How to Decide Between a Pre-Hung Door vs. a Slab or Book Door


A pre-hung door is just as the name implies, a door that is already assembled and hanging in its own frame. It’s a fully self-contained unit. Even before it’s installed, it’s possible to open and close the door within its own frame (however, it’s not advisable, as you might torque the frame and damage it).

The main parts of a pre-hung door are door slab, hinges, and frame.

Some factors that may influence your decision to choose a pre-hung door vs. a slab door are as follows:

– When there is no existing door frame.
– When the existing door frame is so damaged or warped as to make it impossible to hang a slab door.
– When doing new construction or extensive remodeling, if the door frame is open and exposed, it’s easier to install a pre-hung door than a slab door.

When installing an exterior door, pre-hung doors come weathertight.  That is, you don’t need to do anything to make them tight-fitting. Unless you are a real door pro, it’s difficult to install a slab door and make it tight fitting.

Pre-hung door units can be heavy and hard to manage. You may be able to manage a pre-hung interior door easier than a pre-hung exterior door because interior doors and interior door frames are generally lighter. Pre-hung exterior doors most often need at least two strong people to manage.

While you don’t have to worry about the exacting task of hanging the slab to the doorframe, but you still have the exacting task of fitting the pre-hung unit into the wall.  After the pre-hung door unit is installed, you still need to finish all of the work around it: interior casing and exterior molding.

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What is a Slab or Book Door?

A slab door is what we normally think of when we think of doors… just a rectangular slab of wood, composite, or steel. It has no hinges or hardware. It’s up to the installer to attach it to the door frame with hinges.

Some factors that may influence your decision to install a slab door rather than a pre-hung unit:


In general, a door slab is less expensive than an equivalent per-hung unit.  However, when you account for the extra labor often times involved in installing a slab door into existing jambs, it’s not always the least expensive option.

When you want to install an antique or otherwise unusual door in an existing place.

When installing an interior door, precision isn’t quite as important as interior doors don’t need to be weathertight.

Some downsides to installing slab or book doors.

A slab door installation requires a steady hand, a good eye, and lots of experience. If the door you are installing is exactly the same size and has the same configurations (screw holes for the hinges, door knob sizing and positioning, etc.) as the door you are removing, you may be okay installing a slab door.

Any variation indoor size and configurations, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to make it hang right, and your best option probably is a pre-hung door unit.

In summary, if your house has open walls from restoration work or you’re constructing a new space, you’ll be installing a pre-hung door. If you’ve got a good doorframe in place, have a square opening, and aren’t keen on removing trim, install a slab door.

No method is really better than the other, as each has its own special worries.

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