note: a few folks have asked about the outlet situation in the room, so you can see the extra pair we added in this shot too.

Some of you noticed that we cut around that overflow drain as we laid various levels of flooring (for example, you can see it poking up in this thinset shot from this floor tiling post). The drain was set in a way where we could gently raise or lower the pipe in the garage ceiling below, which came in handy so we weren’t constantly tripping over it.

When the plumber left us the washer pan, he shared instructions for attaching it ourselves. But first we had to figure out the exact placement of the appliances so we could precisely set the pan.

The washer would’ve happily sat nearly flush to the back wall, but the dryer’s a different story. During an installation, leaving some excess semi-rigid ducting behind the dryer is recommended so you can easily pull the dryer away from the wall without violently yanking the duct out of the wall every time it comes forward. That ducting takes up some space obviously (it’s pulled out below to show you it a bit more clearly, but even when it’s nested more closely, the dryer sits out about 8″ from that back wall). Note: they sell systems for sinking the ducting into your wall (between your studs) so it doesn’t protrude, but all the systems we found called for a vent that went up to the ceiling and ours goes straight out under the attic stairs (more on that here) so they weren’t compatible.

Thankfully that vent-space behind the dryer wasn’t a big deal to us since we expected it and had already planned the shelf. And after finalizing the dryer placement, we could finally determine where the washer should sit so it matched that depth exactly (didn’t want the washer pan sitting too far in or out). We marked the line on the floor with tape so that when we pulled the washer out again, we knew exactly where to place the pan.

To cut a hole in the pan for the drain, the plumber recommend this suuuuuuper scientific method that involved mustard. Squirt some on the drain pipe, press the pan into it (while using the tape in front as a guide for where to place the pan), and then drill where the mustard left its mark. I marked over our mustard circle with Sharpie, since the “real honey goodness” was a bit overpowering odor-wise (at least when it wasn’t accompanied by a hot dog or something).

Once the pipe was in the pan, we had been instructed to “silicone caulk the heck out of it.” I didn’t feel totally comfortable relying on caulk as our only adhesive (silicone caulk has some flex to it and we worried the weight of setting the washer down in the pan could flex it loose right off the bat) so I talked it over with another plumbing guy and an employee at Home Depot and they both suggested an expoxy, like this Marine Loctite (marine = crazy waterproof). So I glued the pipe and pan together, let it dry overnight, cut off the excess pipe with my dremel (you need the pipe to be as flush to the pan as possible so the water can drain down it) AND THEN silicone caulked the heck out of it – just to be safe.

Then it got interesting. I don’t have any pictures of Sherry and I hoisting the washer over the lip of the pan into place, but I’m sure our faces were super attractive. Somewhere in the vicinity of strained and extra veiny.

There was also some adjusting of the dryer feet to get it level with the washer  – not only did we want the front of both appliances to line up, we wanted the tops to be the same height as well (hence the level and those wrenches you see one the floor in the picture above). And when it did it was sort of like we hit the jackpot. There was celebrating. We finally had a washer & dryer again.

Speaking of other small adjustments – in our post about the Ikea cabinets a few of you recommended getting the soft-close drawer and door add-ons, so we planned to grab those the next time we were near Ikea. Then, in an exciting hinge-related turn of events, about 12 hours later we happily realized the Ikea lady must have added them to our order, because they were in the bottom of our bag with all the under cabinet lighting stuff. I’d estimate the drawers and doors are now approximately 35 times less slammy. Well worth the upgrade.

But back to the shelf. You may recall that we built it before tiling so that we knew exactly where our tile needed to go.

We constructed the shelf and counter out of two of these solid 2 x 4′ panels from Lowe’s. We liked ‘em because they were chunky (1.5″ thick) and had that nice butcher-block look to them.

We used one panel for the shelf and one for the counter. For the shelf I cut one panel into two 9″ wide boards and then we Kreg jigged them together into one long shelf. The counter involved cutting the other panel into two 18″ wide pieces and jigging them together. I didn’t cut off the excess counter until after the tile was installed since I wanted to be sure to get the overhang right (so you can see it hanging over too far in this picture).

The waterfall edge came from cutting the end of the shelf off at a 45-degree angle and then gluing & nail gunning it together again at a right angle. Since it’s attached to the shelf (which we made removable so we have easy access to the appliance hookups when we need them), I just measured carefully so that it would rest on the counter and line up nicely on the left edge, to make it look like one piece. The top of the shelf doesn’t rest on the appliances, it rests above them on four heavy duty brackets, which you can see better in this post (three of them were screwed into studs to make them extra strong). We didn’t want the washer to shake the shelf and knock things off as it ran. We’ve done three pretty big loads of laundry and so far, so good.

Since we don’t have a go-to lighter stain preference, we tested out a bunch of options on some scrap pieces from the shelf/counter build. Sherry pre-stained/conditioned half of each, then stained the whole block with one of four colors (two by Minwax, two by Rustoleum). Once dried, we pained some varnish on the top half of each – but it made them more yellow than we wanted, so it quickly got nixed. Of course the nuances are easier to see in real life, but we thought Ipswich Pine and Summer Oak looked a little too light and Wheat was a bit too dark/red for us. So Golden Oak was a pretty easy choice.

We applied one coat of stain, followed by three coats of Safecoat Acrylaq, which is what we used to seal the wood vanity top in our first house’s bathroom (it held up so well to water in there that we knew it would be great in a laundry room).

I’m stoked with how it turned out. I think it’s exactly what the room needed, and it’s exciting to start layering things in over the light & bright foundation of the cabinets and the tile. Admittedly our shelf looks a little lonely right now, but we’re just getting started…

So we still have some loose ends to tie up on this wall (here’s my visual checklist of sorts), but on the bright side – we got the door hung!

And the fancy glass one that leads to the future bunk-room is in the works, so we’ll hopefully finish that up and have the details for you next week. It bears mentioning that we’ll also be adding things like a laundry sorter, a pull-out drying rack, and a wall-mounted ironing board on some other walls of the room, so those details should be coming soon too.

This feels like a good moment to do a budget update, so here you go:

The two contractor estimates that we got for just the framing, electrical, plumbing, and drywall stuff came in at $3,250 and $5,000, so it’s incredibly comforting that we’re still on the low end of that range after adding a marble backsplash, tiled floors, cabinetry, and a shelf/counter (including some upgrades like soft close doors and under-cabinet lights). That being said, we’re almost exactly double where we were at our last check-in because we hit our big ticket items like tile & cabinets. But hopefully once we’re past the door and trim/crown installation we’ll be at the end of our major expenses. Dare I say this new room of ours (and reconfigured bunk-room entry) might clock in under the $4,000 mark?

That sounds like a jinxy thing to say. Maybe I should play it safer? I’m certain we’ll come under the $100,000 mark (now I really hope I didn’t jinx myself).