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Install a Patio Door

Decks, Patios, Windows & Doors October 8, 2008 Matt Weber

My old college roommate is the type of guy who gets all the luck. I mean, if he slipped and fell, he’d probably land in a big pile of money. He was given a limited-edition Corvette as a graduation present, landed a well-paying job straight out of college and was settled into a nice, suburban home while most of his friends were still pounding the sidewalk trying to find their first “real” job. Being a single guy, he built his home into a bachelor’s dream house, complete with exercise room, guest bedrooms and the much-envied “Man Room.” The Man Room is a barroom in the basement, complete with multiple big-screen TVs, a ping-pong table, a pool table and enough seating areas to support a big, rowdy football party.

Recently, we were sitting around his bar, sharing an after-work beverage while I was admiring the Man Room. “Jeez, this place has it all,” I said. “What else could you want in here?”

“A sliding door going from the barroom to the rear deck of the house,” he said. “I want to eventually put a hot tub on the deck, and a patio door would be sweet.” Great idea.

A sliding door in the Man Room would open up the room to the light and fresh air of his backyard, while providing an easy exit to the outdoors. And so it was decided, the Man Room would receive an upgrade.


First Steps

To install a sliding patio or deck door, first decide a practical, aesthetically logical and structurally sound location for the entranceway. Do not locate a patio door closer than 4 feet from any corner, otherwise the solid-wood sheathing or metal bracing at the corners could be compromised. Also, plan ahead. We chose the door’s location in part because it allowed the option of later adding a bathroom at the corner of the adjacent wall.

For help with the installation, we enlisted the help of remodeler Joe Sandoval of Sandoval Structural Systems. His first step was to turn off all electrical power to any receptacles or light switches on the wall in question. There was no plumbing in this wall, but if pipes exist, cut off the water source.

After removing any pictures, molding or other obstructions, measure and mark the dimensions of the rough opening on the interior wall. Refer to the instructions included with your patio door for the recommended rough-opening dimensions. “Rough opening” refers to the dimensions inside the trimmer studs and between the floor and the bottom header. This opening will be slightly larger than the patio doorframe. The extra space allows a little fudge room for squaring the frame with shims. This door was 6 feet, 1/8 inch wide. To determine the dimensions he needed to cut, Sandoval added 3 inches to the rough opening width to allow for the 1 1/2-inch trimmer studs on each side of the door.


Note: For patio doors wider than 6 feet, install two trimmer studs on each side of the frame for extra support, and account for this when first calculating your measurements for the installation procedure.

Mark the cut lines running all the way to the ceiling. The interior wall above the door’s rough opening will be removed to build the header.

This interior wall was finished with drywall. For this type of construction, use a drywall saw at the floor level to cut a hole in the wallboard. Use short cutting strokes to prevent slicing into electrical wires. If using a Rotozip or an electrical circular saw, set the cutting depth to no more than 5/8 inch. Knock holes in the wall with a hammer to peek inside and determine wiring locations before removing the entire wallboard. Use a pry bar to remove the wallboard from the studs. It’s also advisable to wear safety goggles and a dust mask to keep away drywall debris. Remove any insulation and relocate any electrical wiring, water-supply lines or DWV piping.


extreme-how-to-300x250-220914Inside the Rough Opening

Because wall studs support ceiling and roof structures, some studs must be removed to allow room for the new door. Sandoval installed temporary 2-by-4 support studs running from floor to ceiling about 2 feet inside the designated area for the door to be installed. The supports will act as a temporary wall and should cover an area slightly wider than the proposed rough opening. Note: This step is critical to support the ceiling while you remove the wall studs and install the new door header and framing studs.