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Tearing Out an Old Door and Jamb

Jeffrey Anderson

Removal and Demolition are Not the same thing!

Old houses are full of beautiful millwork that is often difficult to duplicate if you are remodeling the home. You might be able to find a custom millwork shop that can manufacture the custom door jamb pieces you need if you show them a sample of what you are hoping to match. That is why you should take care when removing trim from an area of an old home. If you are careful, you might be able to reuse trim in a different part of the old house and not have to worry about matching existing millwork. The keys to removing door jamb trim rather than destroying trim are:

  1. Patience
  2. Think it through
  3. Brute force is not your friend
  4. More Patience

Tearing Out an Old Door and Jamb

The first step in tearing out an old door and jamb is to remove the door panel. The easiest way to do this is to knock the hinge pins through the hinges to free up the panel. Many times old hinges have received numerous coats of paint over the years and you might need to carefully use a utility knife to scrape away the paint at the bottom of the hinge pin. Some old hinge pins will have a decorative piece threaded onto the bottom of the pin that will need to be removed from the hinge pin prior to removing the pin. A set of vise grips will do the trick and a nail punch or large common nail can be used to tap the hinge pins up and out and the door panel can be set aside.

The second step is to remove the door trim. This work can be accomplished simply as follows:

  1. Use a sharp utility knife to cut through all caulk joints which are normally where the trim meets the wall surface, the jamb, and at the top trim mitres.
  2. Use a pry bar with a thin blade or an old wood chisel past its prime to slowly pry the trim from the wall surface and the jamb. A hammer helps to tap the bar in, work from the bottom of the trim up the wall to the head of the jamb. Gradually pull the trim away from the wall, do both side pieces first and then the top trim piece.
  3. The same method may be used to remove the jamb. Cut the caulk joints and pry the sides of the jamb out of the opening and then do the head piece. Work gradually up the opening with your pry bar or chisel.

Once the trim and jamb material have been removed, the nails should be tapped through and removed to prevent accidents. Remember to use patience and not brute force and you should have a door panel, jamb, and trim that may be reused in your old house.

About the Author

Jeffrey Anderson has a Degree in English from V.M.I. and served as an officer in the Marine Corps. He worked in Residential and Commercial construction management for 25 years before retiring to write full time.

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