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Installing a Sliding Door

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A sliding glass door can be a great feature in your home, one that really opens up a room. Imagine sitting in your kitchen or living room and having a nice big window through which to look and observe the arrival of spring or the falling snow in the winter. In the summer, you can leave the glass door open, with the outer, screen door closed, and enjoy a cool summer breeze. If these scenarios sound good to you, and you have some construction or remodeling experience, read this guide to learn the basics of installing a sliding door.

Preparing the Opening

If you are creating a new opening for the sliding door, you're going to have a little more to deal with than if you're simply replacing an old door. You'll have to cut through the wall and studs, making sure you retain the structural integrity of the wall (especially if it's load bearing). This guide won't get into that process, so you'll need to do some additional research if you have to go through those steps.

Whether creating a new opening or making use of an old one, though, there a few simple, but critical, preparation steps you'll need to follow. The first is to measure the opening. This should be done prior to buying a door, so you can be sure to buy one that will fit. Doing this well help you avoid having to make a lot of unnecessary adjustments to the opening just to get your new door in place.

The second step is to make sure you remove all remnants of the old door. Nail heads, old shims, bent screws, and the like will have to be removed or hammered down. You'll need the opening to be smooth if the new door is to fit correctly.

Finally, check the structural integrity of the opening. If the studs on the sides of the opening (the jack studs) aren't level or are loose, they'll need to be adjusted and toe-nailed into place. The beam that runs across the top of the opening (the header) will need to be checked as well. The header is of crucial importance because it will bear the weight of whatever is above it (roof, second story, etc.); if the header is cracked or damaged in other ways, that weight could fall on the door itself, and the door won't be able to hold it.

Installing the New Door

Your best bet is to install a pre-hung door. This will save you a lot of time on assembly, and there are nearly infinite styles and designs out there for you to choose from. Just make sure the door is the right size for the opening.

Once you have the door back to your house and out of the box, put a layer of construction adhesive along the bottom of the opening, where the door will sit. Set the doorframe in place and use a level and shims to get it level. Slide additional shims into place around the doorframe to get it to fit tightly. The door manufacture's instructions should give you a more specific idea of where exactly the shims should be placed. Remember; it's important to get the doorframe shimmed and leveled before the construction adhesive dries. Fill up any additional space between the doorframe and the opening with fiberglass insulation (remember to always use gloves, a breath mask, and eye protection when handling fiberglass insulation).

Now you can secure the doorframe into place with screws, going through the frame at the spots where you placed shims. Next, install all stops into the doorframe. Don't tighten them too much, however, until you have the door panels in place, which is the next step. Once the panels are set in place, go back and tighten up the stops. Finally, you can install the door hardware (e.g., handles and locks) and trim.

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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