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At that price, don't slam it! Replacing a front door dilema
April 11, 2014 5:33 AM   Subscribe

I had a big box retailer quote on installing (and furnishing) a basic Craftsman style replacement single exterior door for my 90 year old house. They sell similar doors in the store for around $300-$350. The estimate to have it installed, including the cost of the door, removing the existing door and casing, new sill, trim, cost to install the lockset (but not including the cost of the lockset itself) came to $1700. I don't believe they built in anything extra to account for the age and crookedness of the house, which will mean more time spent shimming etc. Would I be better off having a general handyman do the install, or is there special equipment or expertise needed for working with the vinyl casing/trim etc I'm not aware of? Given the cost of the materials, maybe $400, this seems kind of high to me. I'm thinking 2 guys, max 2-3 hours work. What don't I know?
posted by walkinginsunshine to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Oh brother. I did this and it was EXPENSIVE!

I went directly through the Big Box store and what I got was a very professional and all things considered, fast replacement of our front door.

We had a transome, which also needed to be replaced. I went in thinking, "cool, door, $500," and once they came to the house for the estimate it was, "Holy Shit, door, $1200???"

But that was the entire cost and it was done perfectly.

I'd go with the big box guy. Nothing drives me more nuts than the handyman who kinda, sorta knows what he's doing, but then has to run to Lowe's every ten minutes for some special thingamagig he didn't anticipate needing.

YMMV.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:40 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


walkinginsunshine: "Given the cost of the materials, maybe $400, this seems kind of high to me. I'm thinking 2 guys, max 2-3 hours work. What don't I know?"

It took about five days for my 1950 house to have a similar project done. Removing and replacing the casing, and squaring everything up, took FOREVER. They also had to stop every evening and hang either the old or the new door enough for the house to lock up (as I was still living in it), and then take it back off in the morning. It was kind-of a nightmare. I'm happy with my new door, but living through the install in an open-plan house with toddlers and cats was terrible. I paid a little less than $1700 but I live in a low-cost-of-living area where labor's pretty cheap.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:43 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


We just had our 220 square foot 1926 garage finished and it being unlevel and out of plumb significantly increased the final cost - so if you know right now that you're dealing with "old house lean" you should be prepared to cough up the cash - if not to the big box store then to an independent. One way or another - you'll pay.
posted by FlamingBore at 5:46 AM on April 11


Is the big box store doing it, or are their contractors doing it? Is there necessarily a permit pull required for this?

It "only" cost me $600 to do it on a 90s built house, but that was a handyman, two days, and no permit (I didn't know better).

On the breakdown, how much is the actual door cost? Have you had a door and window company come out as well?
posted by tilde at 5:53 AM on April 11


I don't believe they built in anything extra to account for the age and crookedness of the house, which will mean more time spent shimming etc.

No home is straight and square, even brand new ones, so I'm pretty sure the $1,700 quote includes any necessary shimming, since that's a regular requirement for any door or window replacement. There's a lot of detail finessing to be done with a door replacement for it to fit and work right. $1,700 doesn't sound out of line, unfortunately.

Is the big box store doing it, or are their contractors doing it?
I've never known a big-box to do anything like this themselves. It's always contracted out, afaik.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:05 AM on April 11


I would tend to go to a door and windows specialist contractor directly (that had been recommended to me) rather than a big box store for this kind of work. The big box store will probably hire a good contractor, but I'd rather do the research myself and hire someone I trust is good.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:09 AM on April 11


We recently had a door replaced in our 1954 home, and the final cost was a lot more than the prices we saw on the shelves at Lowes. The door ended up having to be custom-made because the jamb depth was non-standard, and the opening itself was an inch or so shorter than normal. This more than doubled the door cost, and almost doubled the installation cost. We thought we would get door + installation for about $400, and it ended up being $850. This was for a plain, fiberglass, 9-lite entry door. And we still have to paint.

So my point is that final costs for things like doors and windows can embiggen significantly. Your quote may actually be reasonable. FWIW, we have absolutely no complaints about the craftsmanship or professionalism of the Lowe's installer. He did a great job.
posted by Shohn at 6:15 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


A handyman changed out the door in my comically crooked 90-year-old house. It was a one-day job, and well done. Based on previous jobs, I already trusted him more than the big box guys. (Handyman pest-proofed the exterior expertly. Big Box screwed up appliance install repeatedly.)
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 6:56 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


Is there necessarily a permit pull required for this?

