Patio door drama

Remember a few months ago when I posted about getting new windows? Well, we’ve been LOVING them, but we didn’t get our new door until just recently. This is what we were stuck with before.

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The seal was broken on the right side of the door, so that side was always cloudy or wet. Not a very pretty view. The lock was also broken, but that’s old news for a slider, right? So we had to use what we affectionately called “the stick” to lock it. Don’t worry, we still have our little sticky friend. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it for sentimental reasons. Maybe someday we’ll find a use for it?

We decided we didn’t want a sliding door  because they always seem to break, they’re hard to open, we don’t like the handles, etc. I knew I wanted a center-hinged patio door like this (one door opens while the other is static). French doors just don’t work well with indoor only cats cause you can never leave them open.

Unfortunately, only sliders or french doors (both doors open from the center) are standard and easy to find. We could not find anywhere that sold patio doors other than as “custom doors” that had to be ordered. And you know what it really means when you hear the word custom? Expensive! One window place quoted us $1200 and another quoted $2000, and Lowe’s and Home Depot were about $2000 as well (not including installation).

A contractor friend of ours recommended we look at Stock Building Supply. When we were finally able to meet up with the “door guy” at Stock (they’re not much for customer service), he quoted us about $600 for a custom built fiberglass patio door! We were beyond excited! We ordered the door, and only had to pay $17 for delivery since it wouldn’t fit in our truck (normally delivery is $75).

Then one day, poor Andrew was in the back yard trimming.

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Around all those rocks. And one little rock decided to fly up and hit the old sliding door. And this happened.

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Luckily, it only broke the outside pane so it didn’t have to be an immediate fix, but it was pretty good timing what with having the new one waiting in the garage. When we measured it more carefully, though, we realized it wasn’t going to fit in the same space as the slider. The “standard size” apparently isn’t the same as it was in ’84 as the new door was slightly taller and wider.

Since the door is in a load-bearing exterior wall, we knew there would be a header above it that would need to be replaced with a longer one. We’d never done anything like that before and weren’t sure how to deal with a header, so we temporarily put away our DIY caps, bit the bullet, and hired someone.

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First they removed the old door, and then removed the old header and the studs on the left side. We decided we didn’t want to encroach on the space to the right of the door at all, so we left that stud where it was and widened the space to the left only.

Sometimes when replacing load-bearing beams, they will build a temporary wall out of adjustable metal poles or wooden beams to support the load until the new header is installed. In this case, he said that wasn’t necessary as the opening only left two rafters unsupported and it would be fixed very quickly. They cut the new header and studs to the right size, removed the old one, and slipped the new one into place.

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Except there was actually very little slipping and a lot more hammering and pushing.

After that part was done, the rest was pretty simple. They really did slip the new door into place, shimmed it up till it was level, screwed it into the studs, and that was that. We told them to leave the finishing up to us to save money. I believe we paid them just under $600, making our grand total for the door and installation about $1200. Not bad considering we might have had to drop $1200 or more just on the door!

Because of our kitchen flooring, the door couldn’t be pushed in to be flush against the outside of the house, so there was a gap here. We hear this is pretty common, and the door leading to our garage looked like this, too.

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First, we filled the space with spray foam from the inside.

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Then we framed the outside with cedar 1′”x 2″s and caulked the edges.

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Underneath the door, this piece of wood was in pretty rough shape. I’m not sure if it was there to support the threshold piece of the door or just to cover the opening in the side of the house…

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We took it out, lined the opening with flashing (the thick plastic adhesive kind), and replaced it with a wider piece of cedar that would give some extra support to the door’s threshold.

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As for the inside, here’s a reminder of the in process shot (I have no good before pics cause the curtains were always closed to hide the ugly door!)…

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And here’s the new patio door in all its glory! Ok, so it still needed some help.

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Andrew installed drywall around it to cover up the header and studs, which was already a vast improvement and much less scary and “under construction” looking.

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Again, because the flooring stuck out, the door couldn’t be pushed in to sit flush with the interior wall, so we had to figure out a way to frame this tiny space on the inside.

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Andrew held up a 1″ x 2″ on each side (backwards from the way he wanted to install it), traced along it using the wall as a guide, and ripped the boards along the markings he’d made. He then tacked them in using his handy dandy pneumatic finish nailer. What a beast of a tool…everyone should have one!

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Then he taped the seams of the drywall and did his first, quick coat of mudding.

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And voila! Not a completely finished project, but considering he’s only spent a few hours on it so far, it’s not looking too shabby! It’s way less imposing that it was before with the exposed header. And the door itself is such a huge upgrade from the broken, cloudy slider…and the shattered one that we lived with for a while.

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The next step is to do a bunch more sanding and mudding until we get a smooth, flat finish. We might end up repainting that whole wall since we’ve noticed this paint doesn’t seem to touch up very well. Then we’ll cut and paint all new trim since the door is taller and wider, install and caulk it, paint the door with our white trim paint, and it’ll be done!

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Even though we still have no deck, we do go out this door sometimes to water plants, grab fresh herbs, or work outside. The slider was such a pain to open, especially from about 3 feet below it, so I’m already enjoying the benefits of my easy-to-open door and loving the fact that it has an actual deadbolt now instead of a stick!

Having seen it done, we feel like maybe we could have installed the header and door ourselves (with a stronger helper for Andrew instead of myself), but we’re pretty glad we went ahead and hired it out. Not only do we have so many other projects going on, it still looked like a huge pain getting everything just right, and it took them much less time than I’m sure it would have taken us. And they were insured in case something had gone wrong. Sometimes it pays to pay.

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I was also a bit worried that it would feel darker since the windows are smaller than on the sliding door, but we didn’t really notice any difference. It also keeps out more heat. If no one is sitting in the chair on the end it opens right past it, but it still opens enough to get out otherwise, and the door opens nearly 180 degrees so it will be almost completely out of the way if we want to leave it open. Now I just can’t wait until we get a screen door so we can!

Before it was installed, I worried that maybe I should have sucked it up and gone with a slider to save money, but now that it’s installed, I just don’t think sliding doors are for me, and I am so in love with our new door!

Check out part two of our patio door project here.

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