House is 82 years old. First floor is masonry walls with an outer layer of brick an inner layer of terra cote blocks and plaster to finish the inside wall. The front and side doors were decrepit single panel wood with three lights at the top. Faded varnish. 1/4" plywood panels made up the insulation. The side storm door had succumbed to a storm years before.
We had looked at doors before. The wife wanted an oval light. But the doors we would see in the store were $1,500. <choke> So I was walking through the local Home Depot last summer and spotted a deal they were having on steel doors units with oval lights for $179. Now that's my price range. I had planned on doing the side door first to make all my mistakes and put the front door in after some experience. But the oval door was for the front which now was going to be done first. More on that later.
I measured and measured and measured and decided that while the new door itself was slightly larger than the old door, the door jamb was ever so slightly smaller. This would mean no enlargement of the opening would be necessary.
As soon as the first piece of molding came off, I knew everything I had seen on the DIY shows was wrong. These doors were installed by standing them up and building the wall around it. As courses of the terra cote blocks came up, the mason would put a wooden plank between courses and nail the door frame into it as an anchor. Then they put a 4x4 header over the whole thing to finish the opening.
The door unit itself required some modification. The jam had to be 1" deeper and the brick molding required 1/2" trimmed off the edge to fit in the opening in the brick layer.
Tearing out the old front door pretty much scared me stupid. The more I saw of the insides of the masonry wall, the more I was certain the whole thing would simply collapse without the reinforcement of the door frame. Also I was working out where the whole world could see. I so much prefer making my mistakes in private.
The door squeezed into the opening with a some convincing from my little friend, Mr. Hammer. Some shimming under the threshold (part of the door unit) squared it up. Sound simple? Try about four hours of measure, tap, measure, tap back. Screws through the frame tied into the anchor in the wall. Then I sealed the whole frame in place with four cans of Great Stuff. This makes for about 7 square feet of urethane holding the door in place. Then the inside molding competes the installation. Wood anchors in the wall, the urethane foam, and the wall sandwiched between the brick molding and the inside molding. I don't think it will go anywhere anytime soon.
The threshold of the door opening is concrete poured above the foundation wall. Unlike modern houses where the opening is at subfloor level, on my house the opening is at the finished floor level. This makes the door threshold somewhat high which isn't so much of a problem on the inside, but created almost an inch gap on the outside as the concrete threshold slopes down there. So what we decided to do was tile the steps. On the front, this was only a single step up from the porch and fairly straightforward. On the side is three steps that had to be built up with concrete before they could be tiled to even out the rises.
Two Andersen storm doors, wood filler, sanding (the molding, not the doors), paint and voile.
I had originally planned to do the side door first to learn on and then do the front. But I ran into some snags on the side. Apparently, the master mason did the front wall. The apprentice did the side. The front door opening was as straight, true, and square as you could ask for. The side door opening was not. Subtle little variations that made it hard to put the door in. I ended up taking another 1/2" off the brick molding on the side, leaving me with a substantial gap to deal with. I didn't think the caulk I'd used on the front would work in such a large gap so I mortared it. We'll see how that works over time.
Total job for two insulated steel doors with storm doors installed was right around $1,000 and at my usual glacial work pace, about three months from buying the first door to finishing the painting. But as I write this, it's about 26 degrees outside with blowing snow and none of it's blowing in the doorway. So that's a wrap.