Pre-Hung Doors vs Slab Doors: Comparison Guide

Pre-Hung Doors vs Slab Doors: When it comes time to replace an old door or install a new one, you have two main choices: pre-hung doors and slab doors. Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to choose the option that best suits your needs.

Pre-hung doors are more expensive than slab doors, but they’re also much easier to install. If you’re not particularly handy, a pre-hung door is probably the way to go. Slab doors, on the other hand, are more versatile. You can cut them to fit virtually any doorway, which gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to design.

However, slab doors can be tricky to install, and they require a bit more work than pre-hung doors. Ultimately, the choice between pre-hung doors and slab doors comes down to personal preference and your budget. Whichever option you choose, make sure you hire a qualified professional to install your new door.

Pre-Hung Doors vs Slab Doors:

When shopping for doors, you will encounter two entirely different types: pre-hung doors and slab doors. A pre-hung door is a door that is already hung on its frame, complete with hinges, a doorknob, and other hardware. A slab door, on the other hand, is just the door itself; it does not come with a frame or any hardware.

pre-hung doors vs slab doors
pre-hung doors vs slab doors. image source

This contrast mainly comes to light when you want to purchase and install the door by yourself. If you buy a pre-hung door, you will need to make sure that the frame is the right size for your door opening; if you buy a slab door, you will need to install the door in an existing frame.

In addition, pre-hung doors are typically more expensive than slab doors. As a result, it is important to determine what type of door you need before making a purchase.

What Is a Pre-Hung Door?

A pre-hung door is a slab door that is already attached by hinges to a three-sided doorframe. It is sold by the manufacturer as a mostly complete package—though some features must be added by the purchaser, such as the doorknob or deadbolt. More expensive than a slab door, a pre-hung door is a mostly self-contained unit with a frame that fits into a prepared doorway.

Upon sale, pre-hung doors are tightly bundled into their included frames with polyester tension packing straps and plastic spacers to prevent them from shifting or twisting during during shipment. This packaging protects both the door and the frame, ensuring that they arrive at the jobsite in good condition and ready to be installed. As a result, pre-hung doors are a popular choice for builders and remodelers who want to ensure a high-quality result.

Pre-Hung Doors: Typical Features
Features Included Features Not Included
Door slab Doorknob
Hinges Metal strike plate
Frame Surface coating (paint or stain)
Frame pre-cut for the strike plate Fasteners
Mortises cut in the door Shims
Pre-cut hole for the doorknob
Installing a pre-hung door is an exacting process, especially with exterior pre-hung doors because of the need for extreme weather tightness. Pre-hung exterior doors are very heavy to transport and to lift into the doorframe. Most retrofit exterior doors come in pre-hung format.

The rule of thumb is: If you already have a prepared doorframe with casing and trim, you should not purchase a pre-hung door.

The only exception is if you intend to remove all of the trim and casing to the bare studs. Exterior doors consist of three basic parts: the door slab, the jamb (the vertical members) and the sill (the horizontal member that rests on the threshold).

A pre-hung door includes all three parts – hung in a factory-built frame – and is ready to install in your rough opening. A slab door is just that, a door slab. It does not include a frame or any hardware.

A slab door must be mated to a frame, which then must be properly positioned in your rough opening and secured. To avoid costly mistakes, it’s always best to have a professional handle your installation.

pre-hung doors vs slab doors
pre-hung doors vs slab doors

What Is a Slab Door?

A slab door is a simple door that does not include a frame. It is the responsibility of the do-it-yourselfers or installer to attach the slab door to an existing door frame or to create an entirely new door frame. Slab doors can be purchased with or without a pre-cut hole for the doorknob.

Installing a slab door is a relatively easy task that can be completed in a few hours. However, it is important to make sure that the door is properly aligned and level before attaching it to the frame. Otherwise, the door may not open and close properly. With a little bit of patience and careful planning, installing a slab door can be a straightforward project.

Slab Doors: Typical Features
Features Included Features Not Included
Door slab Doorknob
Pre-cut hole for the doorknob (if chosen) Metal strike plate
Surface coating (paint or stain)
Mortises
Shims
Hinges

Pre-Hung Doors: Pros and Cons

What We Like

  • Hinges pre-attached to the frame
  • No need to build a frame from scratch
  • Mortising the hinges is not necessary
  • Hole for doorknob is pre-drilled
  • Hole for strike plate on doorframe is pre-cut

Pros

Pre-hung doors make new-construction work easy and fast. If the intended location for the door is open and exposed, you will find it easier to install a pre-hung door because it comes nearly complete, with its own frame. If you were to install a slab door, you would need to build the frame from scratch. While this is not a difficult task, it does add more work to your entire project.

If the existing door frame is so damaged or warped as to make it impossible to hang a slab door, it is usually easier to demolish that entire door area, frame included, and start from the beginning with a pre-hung door.

For exterior walls, it is usually better to install a pre-hung door. Pre-hung exterior doors come weather-tight off the shelf, with no need to do anything else to make them tight-fitting. By contrast, unless you are highly experienced, it can be difficult to install a tight, weatherproof exterior slab door. Pre-hung doors make this an easier process for do-it-yourselfers.

Cons

Pre-hung doors are heavy and hard to manage. Weighing between 50 and 100 pounds, a pre-hung interior door with a hollow core slab is the lightest pre-hung door you can buy. Even if weight is not an issue, a pre-hung door is bulky and unwieldy to move. Pre-hung exterior doors easily weigh over 100 pounds and require two strong people to move them. Also, if you have a small vehicle, transporting a pre-hung door is usually not an option.

Pre-hung door installation may seem simple but it can be difficult to get it correctly positioned. While you do not have to worry about the exacting task of hanging the slab to the frame, you still have the exacting task of fitting the pre-hung unit as a whole into the door opening. Pre-hung units, like all doors, require shimming. Even a pre-hung unit can be installed improperly so that swing and closing are impaired.

Also, keep in mind that you still need to finish all of the work around it: drywall, painting, and installation of trim plus staining or painting.

Slab Doors: Pros and Cons

What We Like

  • Less expensive than pre-hung doors
  • Provides greater design flexibility, even vintage doors
  • Mortises must be cut

Pros

When saving money is of critical concern, you may want to explore the possibility of installing slab doors since they often cost much less than pre-hung door units.

Slab doors provide you with much more design flexibility than pre-hung doors. For example, if you find an antique or unique door that you want to re-purpose for your own house, you can do this with a slab door. Architectural salvage doors nearly always come in slab form, yet rarely as pre-hung units.

When installing an interior door, you may want to think about using a slab door rather than a pre-hung door unit. Interiors are more forgiving environments for imperfect installations, as weatherproofing is not an issue.

Slab doors lend themselves better to smaller installation quantities. When you are installing only one or two interior doors, you will have the extra time and patience to devote to this more difficult process.

Cons

Slab door installation requires a steady hand, a good eye, and plenty of practice. It is easier to install a slab door if you are doing an exact, one-for-one installation in which the new door is the same size and configuration as the old door. But if there is any variation in the door size and configuration, it will be difficult to make it hang right.

If your building skills are shaky yet you still want to install a slab door, you may wish to use a new slab rather than a recycled slab. A new slab door will be flatter and truer than a used door. Recycled slab doors usually need extra work, such as planing, sanding, and straightening.

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