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How to Buy a Door Slab to Save Time & Money on Your Remodeling Project

Friday December 27th, 2019
A beautiful door is an essential part of any comprehensive home makeover. These humble, yet beautiful pieces of engineering and craftsmanship can be instrumental in adding the wow factor we look for in our homes. If you are replacing a door and keeping the existing door frame, a slab door may be just what you need.

Slab Doors: What You Need to Know Before you Buy a Door Slab

  • What Is a Slab Door?
  • Benefits of a Slab Door 
  • Slab Door Materials
  • How to Install a Slab Door 
A slab door can be a beautiful, unique addition to your home while also providing your family with years of durable usage. 

Slab Door Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Slab Door?

A slab door is a basic, stripped-down door that does not include a frame or other hardware. The installer of a slab door needs to use an existing door frame or build a new frame. This type of door is most commonly used for a remodel where an existing frame is present or for a custom door design on a brand-new home. A slab door can be used for both residential and commercial building projects.

When a frame is not present, remodelers typically choose a pre-hung door instead of a slab door. Prehung doors come complete with a frame and hinges, which makes installation much faster and easier, especially for a pre-hung interior door. 

Slab door designs vary widely, from incredibly simple and unfinished designs to incredibly complex pieces made from all types of hardwoods. Reclaimed wood slab doors are also very popular and often are made of wood from old barns, sheds or other similar structures. The wood is repurposed and rebuilt for usage in home remodeling projects, such as a new closet door made from a wood door slab or for a slab exterior door. 

The functional design of a slab door can be either a traditional, swing type door secured with hinges in a door frame, or a stunning barn door that hangs from a track above an opening in your home. French doors, sliding closet doors, patio doors, cabinet doors, and even storm doors can be considered slab doors. Essentially, as long as it’s a door without a frame or hinges, it’s a slab door. 

Benefits of a Slab Door 

Since a slab door does not have a frame or hinges, it generally costs less than a prehung door. You have to carefully measure the size of slab door to make sure it fits, but the savings can be significant. Slab doors also weigh less, compared to the addition of a heavy frame. A heavy pre-hung door might be too difficult for a single person to install. 

Installing slab doors can also be a relatively simple project, especially when you are only changing a few doors in your home. You can utilize an existing door for a template and reuse existing hinges that are already functional. The task of hanging a slab door is simplified when you already have an existing template. 

Another benefit of a slab door is its broad range of design options. For example, repurposed vintage doors rarely come pre-hung in a frame. If you want to add an antique door to your home, a slab door is your best and often the only option. When it comes to different parts of a door, the real craftsmanship is in the door slab, not the frame. Doors styles can range from glass doors, fiberglass entry doors, steel entry doors, and even bifold doors. The possibilities are nearly endless. 

Slab doors are also ideal for interior applications where they are not exposed to the elements. A front door, for example, is often exposed to heat, cold and moisture which can warp the frame of the door over time. It’s never a good idea to hang a slab door on a warped frame because you will run into issues with alignment, poor weatherproofing, and inadequate energy efficiency. Since these issues are not found indoors, hanging a slab door on an existing interior frame helps simplify the process.

Door Slab Materials

Slab doors can be made of a variety of materials, including solid wood, fiberglass, or even steel. The materials of a slab door can range from a generic, hollow core door found at local big-box stores to a beautiful antique door that has been restored to its former glory. 

Slab doors found at your local discount store are often pressed wood with a hollow interior core. While inexpensive, these types of doors lack the durability and beauty of genuine wood. A hollow core door is especially susceptible to damage from accidents and often needs extensive repair to look like new. Anyone who has ever tried to repair a hole in a hollow door knows that it never quite looks the same again. 

A steel door slab might be considered if additional security is required. Typically, commercial doors will be made of either galvanized steel or even stainless steel. A steel double door is often uniquely specified for commercial applications and is rarely found in residential homes. An exception to this might be a panic room or safe room within your home. 

Since a warm, inviting design and long term durability are usually the top priorities of remodelers, solid wood is a popular choice for a door slab. Unlike mass-produced fiberglass doors, wood slab doors are honed from beautiful pieces of hardwood for a unique, custom finish. Antique doors or doors made of reclaimed wood doors are also popular choices for renovation projects. These doors bring in storied history and offer the homeowner a chance to make an artistic statement. 

What is a Prehung Door vs a Slab Door?

When you’re deciding on an interior door, you’ll need to figure out whether you want a slab door or a prehung door. The primary difference between slab doors and prehung doors is how the door arrives at your house when you order it. 

When you purchase a slab door, you will receive the door slab and only the slab. Since there is no accompanying hardware and you only purchased the door, it’s referred to as a slab. On the other hand, when you purchase a pre hung door, your order will include the door slab, hinge pieces, and the door frame required to install it into your rough opening.

The difference between a slab door and a prehung door is the same regardless of whether you purchase an exterior door or an interior door. Either door option can be a solid wood door, steel door, or fiberglass door, depending on your preferred material. You can also choose to have the door pre-cut with a doorknob hole.

