How to Build Exterior Door Framing

Remodeling? We'll show you the easiest way to frame a new exterior door.

home exterior
Photo: Jeff Herr
Project Overview
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Skill Level: Advanced

If you're looking to add a new exterior door to your home, whether it's a pair of French doors that swing out onto your patio or a Dutch door that brings cottage charm to your front entry, you've come to the right place. We'll walk you through the entire framing process for an exterior door, including cutting through drywall, assembling new studs, and building a new door frame. Expect to spend a whole day or two on this home renovation project. You'll likely need a helper to assist, and you should be comfortable removing wall materials, cutting lumber, and building wall framing.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Measuring tape
  • 1 Stud finder
  • 1 Level
  • 1 Pencil
  • 1 Framing square
  • 1 Drill
  • 1 Hammer
  • 1 Flat pry bar
  • 1 Hand drywall saw
  • 1 Circular saw
  • 1 Reciprocating saw

Materials

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

Instructions

  1. Determine Door Location

    examine the situation
    Dave Toht

    Once you've determined the location for a new entry door, check for obstacles in the wall. A quick look from the basement or crawlspace will often 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 more challenging to move; if one is in the way, you may have to relocate the doorway.

    Before building exterior door framing, you should also determine what sort of stairway you'll need outside. By looking at an existing door's bottom relative to the house's siding, you can tell how high the stairway will need to be. Then, consult the door manufacturer's instructions for the correct width and height of the rough opening you'll frame. The method shown here minimizes drywall work.

  2. Plan the Opening

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

    Editor's Tip: When picking lumber sizes, consider the door size. A 2x6 header is strong enough for a 3-foot-wide door opening. If you're exterior door framing needs to be cut for a larger opening (as for a patio door), install temporary supports and use larger lumber. You might choose to use an existing wall stud as a king stud, in which case you can cut the opening 1-1/2 inches inside that stud and slip a jack stud into the wall. After framing the opening, the bottom plate will be cut and removed.

  • Cut Through Studs

    cut through
    Dave Toht

    Use a circular and reciprocating saw to cut through each exposed stud in two places. If you're confident in 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.

    Project tip: Most homes have platform framing, with studs that span between a bottom and top plate. Some older homes have balloon framing, in which the studs travel up through the floor and the ceiling with no plates. If you have balloon framing, you'll need to cut the studs to the height of the floor joists (that is, the bottom of the subflooring). Also, cut and install short cripple studs for each side and cut a piece of subflooring to fit.

  • Mark Stud Locations

    pry and mark
    Dave Toht

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

  • Assemble Jack and King Studs

    assemble main studs
    Dave Toht

    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). Next, 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.

  • Attach Studs

    attach studs
    Dave Toht

    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).

  • Secure Studs

    secure studs
    Dave Toht

    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. If you're using 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.

  • Construct Header

    construct header
    Dave Toht

    To construct a header:

    1. Cut two 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).
    2. Cut 1/2-inch plywood spacers.
    3. Working on the floor, stack the pieces with the crowns facing the same direction (see next step) and use a square to ensure they're aligned.
    4. Fasten the pieces by driving two 3-inch screws or 16d nails every 8 inches.
    5. Determine Crown

      determine crown
      Dave Toht

      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.

    6. Attach Header

      attach header
      Dave Toht

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

    7. Check for Square Exterior Door Framing and Test New Door

      Check that the exterior door framing is square, level, and plumb. It doesn't need to be perfect, but it should be pretty close. If you have doubts, set the door temporarily to ensure it will fit. If the opening isn't square, you may be able to remove fasteners at the top and move the king studs over.

    8. Cut Cripple Studs

      cut cripple studs
      Dave Toht

      Cut short cripple studs to fit between the header and the top plate. Tap them in where the old studs used to be. Short pieces like this are prone to splitting, so be sure to drill pilot holes and attach with angle-driven screws or nails. Then, use a reciprocating saw to cut the bottom plate straight down to the floor. Pry the plate out.

    9. Drill Through Siding

      drill through siding
      Dave Toht

      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.

    10. Dispose of Siding

      dispose of siding
      Dave Toht

      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.

  • Related Articles