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Hanging Doors With or Without Shims?

Framer's picture

On another forum there's a thread about hanging interior doors with or without shims.

It seems like it's 50/50.

What amazes me is that some guys will say it's no good to hang doors without shims when other guys will say that they have hung thousands of doors without shims with no call backs.

I was taught to use shims and always did but I guess I can't tell a guy who has hung thousands of doors with no shims and has no call backs that it's no good.

Which way do some of you hang doors, with or without shims?

Joe Carola

Joe Carola

(post #91358, reply #1 of 38)

I would like to know the technique for hanging doors without shims. Not that I would follow it, but that it seems impossible to do.

My first step is to square the rough opening so it is plumb and the header is square. But no matter how I might try, there will be some issues, simply because the lumber is generally wet.

I like to use the white pine shims on the finish jamb and like most of you, nail through the two shims. I use a sharp razor knife to score the shim and break it off with a swift blow of my hammber. The head jamb is made level by raising one of the legs of the side jambs up with yet another shim.



"Sir, I may be drunk, but you're crazy, and I'll be sober tomorrow" -- WC Fields, "Its a Gift" 1927

Regards, Boris "Sir, I may be drunk, but you're crazy, and I'll be sober tomorrow" -- WC Fields, "Its a Gift" 1934

(post #91358, reply #5 of 38)

The ones who say that they don't use shims say that they will bang the liner (Trimmer) over on the hinged side until it's plumb and then nail right to it. I guess on the the other side they nail through the jamb with a even reveal and then nail the casing on to hold it in place. Also put a longer screw in the middle of the hinges.

With a nail gun it's probably not as bad because of the 3/8 or so space you have left but by hand it seems like it would be a pain.

I use to trim all the houses that I framed for this one builder and one of the guys that I worked with taught me to shim all the hinged sides of the openings plumb first with a 6' 6" level and then nail the jamb into that and then shim and nail the rest of the jamb with the same reveal all the way around.

We use to spread all the doors and trim around to each room and let it acclimate for about a week first.

It obviously must work both ways with good results.

Joe Carola

Joe Carola

(post #91358, reply #6 of 38)


You needed to read the original article in FHB by Gary Katz. That article started a fire storm here on this site. Many guys basically said he and the method he employed was ridiculous. Just like what's about to happen again.

Even though I don't hang doors with out shims, I will still give Gary the benefit of doubt. He's a good craftsman and fine carpenter. He has been in business for some 20 years or so and if he had trouble with that method I'm sure he would have never written that article.

Construction Forums Online!

(post #91358, reply #7 of 38)


Just out of curiosity, does the technique without shimming work for all doors, or just hollow core or otherwise light and relatively small ones?



(post #91358, reply #9 of 38)


If memory serves me right. Gary Katz only uses the NON-shimming technique on light-weight, hollow core doors. All other types, he still shims.


(post #91358, reply #2 of 38)

Man, I see both done, and they don't get callbacks. I'm the one who gets to fix it. I do warranty work for a handful of local builders, and crummy door installations is pretty high on my list of things I get to keep seeing again and again. I used to say "I don't understand" why anyone would do it that way, but I do. It's the same economic stuff that lets people advertise "we will not be underbid!" rather than "you can't buy better quality". It's competition - if I can build the house cheaper, I can look better to the buyer than the next guy. Around here, Joe Builder only allows something like $25 or 30 for setting a door, and the GC isnt always standing there, (would they care if they were?) and time is money, and hey if you have thirty to set in a house and you can make it look reasonable at least until after the doors get used . . . more money if you're quick. You learned right to shim it. Too bad more didn't. But what do I know? I've only hung a thousand doors or so. Maybe I'm not qualified to those who've hung 2K.


" We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita . . . "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that, one way or another." - J. Robert Oppenheimer

Real trucks dont have sparkplugs

(post #91358, reply #3 of 38)

The real ugly thing is that it's based on knowing that most people won't complain. If these builders had to send you out on even as few as 5% of their badly installed doors, all of a sudden it would make more economic sense to do it right the first time.