When ordering any prehung door, slab door, or barn door, you’ll need to add your preferred customizations to the order, including the finish option, knob, and any special elements like wood type and door texture.

How to Measure a Door Slab

The most important step to do before purchasing a slab door is to accurately measure the existing door to get a proper fit. To do this, you’ll want to measure the door opening, minus the existing door frame or trim. The basic steps are as follows:
  • Measure the width of the door, excluding the frame.
  • Measure the height of the door, excluding the frame, sweep, or jamb.
  • Measure the depth of the door.
When measuring the width of the existing door, you should measure the door only. Slab doors utilize the frames that are already in place, so it’s important that you only measure the old door. Take a tape measure and go from left to right, taking note of the exact width of the door. If you only have a framed opening and no door, then measure from the inside of the frame on the left to the inside of the frame on the right. Repeat this multiple times to ensure accuracy.

Measuring the height of your entry door or interior door is similar to the width. If you already have a door, use a tape measure and start at the top of the door and go all the way to the bottom, taking note of the measurements. Measure the door only, not the framing. If there is no door, then start your measurements just under the top frame piece and measure down to the bottom framing. 

Finally, measure the thickness of the door itself. You can do this by measuring the thickness of your solid wood door or, if you don’t have a slab yet, by measuring the thickness of the existing frame.

How To Install a Slab Door

The steps to install your slab door will vary, depending on the type of door and existing hardware. Typically, a slab door will either swing open or slide on rails above an opening like a traditional barn door. This is achieved with a unique track system and barn door hardware that is installed above the door. The barn door design offers a rustic and functional appearance that will add character and charm to any home. 

How to Install a Swinging Door Slab

  1. Using your old door as a pattern, mark the location of mortises on the edge of the door. If the old door is not available, align the door in the frame (⅛”) from the bottom and mark locations for mortises. 
  2. Using a square (combination or try) mark line across the door edge at each hinge location, then use the hinge leaf as a template to outline the hinge location on the door.
  3. Use a sharp chisel to score around the edges. Be careful not to go deeper than the depth of the hinge leaf.
  4. Hold the chisel at an angle with the beveled edge down and make several cuts in the scored area to achieve the proper depth of the mortise. 
  5. Clean area with chisel and check hinge for proper fit. 
  6. Secure hinge leaves to door with wood screws. 
  7. Reinstall door pins, top to bottom.

How to Install a Sliding Door Slab 

  1. Since a sliding barn door is generally very heavy (especially when it’s made of solid wood or reclaimed wood), properly securing the door is extremely important for your safety. If a header is not available, you will need a mounting board. 
  2. If no header is available, install a 1x4 board that’s the same length as your track system to the wall above your door with drywall anchors, spacers and lag bolts. 
  3. Measure and cut the track for the door to slide on - keep in mind you want some additional overlap (1 to 2 inches) to ensure your door completely covers the opening.
  4. Drill mounting holes into the track (using a metal bit) OR utilize a pre-drilled track.
  5. Utilizing a level, carefully secure the track to your header or mounting board. 
  6. Secure barn door hardware utilizing manufacturers instructions. 
  7. Get help (this will be very heavy) and lift door to align rollers to track.

Why Buy a Slab Door?

There are many reasons why you might consider purchasing a slab door over a prehung option. If the rough opening for your interior door is already framed, you can save time and money by purchasing a slab and installing it, rather than busting out the old frame to install a new prehung door.

You might also decide to purchase a slab door if you want to quickly update your home decor without taking on a major renovation project. You can easily swap out an old slab with a vintage door, an updated custom door, or a modern design made of glass or your preferred wood species. 

Installing a solid wood slab is a great option as long as your frame is solid and the hardware pieces, such as the door hinge and sliding hardware, don’t need to be replaced. You also have plenty of options if you decide to utilize the existing frame—whether you purchase a hollow core door, double doors, single door panels, fire rated doors, or solid wood doors.

Are Slab Doors the Right Option for Me?

If you are working on a home renovation project, a slab door can provide a variety of options. Since these doors are hung using existing frames, basic hand tools and a little patience are all that’s required to completely change the look of your space. 

An interior slab door is often the focal point of a room, or artistically connecting the open spaces in your home. When placed outside, an exterior wood slab door enhances curb appeal and provides guests and neighbors with an important first impression of your home.

Solid wood doors, such as those handmade by Rustica, are beautiful solutions to a practical project. With a little extra work and know how, you can successfully integrate a custom wood door slab into your design. Your home deserves more than a budget door that was mass-produced in a factory. When you purchase a door from Rustica, you are hanging a door that was crafted with care and precision, and makes a statement about you and your home. Rather than blend into the background, your door becomes functional art that tells a story. 

A solid wood slab door can add a special touch and reliable functionality to your remodeling project and help take it to the next level. Order a slab door directly from Rustica to ensure you receive the best possible door at an affordable price. Using proprietary engineering, each door includes Rustica’s Anti-Warp Guarantee, so you can enjoy your investment for many decades to come.
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