It "only" cost me $600 to do it on a 90s built house, but that was a handyman, two days, and no permit (I didn't know better).


On a single family residence there most likely is no permit requirement, although there's always the possibility of aggressive Homeowner's Associations and other entities that for whatever reason have a say in what finishes or paint colors you can put on your house. For other building types (apartment buildings, commercial stuff) there may be requirements as to what kind of door or what kind of hardware it needs to have (fire-rated, accessibile, panic hardware, etc.), but just replacing a door most likely wouldn't actually require a permit, although you'd want to do your research to make sure you're putting the right kind of door in.
posted by LionIndex at 7:13 AM on April 11


For what it's worth, I've watched carpenters install interior and exterior doors in new and old construction and the process is more or less the same. In the case of an old door to a 3-season porch that was drafty as hell, the process took a day - they tore out the old door and sill, installed some new studs to build a frame that was more sturdy and tied into the 1840's post and beam and put in the new sill. Putting in the actual door and the finish carpentry was less than an hour. I did all the finishing and painting.

The only difference between this and putting in an exterior door on new construction is that the frame is already there. They just made sure that there would be a frame that was as plumb and as square as was necessary. That was a few hours work.
posted by plinth at 7:36 AM on April 11


On a single family residence there most likely is no permit requirement, although there's always the possibility of aggressive Homeowner's Associations and other entities that for whatever reason have a say in what finishes or paint colors you can put on your house.

False. Also, permits are not the domain of of the HOA.

Example from unincorp Pinellas county in Florida:


Windows and Door Replacement
A building permit is required for the replacement of all types of windows and all exterior doors including sliding glass doors and garage doors.


Deerfield Beach (city) in South East Florida

Do I need a permit to replace one window?
Yes, windows and doors are required to sustain pressure and impact. They can be impact or can have a product approval for non-impact and be covered with approved hurricane shutters.


But, again, we are in Florida, in a high wind zone. My current place of residence in this windy state says that the county doesn't think I need a permit to replace one door per 12 month period. Not sure about the city but I'll let my door/window dude deal with it, known them through family for 30+ years.

The only difference between this and putting in an exterior door on new construction is that the frame is already there.

This is true with some caveats: if the doors are of the same type, swing, latch, and if the hinge area was not damaged and the new frame can take it. And again, in my example I'm speaking of an older house being retrofitted to Florida standards (I know OP is in Toronto) --with few, specific exceptions you have to meet the new code.

Looks like if the lintel is not affected, OP should be fine without a permit.

Sorry to digress so far, but permitting is important and correcting wrong information is as well. I know many find the permit process a nuisance but I've also spent a lot of time (and with friends and family) cleaning up after unpermitted work.
posted by tilde at 7:43 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


I couldn't use a box store because of the unusual size of my door, so it was custom made, painted inside and out to what I wanted, my choice of hardware, exterior stucco repaired and painted to match after the door went in and it was $3600. $1700 for a more standard setup doesn't seem too crazy.
posted by cecic at 9:27 AM on April 11


I'm thinking 2 guys, max 2-3 hours work.

For complete removal and replacement of an old door, casing, sill, interior and exterior trim, this is not a reasonable expectation. Beyond that, all anyone here can say is that $1700 may indeed be reasonable. If you want to find out whether it's reasonable for your particular situation, get more quotes.
posted by jon1270 at 9:38 AM on April 11 [2 favorites]


My husband and I replaced our back door in our 1924 bungalow. We did it to save money. It took two full days for us to get it in and level (relative to the house) and able to open and close successfully. It's a very complex process and if I had it to do over again, I'd totally pay someone 1700 bucks to do it for me.
posted by teleri025 at 10:10 AM on April 11


I'm thinking 2 guys, max 2-3 hours work. What don't I know?

One thing I notice doing construction estimating is that every layperson seems to have their own ideas about how how long something should take. They are seldom correct.

$1,700 for what you describe above does not sound exorbitant at all.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:11 AM on April 11 [1 favorite]


Yeah, do be careful about wishful thinking..."that should only take x amount of time..."
My husband (in building trades all his life) says the only person who *should* say how long something will take is the person doing the work.
I say that goes, no matter the field/profession.
posted by dbmcd at 11:46 AM on April 11


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