Easy Hinge Replacement

The easy way to replace worn hinges is to leave the door on its hinges while you replace them.

To do this:

  • You must replace the existing hinges with hinges of the same size
  • On a hollow metal door your hinges must match the hinge prep screw pattern
  • You must be able to open the door far enough so that you can reach the screws on the door leaf of the hinge with your screwdriver – typically you would need to open the door to about 100 degrees of opening

If any of these is not the case, stop right here and go get some help.   You will need to take down the door, put it in a door stand and replace the hinges one leaf at a time, the old fashioned way.

You will need:

  • A screwdriver that fits your hinge screws, most likely a number 3 Phillips head
  • A ladder
  • A piece of 1 x 4 pine between 2 and 3 feet long or similar piece of wood
  • Wood shim stock

If you are replacing hinges with the same size hinges and can open the door wide enough, go ahead and open the door to the degree of opening that best allows you to access all the hinges screws on both leaves.  Beneath the door place the piece of pine, and then between the pine and the bottom of the door stack shim stock until the door is fully supported by the wood.  If there is a closer on the door, the door should be resting securely enough on the wood shims so that the closer cannot close the door.  However, the door should be shimmed just enough to take the tension off the hinges – no more.  You want the hinge preps to remain as properly aligned as possible.

Once you have shimmed the door you can replace the hinges.   Start with the top.  Install each leaf with two screws only, not quite fully tightened.  Then move on to the next hinge, then the next, until they are all replaced.   When each hinge is in place with two screws in each leaf, tighten all the screws and try the door.  If the hinges bind or make noise, something is amiss and needs further adjustment.

If applicable, put masking tape over the strike plate and close the door.  Is the door happy to remain closed, or does it want to spring open?  If it wants to spring open, chances are the new hinges aren’t quite as thick as the old hinges and need to be shimmed.  Support the door with wood as before and inspect the hinges.  Both leaves should be flush.  If they appear to be inset, shim them out with very thin slices of wood that are the same height as the hinge prep.  Continue as necessary until when tested the door is stable when fully closed.


If the hinges bind or make noise, remove the screws from one leaf of the middle hinge and gently pry it out of the hinge prep.  Test the door again.  If the door still binds or makes noise, put the screws back in the middle hinge and try removing the screws from one leaf of the bottom hinge.   By this method you should be able to isolate the hinges that are binding and then look closer to determine the exact problem.

If, as you are working, you find that the hinge preps aren’t lining up so well, the door may have settled on the hinges – particularly if they are plain bearing, five knuckle steel butt hinges and they have been there a long time or had heavy use.  You may find that you have to shim the door up just a bit more to get the hinge preps to line up right for the new hinges.

If there is no possible way to get the hinge preps to line up right then you may be dealing with a deeper issue than simple hinge replacement.  Your best choice might be to put the old hinges back and then decide whether you want to replace the door, frame, or both, or whether you can use a surface mount continuous hinge instead.

Click here to read more about hinges.


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