Creating an Exterior Door

Hello guys, I am new to woodworking and I was wondering if anyone had any useful information to start designing and building a standard 36" wide rectangular exterior door with maybe a window on the upper portion of the door. My moms front door is broken and she doesnt want to buy a new one so I thought I would make one for her. Even if its just a link to a video or a website with information on the design process it would be greatly appreciated.

Videos online are your friend, Watch a number of them, each will show some trick or make some clear. This just a quick outline showing it may be easier than you think.

If this is a new opening, this is a structural modification that is significant and requires a building permit. Lots of folks probably don’t get these if they know what they are doing - they should … Makers, what I say. Could make selling house an issue without permit,

But the casing/jams around a door is significantly different that adjacent walls. Need to look at how these are made. Ther are typically sold as a unit.

If you are just going to replace the door assembly, that’s a totally different thing and by comparison easy.

If a 36" door is replacing a 36" door, you could just get the door. I wouldn’t.

I assume there is currently a 36" wide door, if a smaller one, you are back to the first case. If there is, pull the molding around the door. You will see the door is inside a frame that creates the door jams. There will be a gap all the way around and you’ll see pieces of wood/etc. inserted to align and hold everything in place.

The door frame will be secured to these and these to the house framing.

You will unsecure the old door and slide the new one in,square it up, insert peieces, secure everything, replace molding and your done.

Now the skylight above the door gets backs to opening the structure back up. What you can do and they did when my front door was replaced, is they got a door that had a window (half circle with multiple panes). Framed door fit in like regular door. Isn’t as tall, but easy.

Get a friend to help slide in and out, square up, treat yer self to a brew and grunt like Tim the Tool Man!

This is a real basic outline, watch a some videos til it makes sense. This a really hard job or rocket science AS LONG AS YOU DON’T get into the framing around the door.

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Also, also, something to be conscious of, make sure that you choose a adhesive that is weather and water resistant. Same thing with a varnish or finish. You want, I can show up at the space tomorrow night and give you a demonstration of some of the techniques. There are a few tools In the woodshop that are going to be very useful for this particular endeavor.

Also consider your materials. You could get away with just gluing a bunch of 2x4s made of pine together, but that’s not necessarily going to look good, or last very long. On the other hand though, a hardwood like oak is going to be more expensive, but conversely more durable


And one of the hardest challenges you will face is correctly mortising and drilling (hole saw) for the hardware – hinges, door knobs, locks, and or latches/bolts – to match the existing door. This is a challenge even on smaller things like jewelry boxes or a hope chest where items are easily moved around and routed or chiseled, as things have to match up fairly precisely.

As @Photomancer pointed out, YT is your friend, and there may be some tips or tricks from people here who have done this before. There are templates and plastic doodads that might/could help, but I suggest making sure you understand exactly how you are going to go about it for the door you are making before the actual project.

re: Actual construction, I can’t help but be worried about wood movement (warping, etc.) over life of the door. Make sure you use kiln-dried lumber. And I wonder if using some engineered wood as a core is smart or not, e.g. if the door is going to be standard 1 3/4" thick, if 3/4" plywood of some kind (pressure treated? marine grade? not sure…) with exterior 1/2" thick pieces of good looking whatever-you-choose laminated on will better stand the test of time.

@zacharymarkson it sounds like you may have made some doors like this? What do you think…

I actually don’t recommend pressure treated wood for this kind of usage, because the very nature of its pressure treating means that it’s actually more likely to Warp due to the chemicals in the wood. A decent set of 7/4 oak planks, properly joined and finished would be my personal pick, but I also don’t know what the budget he’s working with is, or any other constraints


I dont mind spending extra money for better materials and yeah lets meet up tommmorow, that would be greatly appreciated. How is about 7ish? I am looking at prices for exterior front doors and they range greatly in price, its looking like the nicer ones will cost me $2k, so if I could make it for less then that, that would be great.

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Door AND the casement. You’ll find installing it much faster and better.

When you say door assembly do you mean the door frame and door itself? I added a picture below of the door I want to replace, sorry its the best picture I have right now. I mean if you are saying it will be easier to remove the old frame also to make the installation easier then I am okay to do that. Would I need a permit to install the frame with the door?

When my front door was replaced with a new door, no permit was gotten. There’s no structural changes.

The molding is removed, and the door along with the pre-built jams are taken out and the new door and jams installed. As mentioned, you have to install the new locks and getting the aligned may be tricky.

Removing and replacing them as unit is a lot easier. Otherwise you’ll be trying to align a lot of holes: Hinges, door locks, etc.

@Photomancer is spot on. Unless you really want to make your own door, I would go purchase the door and door frame and just install them. Making your own door would be fun, but there is going to be a lot more time and effort than you think.

Installing a pre-hung door is going to be much easier [and cheaper], but will still take you an afternoon. Plenty of videos to watch:

But if you are really wanting to build your own door, the Space will have [most] of the tools you will need.


Honestly, this is the whole conundrum with making things yourself. You save money, and you get to have more choice in what you get. But if you buy something pre-made, it’s generally easier and faster

I’m not sure it is always cheaper to make it yourself. If it is a high end door and you’re skilled enough to make it, it may be push if add the value of your labor. (Mine would be low $$$ but lots of hours … for what would probably be described “Classical Rustic Shed”).

A very brief search on Home Depot for similar sized and style doors has stuff well above $1,000. He mentioned a $2K price tag for the stuff he was looking at. I’m fairly positive that I can rig together a decent front door for less than that amount of money. Might take a while, but unless hardwood has dramatically increased in price, I feel confident in my assertion

Hell, I have some 3/4-in thick glass that I’d be willing to sell that we could use for panes in there. And still have it be reasonably secure

You can build it for less if your time has has no value factored in and you are doing it for the experience and enjoyment. Which are worthy goals. Hopefully, you’ll achieve the same level of quality.

Sometime economics requires sweat equity - I’ve done a lot of that.

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I know a guy that spent an entire summer designing and constructing an outbuilding that beat the socks off of the likes of Tuff-Shed et al on quality but in no way whatsoever cost less in terms of bill of materials - ignoring the literal and profuse sweat equity.


I think I’ve met that guy.

Saw the the photos and that guy engineered the crap out of that shed. And they picked the best time of year to do it too.

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After a while kind of came off as some kind of OCD masochist. Then went all survivalist with generators.

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If you’re here, I’m going to be around for another hour or two in the wood shop. I’m the guy in the dark blue button up