cinder block – Installation of an Entry Door – Direct Fasten to Masonry

I’ve always enjoyed installing residential entry doors. There’s something about thinking and working in three planes that appeals to me. Making customers happy and feeling comfortable in their home environment makes me happy, too. Nothing can compare to the satisfaction of knowing a job has been well done, seeing and feeling a beautiful and properly installed door operate smoothly. In modern homebuilding techniques, most housing built here in the Salt Lake City area after the mid-1960’s is 2×4 or 2×6 wood stick frame construction with an exterior veneer of brick, stucco, or some type of lap siding. Prior to that time, many, if not most, homes around here were built using four inch wide cinderblock (4″x8″x16″) masonry walls with a brick exterior veneer.

Thermal efficiency properties of new door systems have improved greatly over what was available forty or fifty years ago. New jambs allow for air-tight vinyl weather stripping and adjustable thresholds with vinyl door bottom sweeps. Low maintenance fiberglass or metal doors are sandwiched with foam insulation. And doors with windows come with thermal glass. Installing a new door in an existing older home has become a highly desired remodeling upgrade.

These days, installing a pre-hung entry door system (including jambs) to new wood stick frame construction is generally pretty straight forward; you can just nail, or preferably, screw through the jambs to the framing studs behind. If adjustments are necessary, just pull the nail or back out the screw, re-align the jamb using builder’s shims, and try again.

But what about retrofitting a new entry door system in an older home built with cinderblock masonry walls? You can’t use the same technique of just nailing through the jambs, the masonry will just deflect and bend a regular framing nail. Cut nails might possibly work, but the chances for jambs alignment adjustments are slim to zero, while the chances of masonry cracks or half-moon hammer head marks in the jambs are almost a given. Masonry screws need to be started in pre-drilled cinderblock holes, which can be drilled through the jamb, but I’ve never been satisfied with their holding power alone, where the cinderblock is prone to crumble around the holes while adjusting screws and snugging shims tight. Experience has taught me to always insert plastic expansion sleeves in the cinderblock to properly fasten masonry screws.

I believe installation direct to masonry is the height of challenge for an entry door, where skills and patience for a carpenter are truly tested. You really only have one chance to get it right – screw hole mistakes in the cinderblock don’t allow for incremental jambs adjustments. Here is where carpentry meets art, you must think and be creative. So, the satisfaction of a properly installed door in this case becomes, at least for me, a real thrill.

On the initial site visit to measure up the door, you’re going to tap on the walls to see if they are drywall or plaster. Of course, you’re going to check the concrete threshold step for level. Carpenters never assume anything, right? Measurement of the exterior brick opening overall height from threshold to lintel will be noted. Any further uncertainty about whether a house was built with masonry walls can be at least partly resolved by measuring the exterior brick opening overall width. A width measurement slightly off by about one-half inch from the nominal brick opening is a sure tip-off that you’re going to be facing the direct fasten to masonry challenge. Adjust your installation estimate accordingly for some extra labor.

I’ve learned by the hard way of experience that it’s necessary to remove old existing jambs carefully. If directly fastened to masonry with cut nails, jambs removal may break out the cinderblock unless the jambs are cut into short, manageable lengths.

An out of level concrete threshold step can be ground flat by a concrete cutting subcontractor, or the door threshold can be adjusted by unscrewing and repositioning in the jamb by the amount out of level.

Any attached brickmold and casing must be removed from the jambs to make installation easier with shimming. Also, brickmold will probably have to be ripped in width to fit the overall brick opening width and height.

With the rough opening clean and prepped for the new door and jamb, move the system into place as one with door hung on hinges. Temporarily shim the side jambs tight top and bottom ends in the rough opening. Temporary shims at the bottom hinge may also be required to straighten door sag. The top hinge will sag, just be aware that you will compensate for it later with shims and a screw to snug it when the door is installed permanently. Use of a level isn’t necessary, just align the jambs flush with the interior plaster and shift shims to square the door in the jambs with even spacing reveal. Tightly wedged shims will allow you to operate the door carefully. Open and close to check the door touching the weather stripping evenly top to bottom for any possible jambs twist. Adjust as necessary, even though jambs may not flush with plaster top to bottom. A good carpenter won’t assume the original door was installed correctly, right? Check the brickmold reveal, you should have consistent and even measurements side to side and top to bottom. It’s unusual to have brick out of plumb to any great extent. Adjust shims again as necessary. Index the jambs in the rough opening and the shims to jambs with pencil for reference when installing the system permanently.

