How to Cut Doors for Hinges

Many types of replacement doors are available for your home at your local home improvement center. You may want to purchase an energy-efficient exterior door to lower your utility bills, or upgrade interior doors to spruce up your living space. When purchasing a replacement door for your home, keep in mind you may have to mortise the edge of the door so that the hinge plate will be flush with the edge of the door. This is not as daunting a task as it seems if you use the correct tools and pay close attention to detail.

  1. Place the door across two saw horses and mark the location for the hinges. Make pencil marks with a combination square on the edge of the door that will be hinged. Use a measuring tape and mark the edge of the door 7 inches from the top to indicate the top of the uppermost hinge. Mark the edge 11 inches from the bottom of the door to indicate the bottom of the lower hinge. Measure and mark the center of these two marks if your door has a center hinge.
  2. Pencil a parallel line along the edge of the door ΒΌ inch from the edge at each hinge location to indicate the back of the hinge. Hold the hinge on the marks you have made firmly and score the outline of the hinge onto the door edge with a utility knife.
  3. Mark the depth of the cut by holding the hinge flush with the edge of the door and make a score with a utility knife along the hinge plate on the face of the door. Place the hinge aside.
  4. Use a sharp wood chisel and tap it with a hammer along the cuts you have made on the door edge. Make sure the flat side of the chisel is facing away from the cut-out area and be careful not to go deeper than the thickness of the hinge plate. Make a series of perpendicular cuts 1/8 inch apart within the hinge outline using the chisel and hammer.
  5. Use the chisel, and holding the beveled edge down clean out the scored area for the hinge by hand. Be careful not to go beyond the scored area with the chisel while cleaning out the wood chips. Periodically test-fit the hinge plate into the cut-out area.

Things You Will Need

  • 2 saw horses
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Combination square
  • Hinges (2 or 3, depending the door)
  • Utility knife
  • Wood chisel
  • Hammer


  • If you are replacing a door, measure the location of the hinges on the old door and transfer these measurements to the new door.
  • If you want the hinge location to match other doors in the home, measure the location of these hinges and transfer the measurements to the new door.
  • Easily mark the location of the hinges on the door by using a butt marker. Butt markers are available at hardware stores.
  • Shim underneath the hinge with cardboard if you make the hinge cut-out too deep.