Highlights for Home Improvement Geeks

On today’s Highlights® for Home Improvement Geeks™, we have the story of Goofus and Gallant and the Undersized Doorway! Read along:

  • Gallant starts with detailed plans for his (and her) charming bungalow renovation.
  • Goofus buys not one, but two refrigerators that won’t fit through the $#!@#$ kitchen door!
  • Gallant strips an entire floor down to bare wood to lay it out the way he and she want it.
  • Goofus rips out a door jamb using a prybar and a brand-new reciprocating saw so that the smallest kitchen door opening goes from 27″ to 30.5″—hopefully enough for a new fridge.

In all seriousness, here’s how it went down. As I laid out in my last update, the plan was to remove a little trim from the doorway to widen the opening. The way this normally goes is: use a putty knife or razor blade to cut the paint away from the joint between the stop molding (the strips of wood that the door rests against when it’s closed) and then slip a prybar in to strip the stop molding out.

Had this been a normal house, that’s how it would have gone.

Instead, we have Überhaus. Built way beyond contemporary standards by a highly responsible builder in 1941. In this case, this means the stop molding wasn’t a strip tacked in place but was actually part of the doorjamb. What this meant was we had to rip out the whole doorjamb to gain any width.

To remove a door jamb, here’s what you do:

  1. First, remove the casing—the molding around the outside of the doorjamb. To do this, I used a rubber mallet to tap a putty knife into the joint between the molding and adjacent pieces of wood to break the paint seal, then used a prybar to pull the molding away. In some cases, I had to slip a chisel in to widen the gap enough to get the prybar in.
  2. In our case, the casing had two parts: some raised trim around the edges (what I like to think of as “crown molding for the doorway”) and three flat boards surrounding the actual door opening. I thus had to start with the raised trim, walk that all the way around (where I could—the door was butted against a wall, so I had to leave some trim until later), then remove the flat boards.
  3. Once I did that and caught my breath, I had to repeat the process on the other side of the doorway.
  4. Finally, I removed the jamb. Usually the instructions for this read “pry out the jamb and use a reciprocating saw to cut through any stubborn nails.” In my case, I wasn’t able to get leverage to get any of the three pieces of the jamb out, so I cheated. I made a cut about a foot from the top of the left upright piece with the reciprocating saw, pried out the bottom piece, removed the top piece, the top part of the jamb, then the right part of the jamb.

Easy as pie. It only took one whole day.

So what’s next? Well, in our immediate future, we have a 30.5″ hole through which we can fit a fridge. Once we find a reliable carpenter, we’ll have him make a mirror of the arch that leads into the same hallway. Beats having a narrow doorjamb where there’s no need for an actual door.

Incidentally, shout out to JM and A for recommending the Sawzall, which was our reciprocating saw of choice for this operation. Best home improvement tool I ever had. Maybe even better than the crowbar.