How To: Mortising a Door for Hinges

by Andrew Guy | Last Updated: August 3, 2020

Although young guys may not think that they will ever need to know how to hang a door, and that it is the work of a carpenter, there will be quite a few times in a man’s life where this skill will come in handy, saving you face, time and money. Mortising a door for hinges and doing it right is the most important part of hanging a door.

I remember in my own life, my first college girlfriend had to fix a door that we broke during a party in her apartment before moving out, and the agent was 4 hours away from inspection. These skills served me well when I quickly bought and hang the new door, it also scored me some precious brownie points with the girl and her friends too.

Follow these tips and instructions on how to mortise a door for hinges, and having the right basic tools can make it a lot easier. Following these instructions can save you time and effort, while helping you to end up with a neater more satisfactory installation.



The first step in hanging a door is determining whether it is to be hung right-hand or left-hand. A right-hand door means the hinge is added to the right side, while a left-hand door means the hinge is on the left side.

Be sure to determine which type of hinges are needed before you begin.

mark location of door hinge

A. Use a small square to mark the location of the hinge on the door.

use marking gauge

B. Use a marking gauge to indicate the area of the door that the hinge will not cover. This area is referred to as the setback.

chisel and hammer to score door hinge area

C. Use a chisel and rubber or plastic hammer to score the marked area. Be sure the chisel is sharp and the correct size. Next, make shallow cuts as deep as the hinge leaf is thick. Tap the chisel lightly for better control of the cuts.

D. Remove the wood you have cut away. A sharp chisel will make this job go much faster, easier and a lot safer. After you have made the recess to the proper depth and smoothed it with the chisel, you are ready to mount the hinge.

Use a nail punch or a drill to start the screw holes. Fix the leaf of the hinge tightly into place on the door with a good screwdriver. Use countersunk screws.

Position the door and hinges in the frame making sure that the vertical position is correct. If need be put spacers under the door. Mark the position of the hinges on the door jamb.

Remove door and follow steps A – D above for the jamb. Apply the same procedure to fix the door to the jamb.

After the door is done, swing it a times to check for alignment. Make any adjustments necessary to the door and the hinges for proper positioning. In some cases, a door may need light planning or sanding in a few spots. In other cases, the hinges may need slight adjustments for proper alignment.

There you have it, the skills to hang a door.