Sunday, December 6, 2009

How to Install a French Door

Disclaimer: This is the Kirk Method. Individual results may vary.

S: Our homebuilder used two sliding glass doors in our home, one in the dining room and one in our master bedroom, both leading to the outdoor patio. The previous owners had replaced the dining room door with a french door, and we were finally able to find the time and money to replace the door in our bedroom.

We had already removed the horrible vertical blinds, and temporarily pinned up a couple of curtain panels for privacy...classy. So after removing the curtains, and the board wedged inside the door frame that served as a lock for over a year, we were ready to remove the sliding glass door.
First, we took out the screen and two sliding glass doors by removing a few screws and using that handy orange suction cup handle to hold the glass The frame came out easily as well by removing all the screws around the perimeter. 
After taking a look at our rough opening, we realized the new door was a lot thicker than the old one, which meant that drywall and carpet would have to be cut back. Using a utility knife, we scored and removed the extra drywall and carpet, making it even with the stud. 
We also found that the base of the old door had been adhered with spray foam, instead of caulk, so the cement slab had to be cleaned up and all the old foam scraped off. Once the slab was clean, we applied a generous amount of silicone caulk, then scrambled to set the door in place. 
Easier said then done....there were a couple of close calls where I was sure the door was going to fall and shatter into a million pieces, crushing me on the way down. But after many fancy maneuvers, we had the door in place...or so we thought.

Z: And then we took the door back out. Essentially the rough opening formed a slanted square, a rhombus for those geometrically inclined. The old sliding glass door did not fit well, leaving a slight gap at opposite corners, but the door would still open and close just fine. However, the frame of the new pre-hung doors was pinched, making them bind and pinch together. A rough opening that's a bit too big can be solved easily with nailing in another stud or extra shims, but one that's too small creates a difficult situation. I thought, why don't I just move the wall. So I did, I moved a wall. I let my hammer loose on the base plate (the bottom 2x4 that rests on the foundation). I noticed it was moving ever so slightly, millimeter by millimeter until my hammer did this.

Or rather I did that to my hammer. The head simply, by the strength of my own hand, sheared off. Granted, the hammer was not the highest quality, but I'm a skinny guy and inch thick forged steel does not crumble at the hands of the weak. All this to say, it boosted my ego and I already sent my application in to the Spartan Army. I used another hammer to finish budging the wall over, ran another thick bead of silicon caulk and, with Sarah's help, set the the french door in its home. After shimming it in place, screwing it the frame at the hinges, and checking for level after every screw, I sprayed polyurethane spray foam to fill in all the gaps and increase the thermal insulation.



  1. Again, I'm so impressed with you guys!!! Way to go...and moving a wall...amazing. I love french doors! Mrs. W

  2. And this is why we're going to hire you guys to come help when we finally do the same in our kitchen. :-)

  3. Thanks for sharing such a great blog... I am impressed with you taking time to post a nice info.