(post #91358, reply #4 of 38)

I shim 'em. Always.  I'm not saying it's better, just that I do it.

(post #91358, reply #8 of 38)

Minimum 3 sets of shims both sides, using 2-1/2" gun nails.  Up to 5 sets per side if the door needs it.  I bid the job knowing it's gonna take that, at least to satisfy me, if no one else.

The High Desert Group LLC


(post #91358, reply #10 of 38)

I use shims too. Minimum 3 per jamb side.


(post #91358, reply #11 of 38)

I think there is another distinction here.  Split jamb vs. flat jamb, and/or cased or uncased prior to hanging.

It takes me approximately 30 seconds to shim a door, 3 sets per side, and center of head jamb.  I precut my bundles of shims to 4 inch lengths prior to the start of hanging.  If you stand them up in a cardboard box, after a while you can pull the right combination out by eye and not even have to trim any of them.  I can probably hang 30 in a day this way, but most houses that I trim have 15 to 18 doors, so I can't say for sure.  It takes more time to unpack them than it does to hang them.

Even at 25 bucks a door, you can make 75-100 bucks/ hour, isn't that enough.  Not having a callback, doesn't mean that it is a better method to go shimless.  A perfect plumb and level opening with a quarter inch space all around might do fine without shims, like that ever happens.  I don't think gary katz ever said it was better, just that he gets away with it.  What do you do if the jamb is warped?  What's to keep it from warping or twisting later.

Nice tip, but for the extra 7-1/2 minutes it takes me on the average house, I'll pass.

And I don't think gary katz deserves a pat on the back for enlightening the world with his production trimming wisdom.  I bet he spends more time sucking down coffee and setting up his shoots than he would spend shimming his doors given the proper techniques.  If Gary worked in my neck of the woods, I would take all his work by offering to shim all the doors for the same price.

I prefer a flat jamb door,  case hinge side prior to hanging,  shim, install casing on final side.



I'm here to help the humans.

(post #91358, reply #12 of 38)

If you want a door to remain plumb and square in its opening over time, you must shim. No ifs ands or buts. Do you think a guy who does something for speed sake as opposed to quality sake is gonna fess up to getting call backs? Most folks either arent going to call the guy who hung the door improperly to begin with back, and/or are willing to write it off as wear and tear. Plenty of ways to "fix" a door that has wracked in its opening without completely removing and reinstalling. (i.e. planing, lowering strike, etc.) That dont make it right.

Hey but what do I know, I dont use nailguns for hanging `em either! Do it right, do it once! (where have I heard that before?)

J. D. Reynolds

Home Improvements





(post #91358, reply #13 of 38)


"Do you think a guy who does something for speed sake as opposed to quality sake is gonna fess up to getting call backs?"


Probably not going to fess up to getting call backs.

I've never hung a door without shims befor either. That's why when I read that guys do this I thought it was a joke at first.

This is why I posted this here because I know that there's alot of good contractors on this forum and I'm curious to see if or how many guys do it that way. If some of the good and well known contractors do it that way with good results it will probably leave a ? in some eyes.

I was talking to Joe Fusco befor and he said what about when you slam a door a million times with kids and all that. What does that do to that side of the door with no shims?

Joe Carola

Joe Carola

(post #91358, reply #14 of 38)

I always shim.  I take the side stops off and use screws, 5 screws/shims per side under the center of the stop.  I use a combination of multi-ply and 2 inch strips of vinyl flooring/ 30# felt for shims.  They don't split.   A nice feature with  the screws is easy alignment & no nails in jamb.  I can't remember last callback on a door.  (ok, memory is going)

(post #91358, reply #15 of 38)


My friend(Woody) use to take all the stops off and nail and shim the doors. I remember the first job he trimmed with us I heard my other friend Al (old timer GRUMPY) saying Woody what the hell are you doing KID taking all the stops off the doors?

