Installing doors and windows

Windows and doors help make the rough work look a little more favorable, but we still have a long way to go.

When I started my house, I was hell-bent on saving money on labor costs. More so now than ever do I practice what my father has taught me over the years by his example to not have someone else do a job for you that you can do yourself.

That concept is what makes this whole plan work. You will save literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run by installing the windows and doors and doing your own work.

Now, having said that, there are a few instances where you can actually save money and time by buying prefabricated components.

When my brother and I built our rustic (ugly) log cabin many years ago, we did everything from scratch. We even bought the glass for our windows and doors and made panes with wood and silicone. The windows are still there and in good condition, but what a pain it was to cut the glass and to fit each piece into place. We probably spent more money building our own windows than it cost to buy them.

There are many choices of prefabricated windows and doors that are very reasonably priced and are a dream to work with. You just slide them into place, adjust them slightly with shims, and screw them down.

It is my strong recommendation to take advantage of the prefabricated windows and or doors because it will save a lot of time and probably even a little money. There are just a few important points to cover in terms of exterior doors before we get into the nitty-gritty of installing them.

You will need to consider the width of entry door you want. If you go smaller than 30”, you will have a bugger of a time getting a refrigerator and sofa through the door. A 36” door seems really wide, but you’ll appreciate it when you’re lugging a heavy, over sized, sofa/hide-a-bed through it.

Also, most entry doors are metal or hardwood. Metal doors are inexpensive and work just fine. You’ll pay out the nose for a hardwood entry door, but it will be an eye-catcher for appraisers and future buyers.

It’s alright to splurge every now and then for the “good stuff”, but remember this, if you go for expensive quality for every component in your house, you won’t be able to build it inexpensively. I’m not saying to build a low-quality house with cheap materials, but rather to build a house with quality and affordability in mind.

Also, if you choose to use expensive materials, you will reach the point of diminishing returns. Here’s an example to clarify that statement. A 2,000 square foot home built using quality yet affordable materials will cost around $60,000. A 2,000 square foot home built using all expensive and very high quality materials will cost around $90,000. The resale value of the practical home will be around $130,000, while the resale value of the expensive home will only be around $145,000.

Not too much difference between the two because a home is usually valued using the comparative approach. In some cases, a home will be appraised using the cost approach that actually takes into consideration the cost of materials used in the construction.

By and large however, a home will be valued by comparing it to similar homes in the neighborhood that have sold recently. The appraisers try to note all the “extras” which raises the value of the home, but the difference usually isn’t dramatic.

I’m including this little tidbit of advice here because at this point, you will have to decide whether to buy hardwood doors and windows casings or inexpensive metal doors and vinyl cased windows. If you go to a special store, they will try to sell you the most expensive stuff.

Good ol vinyl windows and metal doors hold their value just fine, and they are really strong also.

One more item of importance on entry doors is the use of sliders. A slider makes a poor entry door. Sliders are great for backdoors though. You can also use French doors as a back door. Regardless of which of the two you choose, make sure that they have tempered glass. I can’t believe that there are still plenty of cheap glass doors without tempered glass out there.

When my wife and I went to buy our downstairs slider, and our French doors upstairs, my wife made it clear that they would be made of tempered glass. (of course she wears the pants, they all do!!!)

I never gave it much thought before that. The doors with tempered glass cost quite a bit more than those without safety glass. We bought the doors with safety glass and I installed them.

About two years after moving into our house, my wife and I came home one night to find someone had been in our house while we were gone. It must have been a child or children because the secured glass door of our slider had been run into from the inside. An indented hole about 4’ up the glass was the obvious center of contact. It was about the size of a child’s head and it was hit hard. The entire door was cracked up, yet not one piece of glass broke free. We never found out who was there that day and that’s just fine. Kids will be kids. Get safety glass!

So let’s check out a few kinds of window and door styles.

window casement

window flange

I really like the vinyl windows with a nailing flange. You just center the window and screw all four corners first, then put in the remaining screws or nails. It’s totally simple. If you’re alone you can center it with shims. Most types of windows screw in from the outside. See pic

screw flange

Doors are almost as easy. There are many kinds of doors so do some shopping around to get the best price and find something that matches your personality.

door types

The doors need to be centered perfectly. They will come prefabricated with the jam. You can center the door with shims and then screw or nail the jam to the door rough opening. Once the door is completely secure, you can break the shims off with a hammer.


how to shim doors

Windows and doors continued

Over 4 million visitors to this site since it was born!

My newsletter keeps you up to date on home construction and design ideas.

home construction

I just wanted to say that I love your website. My husband and I followed your instructions on building our own home. Most of the work we did ourselves, but not all. We saved $90,000 in labor costs and now have a beautiful home that we own.

--Sue and Les Carrigan, Draper, Utah

I built my own home doing all my own labor. My house costs me around $70,000 for materials. It took me 8 months to build and is about 2,000 square feet. I didn't think I could do it, but your house web site encouraged me. I used all the info you had.

Thank you,

Benny Luis Lopez,

Gainsville, Florida

I can't thank you enough for your free information web site about home building. I was looking for Electrical wiring diagrams when I found your site. It was very helpful.

Steve Lundquist,

Little Rock, Arkansas

My wife and I lost our home to foreclosure but we kept a plot of land to start over. We are halfway through the construction of our house. Your website gave us hope to start over and build a house with low payments. We are in our late 60's but we find it rewarding to put so much effort into a project that will reward us for years to come.

Name respectfully withheld