Remember, you only have one chance to get this installation right, so be patient – you will be rewarded with a satisfying outcome. When you’re satisfied that the door system is in the correct position, drill through the thickest part of the hinge jamb with a regular drill at the hinges areas, and then further drill into the cinderblock with a hammer drill. Drill the strike jamb in the same corresponding locations, with the middle drilling positioned between the strike and deadbolt mortises. Countersink jambs holes to flush the masonry screw heads. It may be necessary to remove the door from the hinges for this step, just remember to check the indexed jambs alignment to be sure nothing has moved.

Remove shims and then remove door system from the rough opening. This must be done to install the plastic expansion sleeves into the holes drilled into the cinderblock. Then re-assemble door system and re-shim into the indexed positions in the rough opening. At last, now fasten jambs to the cinderblock with the masonry screws, using shims at each screw location. Fine tune screw adjustments by wedging the shims to get the reveals around the door even. Adjust top and bottom jamb shims as necessary. Open and close door to check touching the weather stripping evenly top to bottom for any possible jambs twist. Some slight remaining jambs twist can be adjusted by persuading the jambs with a block and a hammer. Be careful. Now nail the shims permanently in position with a pneumatic nail gun shooting squarely into the cinderblock. Don’t worry, the nails should sink into the cinderblock as long as they are the proper length and are nailed squarely and firmly. When in doubt, nail into mortar joints. Don’t nail into the very hard brick. I try to hide any nailing behind the weather stripping whenever possible. Finally, protruding shim ends may be trimmed off with a dove-tail saw.

Squirt foam insulation between cinderblock and back side of jambs. The foam can help glue the jambs into place. Then all that’s left to do is apply the frosting – trim of brickmold, casing, and a shiny brass doorknob. Stand back and feel satisfied knowing you’ve accomplished something out of the ordinary, and made the customer happy.

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I’m sure you’ve been there. You have a goal in mind that you are excited about reaching. Maybe you finally decided to lose weight or you are inching towards the place you want to be in your career. But as the time goes, so does your motivation and drive. We all need motivation in order to complete our goals and insure our success. Motivation is the fuel that lights that fire in the heart and enables us to propel past obstacles and seize our goals. But in order for that to happen you must sustain your motivation. Here are three ways to have everlasting motivation.

Set Viable Goals

One reason most people do not reach their goals is because they put themselves in a position to fail. Think about planting a sunflower seed in a spot in your backyard where the sunlight does not shine. No matter how much water or fertilizer you give to seed it will not grow because it was never put in a position to grow. If your goal is to lose weight or to make more money then you should put yourself in a position that makes that possible. Your goals should also have a solid foundation. The slab that your goal sits on should be deep rooted and unmovable. For example, let’s say you want to have a better body. Your goal should never be to lose weight for the summer or an upcoming special occasion. Because you may develop a better body, but what happens when the summer is over or the occasion has passed? In order to stay motivated you must give your goals a fighting chance. Review what you want to accomplish and make sure that you’ve made success possible.

Finish Line Vision

In order to maintain your motivation and to complete your goal, you must look past your obstacles and see your success. I always use to wonder how martial artist could break wood boards and concrete bricks with their bare hands. Just the thought of punching a cinder block makes my hand hurt. But there is a unique tactic that is applied that you can use to stay motivated. Before one of these experts drives their fist into a solid object, they visualize an imaginary target that is past that object. In other words instead of focusing on the board and what your hand is going to smash, look past the board to where you hand is going to be. The mind will be so focused on the target that it will continue through any obstacle until it reaches that target. If you see your goal and have the finish line as your focus, you will naturally progress in that direction.

Reset the Bar

You must challenge yourself in different ways in order to keep the fire going. Believe it or not one of the biggest motivation killers is progress. Sometimes when we have a goal, and we see immediate progress, we have one of two reactions. We either get so excited by the progress that it makes us want to accomplish more, or we become so content with our improvement that it causes us to slow down. Setting little goals along the way may give you a boost and raising the bar will keep you climbing. New challenges bring new motivation and new motivation breeds new success. Have confidence in your ability to surpass your own achievements.

The greatest athletes, musicians, and leaders realize that they are their own competition. In order to gain success they must find that fire that burns inside and harness it to propel them to their goal. Once you learn how to light your fire and keep it lit, you will graduate from acceptable to excellence.

About The Author

Ralph Jean-Paul is a personal development speaker, writer and the founder of Potential2Success.com. The website’s sole purpose is to offer information, quotes, stories, and interviews so that all visitors will leave the site ready to harness their potential and turn it into success. Please visit us at Potential2Success.com or you may email Ralph directly at email@potential2success.com

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