Woody said, "that's how I was taught and since everything is being stained you wont see any nail holes, try it."

(GRUMPY) Al and all of us said HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!

GRUMPY said to Woody, I've been doing it my way for Forty years KID!

Then, GRUMPY walked away and Growled.


Joe Carola

Joe Carola

(post #91358, reply #20 of 38)


Old Grumpy sounds like one of those folks who is resistant to change!  ;)

Whenever possible, I like to make my own door jambs, since the ones from the factory are just stapled together and aren't aligned at least half the time anyway!  I like using applied stops for the same reason Woody does.  You can put screws through that location, and cover it afterward with the stop.  Also, once the door is hung, it's easier to use a router to mortise for the lock hardware on the jamb side without fighting the rabbet.

When I make my own jambs, all I do is rip and joint some stock to the right width and then dado across the tops to accept the head jamb.  I do this in my shop, and then just lay the loose (i.e. unassembled) pieces into the truck.  When on site, having the jamb unassembled makes it a lot easier to cut the low ends of the jambs so that they fit against the finish floor perfectly.  Then, with the pieces all cut to proper fit and length, I use some adhesive and screws to assemble the jamb and SHIM it in place.




(post #91358, reply #22 of 38)

I don't use permanent shims anymore, I foam the frames instead. I have a set of spreaders that I copied off a european model and the frames are far more solid than with the use of shims and nails.

It's a lot like mortaring steel frames in commercial, except that you fill the void with adhesive expanding foam.



(post #91358, reply #25 of 38)

Try that in a wet frame, Gabe.

(post #91358, reply #27 of 38)

Who uses wet frames?

I know the trials and such of trim production work and we've all seen the results. If I were doing production work , I would use shims.

Fortunately, I don't have to and I only do it for my own enjoyment, therefore, I once tried the european way and I liked it. Made sense for me.

I was only tossing in an alternative to think about.


(post #91358, reply #29 of 38)

You know I meant frames of houses that are being pumped out, right?

And ya, I have heard of your way, but I like to make sure I can take things apart in twenty years. People here tend to go off the map to be a "fine homebuilder", I pity the kids that are going to have to deal with all the glued and screwed.

A little off track, oh well, not the first time.


(post #91358, reply #33 of 38)

can you expand on those spreaders????

(post #91358, reply #35 of 38)

Each set is made of 2 10" pieces of aluminum pipe, threaded on the inside, with a small pad on the opposite end to protect the jamb finish. The small pad is connected with a swivel to the pipe. This allows free movement as your tighten the rod bar.

Between or inside the two pipes  there is a treaded rod that acts as a turn buckle to extend the spreader from 22" to over 36".

I use 4 of these spreaders on each door jamb and it takes about 1/2 hour between doors to allow proper set up time.



(post #91358, reply #38 of 38)


Years ago there was an article in FHB about a custom mitersaw stand that a carp in some big city had made.

It was a real slick rig with stock supports and clamps and it folded up to be wheeled around.

In that article it mentioned a door hanging jig the guy had made that allowed him to hang a door in less than a minute.

I remember thinking  SHOW THE F-ING DOOR JIG!!!!!

somebody at FHB sould look that guy up and do an article on the jig!

I'm thinking that this jig must incorporate spreaders along the same principle as yours and a level or something.

I always use shims.

I doo want to try those adjustable jamb screws tho.

Mr T

Do not try this at home!

I am a trained professional!

. .

(post #91358, reply #36 of 38)

26174.23 in reply to 26174.21 

I don't use permanent shims anymore, I foam the frames instead. I have a set of spreaders that I copied off a european model and the frames are far more solid than with the use of shims and nails."............

We did a termite repair in a house that had been urea/formaldahyde foamed 10 years before.  The foam was shrunk back 1/2 from the stud spaces and crumbled at the slightest touch.  This seems like a lot more work than shims, and a whole lot less forgiving.

