It’s easy to make a doorway in a wall, but it’s not just a simple matter of swinging a sledgehammer and making an opening. There are practical considerations that should be taken into account before you start swinging: are you trying to achieve more light? Is there something in the wall that you’ll need to remove? Will the door that you put in be load-bearing (meaning does it have to support weight from above, such as the roof)? If so, it needs special framing and possibly another door jamb (the vertical frame piece on either side of the door). Once you’ve thought through these questions, your next step is to start doing some research.
Locate the studs in the wall.
The first thing you need to do is locate the studs in the wall. This will help keep your door from twisting or buckling when you hang it, which would make it difficult to open and close. The easiest way to do this is with a stud finder, which can be purchased at any hardware store. If you don’t have access to a stud finder (or if there’s no electricity in that part of your house), use one of these other methods:
- A level on a small piece of wood can tell you where there are beams or thick walls behind the drywall, but this method may not be accurate for older homes that were built before studs were common building materials.
- Measure out from each corner into opposing walls and measure from those points as well; look where these lines intersect for beams or thick walls that could support your doorway.* Use a tape measure along both sides of the wall; if it measures 10 feet long then chances are good that there are two 4-foot long sections at either end with 6-foot wide spaces between them.* Hammer into each side panel near its top edge until it leaves an indentation; if there’s no dent after multiple hits then move onto another spot on that same panel.* Move onto another section along either side panel until you find one where a strong dent appears upon impact.* Drill through all four panels using either screws or nails, depending on how heavy they feel when knocked together.* Check again with modern building techniques by tapping gently around each side panel until finding what feels like solid wood underneath.
Cut and remove a section of drywall to expose a pair of studs on either side of the proposed doorway opening.
- Cut and remove a section of drywall to expose a pair of studs on either side of the proposed doorway opening.
- Use a drywall saw to cut through the drywall, then carefully remove it with your hands. Make sure you cut down into the studs, not just above them! You can use a stud finder to locate them before cutting, or just look for small metal boxes in your wall where wiring or plumbing might be running through it.
Frame the doorway with a header joist spanning between the stud pairs at the top of the opening.
Once you’ve decided where to put your door and framed out the opening, it’s time to attach the header. First, measure the width of your door (you’ll probably want it as wide as possible) and make sure that measurement is less than or equal to the distance between your wall studs. If it’s not, either adjust your plan or remove some of the drywall on either side of the doorway so you can use a smaller header joist.
Next, screw in two 1x4s vertically at each end of this new piece of lumber with their top edges flush with those of their respective studs. Then attach them together by screwing them together through both pieces horizontally in four spots: one on each corner and one halfway down each edge. This will hold everything square while you work on leveling and plumb-ing everything up. Finally, drill pilot holes every 6 inches (15 cm) along each edge so that when you secure it into place later—by driving nails through these holes—they’ll hit wood instead of just air.
Measure, cut and attach horizontal king joists on either side of the header.
Measure and cut the horizontal king joists to fit on either side of the header. The distance between these pieces is called a bevel, which is typically between 1/4″ and 3/8″ depending on your material thickness. Cut the pieces so they are long enough to reach over an inch beyond where they need to be attached and hang down until both ends are even with each other (if using a single piece). Use a leveler or plumb bob to check that both ends are level. Attach them by screwing through from inside into outside; use three screws per joist for strength.
Install jack joists across from each vertical jack under the header board.
Using your measuring tape and a pencil, mark the locations of the jack joists to be installed. Jack joists are horizontal members that support headers. They are installed perpendicular to the header and on either side of it. The distance between jack joists is determined by the span of that section of wall.
Once you’ve made your marks for each jack joist, use a hammer or nail gun to sink 2″ nails into place through centers marked on each stud in both directions (left-to-right and front-to-back). Nails should go through both sides (top and bottom) of every stud in order to secure them into place properly.
Cut and install a pair of sills or trimmers on either side, flush with the bottom king joists.
Once your sill and trimmer board is cut to size, you can install them on either side of the opening. Sills are horizontal boards that support the door jamb, while trimmers are vertical boards that support the door jamb. To ensure a solid fit with no gaps at the bottom of your doorway, measure from your existing flooring to the king joist above it (the lower wall studs). This will ensure that when you install your sill and trim pieces, they’ll line up perfectly with each other.
Measure, cut, fit and install casing around the door jamb with finish nails.
Measure the width of your door jamb and cut your casing to size. In most cases, this will mean cutting it with a miter saw.
Install the casing by fitting it into place and driving nails through its backside into the wall studs behind it.
A step by step guide to making an opening in an interior wall.
To begin, find the studs in your wall. To do this, use a stud finder (or just knock on the surface of the drywall) and start at one end of the proposed opening. When you reach solid wood, move 10-12 inches over and repeat until you have located all four of them across from each other. If they line up perfectly with an existing window or door frame, you’ll have to make adjustments as described below.
Next, cut away any drywall that extends over top of your marks so that there is enough space between it and any flooring underneath—1/2″ should suffice here—to insert new framing materials before installing drywall back onto those areas later on down this process’ timeline. This will allow us more room later when we begin framing out our doorway opening!
Remember to keep safety in mind with your project. Try to get some help if you need to lift heavy pieces of wood, or use a crane or cherry picker if you’re not able to do so yourself. If you need more information on how to make an opening in a wall, please consult our website for additional resources and articles on this topic.