Have you installed new floors on top of the old ones, or has your house settled and your door doesn’t move freely anymore? The only way to fix it – if you don’t want to replace the door frames and install a new door – is to remove some of the door’s height. Trimming the door isn’t hard, but is there a way to trim the bottom of a door without taking it off the hinges? While removing the door from the hinges is recommended, there is a way to reduce its height without taking it off. Here’s how.
How To Trim The Bottom Of A Door Without Taking It Off
The easiest way to trim a door while hanging is with a door trimming saw. Alternatively, you can use an offset backsaw.
Things You Will Need
- Door trimming saw or offset backsaw
- Carpentry pencil
- Wood shims
- Painter’s tape
1. Pick The Wood Shims
When trimming the bottom of a door, whether taking it off or directly on the hinges, it is crucial to mark the cutting points. The easiest way to do this is with wood shims of the necessary thickness.
Wood shims are either ¼ or ½ of an inch thick in their thickest point. A door installed properly has a clearance of about ¼-inch. Cutting too much height will result in an improper seal when closing the door; thus, it is crucial to assess your situation and buy the right thickness shims.
To do that, open the door and swing it a few times. Does it move freely but rubs against the flooring material in certain locations, or does it get stuck completely?
If the door is only rubbing against the floor, use ¼-inch shims. If it gets stuck, use ½-inch shims.
2. Mark The Cutting Points
Once you have the shims, open the door to the point where it gets stuck or rubs against the floor.
Place the shim on the floor against the bottom of the door and mark the cutting point with a carpentry pencil. You have to mark a cutting point more or less under the handle and another against the hinge side on both sides of the door.
Now, use painter’s tape to mark the cut by running it from mark to mark. You can also use a ruler or level to draw a line between the two marks if you want.
Expert tip: When determining how high you need to cut, it is crucial to use shims rather than a long length of wood. The floors are rarely perfectly flat, and using a long length of wood will likely result in a cut that is not straight.
3. Trim The Bottom Of The Door
There are several tools you can use to trim the bottom of a door without taking it off. However, only two are acceptable choices if you want the end result to look good: a door trimming saw or an offset backsaw.
A door trimming saw is a power tool similar to a circular saw but with a horizontal blade. This type of saw is designed specifically for trimming doors while still hanging, allowing for seamless height and depth adjustment.
These saws can be expensive, but you don’t have to buy one. Most home improvement stores allow you to rent the power tools you need for an affordable price (paid by the hour or for the whole day).
If you don’t want to buy the tool and your home improvement store doesn’t rent equipment, you can use an offset backsaw. In this case, you should ask at least two other people to help you.
Trimming the bottom of a door with a door trimming saw
Reducing the door height with a door trimming saw is the easiest way to achieve a professional result without hiring a door cutting service. Here’s how:
- Measure the thickness of the door and write down this number.
- Measure the distance from the floor to the cutting marks on both sides of the door. The trimming saw allows you to fine-tune the blade height and angle for a perfect cut.
- Set the cutting depth to ¼ to ½ of an inch and make a precut on one side of the door, from the handle edge to the hinge edge. Assess the result and make any necessary height adjustments.
- Set the cutting depth of the blade to match the thickness of your door. Start from the handle side of the door and slide the saw toward the hinge side with a fluid movement. You can now remove the cut piece from under the door.
Tip: For the best results, you should hold the door still with a doorstop. Alternatively, ask a helper to hold the door in place until you’re finished.
If you don’t have a door trimming saw but have some carpentry skills, you could achieve similar results with a circular saw, using the fence as a guide against the floor. This method works best if you want to trim the bottom of the door before installing the floor (the fence could scratch your hard floors or get stuck in carpet). The video below shows you how to do it:
Trimming the bottom of a door with an offset backsaw
This manual saw is one of the cheapest tools to buy. It is a good alternative to a power tool; however, the result won’t be as clean, and the bottom of the door might need shaving when you’re done.
- Lay a flat piece of material on the floor against the door. This piece should help you place the saw at the desired height, based on the cut marks you did earlier.
- Place the blade on that material and use one hand to hold it flat against it.
- Ask a helper to hold the length of wood (or the material you’re using to hold the blade at the right height) steady and flat against the floor. Ask another helper to keep the door in place.
- Start cutting from the handle side of the door, ensuring that the blade is flat against the support material at all times as you saw away.
4. Sand The Door Bottom
No matter what tool you use, you might have to sand the surface to smooth it. Use fine-grit sandpaper to remove the burrs. To smooth off the rough edges under the door, use a longer piece of sandpaper and ask a helper to stand on the other side of the door.
Both you and the helper should hold the sandpaper firmly against the bottom of the door. Pull the sandpaper back and forth while sliding it from one side of the door to the other.
Below are the answers to some of the most frequent queries.
Can you trim the bottom of a door with a multitool?
Cutting the bottom of a door with a multitool is possible but not recommended. A multitool is very difficult to hold still at the desired height, resulting in a wavy cut. If you want the cut to be smooth and straight, use a door trimming saw or a circular saw.
Can you shave a door without removing it?
Yes, you can shave a door without removing it. Step number four above explains the process, but you’ll have to put in more effort to remove as much material as necessary. That said, shaving the door with sandpaper rather than trimming it with a saw is preferable when you only have to remove a bit of material to prevent it from rubbing against the floor.
Can you trim the bottom of a door with a jigsaw?
You can trim the bottom of a door with a jigsaw in the same way you can trim it with a circular saw.
How to trim the bottom of the door after new carpet?
You can trim the bottom of the door with a door trimming saw, but you should lay a tarp under the door to prevent wood shavings from getting into your carpet. To do this, open the door until it gets stuck or rubs against the floor to measure the cutting height, then close it until it moves freely. Slide the tarp under the door and ask a helper to hold the door in place. Follow the steps above to cut the excess material with a door trimming saw.
Trimming the bottom of a door without taking it off is easy, but achieving satisfactory results can be challenging. The easiest way to cut it properly is with a door trimming saw. Alternatively, use a circular saw or a jigsaw if the floor is not yet installed. If you’re not sure what to do, contacting a door cutting service near you could be the best option.