(post #91358, reply #37 of 38)

Urea/formaldahyde insulation was never designed for setting door jambs.

Low expanding foam does not shrink.


(post #91358, reply #31 of 38)


Old Grunpy is actually my friends father he's about 63 now and we all use to work with eachother. I use to tease him and say, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" and he use to say to me, "Hey kid I've forgotten more then you'll ever know." Gotta love him.

He's a great guy we had alot of fun busting back and forth especially when it came to cutting rafters we use to have some crazy conversations, I could be a stubborn mule too. He taught me alot and I showed him a few tricks too.

I can't wait to see him and tell him about hanging doors with no shims. Thinking about his reaction makes me crack up. He'll be cursing for a year on that one knowing him.


Joe Carola

Joe Carola

(post #91358, reply #18 of 38)

I remember reading the article in FH that was mentioned by someone in this thread....very close to cancelling my subscription. I also recall an article by Larry Haun, revered by many around here, that dealt with "square cutting by eye" when framing. I mean, how much time are you saving by not pulling out your speed square prior to cutting? I`m more than happy to read of new techniques and tools being used today to help save time, but never sacrifice quality.

Similar instance: I know plenty of guys more than willing to install windows, nailing only through the flange and allowing the interior moulding to hold everything square. If you install enough of them, and you only become aware of a few that dont hold up, its pretty easy to convince yourself that the few are manufacturers defects.

J. D. Reynolds

Home Improvements





(post #91358, reply #19 of 38)

Someone back there mentioned shims splitting.  I try to nail below the shims instead of through them.  That way I can tap them slightly in or out before casing.

I think one way to avoid using shims is to nail one side of casing on the jamb before hanging the door, then rely on nailing through the casing...or something like that.  Lot's of reasons beyond the fact that you eliminate shims that sequence doesn't appeal to me.  Lot's of times I lean the top, or bottom, of a jamb a bit so that the door closes evenly against the stop.

I'd much rather go through and hang all my doors, then come back and run all the casing, at least on one floor.  Fewer tools to carry each time, isolates process so I'm focussed on that specific task...not as mentally acute as I used to be I guess.

Jim Chestnut, aka "clampman", wrote an interesting article a few years ago about assembling casings on a work bench then installing the three pieces of casing as a single unit after the glue dries.  Said his crew has one guy hanging doors while another makes these casing assemblies.  He even invented that corner clamp with brads that lock the miter closed while the glue dries.  Seemed like an interesting method.

Lots of ways to skin a cat.  I'm just glad we have the internet these days so we're not limited to waiting for the next article to get published or seeing what Norm and Tommy do. 

(post #91358, reply #21 of 38)

Shim it!- I remember that artical and thought, what a fast way to hang doors. Then I remembered how hard my teenage kids used to slam them. It takes more than casing to hold a door in place.

Then we have framers that leave their levels at home. I hate it when the door swings open when I'm on the John.

There are fast ways to do things and then there are, the ever so time consuming ways to do things right.





"Rather be a hammer than a nail"

"Rather be a hammer than a nail" Bob

(post #91358, reply #23 of 38)

I had to rehang 6 hollow core doors a while back. The house's owner had a 5 year old son who won every argument he ever got into with a hollow core door. I took the frist one out, and not a shim there. The whole thing was held in by some 15 gauge nails, mosty shot through the casing. The whole installation looked like whoever hung those doors in the first place either didn't know what he was doing or didn't care what he was doing. If you ask me, no door should ever be hung without shims.

When the article came out I remember the two camps seemed to be aligned somewhat geographically, with eastern carpenters shimming and western ones not shimming. I wonder if that still holds true.


When people 100 years from now see my work, they'll know I cared. --Matt Mulka
When people 100 years from now see my work, they'll know I cared. --Matt Mulka