Friday, April 13, 2012

Installing French Doors... Creatively

 May 2011

Back in December, we had purchased a beautiful french door to replace our horrible 1970's sliding doors to the backyard. The installation of these doors was sure to be life changing, not only because they were gorgeous solid wood with divided lights and shiny oil-rub bronze handles, but, also because our current sliding door did not operate properly and required you to pick the door up and slide it. I really can't write enough bad things about the old door.  It didn't have a lock, so that meant the front door was the only exterior entrance to the house, and it didn't always lock in general.  Thus, it was often 'open' to any robber or raccoon who was willing to lift a 80 pound door and slide it (luckily this appeared to be no one).

Before I start, I also want to say... we knew this was going to be a big project.  The current door was eight feet long, our new door was only 6 feet wide.  This meant we would need to frame in a 2' stud wall, and we were a little nervous about how the current door was installed since nothing in our house from the 1970's appeared to have been done right.   Josh and I decided this was probably a little too big to be an only-us-project.  We decided to hire a guy from his work to come and help out.  Jeff showed up early on Saturday morning and quickly removed the glass door panels exposing the frame. He then removed the exterior trim so we could see how it was installed.

It was a mess. They had cut the foundation back to install the new door, they had also installed a 4"x4" post as the header (to those not in construction, an 8 foot span should have at least a 2"x8" or 4"x"8 header).  But perhaps the most disturbing was that the header was not supported by anything on one side (see left hand side in picture).  The sliding glass door was literally hold up all of our house above.  A quick trip to Lowes was in order, Josh rushed off to buy some additional lumber.  Jeff and I talked about what we wanted to do.  The good news is that we were making the hole smaller.  We decided that to take the 4"x4" header out (which had to it's credit been holding everything up and was level) was not a good idea.  We figured it we supported each end of it with a king stud (this is two studs doubled up) and but another king stud on the side of the door we would have enough transfer points to not replace the header.  Now that structure was figured out we looked at the sill for the door.  Urgh

The last owners had  set the door frame into concrete.  Who does that? How do you remove a steel track embedded in concrete? At this point I need to tell you a little more about Jeff.  Jeff's real name is Jeff Ditch (honest to goodness) he is a beast of a man about 6'-4" easily 240lbs and sports one hell of a mustache.  Jeff was definitely not going to admit that this door had him stumped. I went in the kitchen, which is 3 feet away, to make some coffee and ponder what to do about the huge hole in our house when the entire house started shuddering... I rush to the stairs to see Jeff bare handed ripping the steel door track from my house.  I think I just stood there with my jaw open.  As my house cried uncle, he yanked and yanked until the darn thing had corkscrewed and pulled completely off. Jeff Ditch: 1.... House: 0

At this point, Josh returned and we just started framing everything back as if nothing insane had just happened. We installed both the dog door and the french door in (a perfect fit!).  Jeff told us that since the original door had not been installed on a wood sill, we would have to install the new door the same way, ie. imbed the doorplate in concrete. It was getting close to 4pm in the afternoon.  Jeff promised to come back the next day and add the concrete.  I was so tickled with our new door, but the entire process was a little blurry... did we just rip a huge hole in our house? Did we just discover a structural death trap?  Did that man just rip steel out of concrete with his bare hands? Is it okay that I can see daylight around the door when I am in my kitchen?  They don't show these moments on TV.

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