Installing a New Exterior Door
By Matt Weber
From cutting access to framing and installation.
I recently built a nice, big deck at the rear of our project house, but there wasn’t a door to access it from inside. I decided to install the door in the kitchen at the corner of the house, since the only other two options were the master bedroom or a bathroom. The kitchen posed problems of its own, with a huge set of oak cabinets leaving us only about 8 feet of wall space with which to work. The project was definitely a challenge, but I managed to support the ceiling, cut through the wall, reframe the wall and install the door. Here’s how it went.
Any time you’re cutting the studs out of a load-bearing wall, you must construct a temporary brace wall to support the overhead load. If you’re dealing with a multistory structure, I’d suggest consulting a structural engineer about how to support a heavy load. In this case I was working on the top floor with only the roof overhead, which is easily supported by the bracing techniques shown here. To build this, I first marked the proposed location of the door on the wall, and then marked the location of the ceiling joists. Make sure the brace wall runs perpendicular to the ceiling framing, otherwise you’re just holding up drywall.
I then installed a top and bottom floor plate, each made of 2-by-10’s. Protect the flooring and finished ceiling by placing a few sheets of corrugated cardboard between the plates. Extend the brace wall so the top plate extends a few feet beyond each side of the proposed door location so the overhead framing is completely supported when you cut through the existing wall. Build it about 3 feet out from the wall you’re about to penetrate to allow room to work.
It’s nice to have an assistant hold the top and bottom plates while you install the temporary studs to support the ceiling, but I didn’t have that luxury. Instead, I used a T-Jak, which is a threaded, telescoping cabinet jack that works great for all sorts of overhead installations when you need a third hand. Beginning in the center, locate each 2-by-4 stud beneath the marks for the ceiling joists so you’re transferring the weight directly to the vertical support.
When installing the studs, don’t bang them with a hammer to wedge them in place—doing so risks damaging the floor and ceiling. Instead, “snug” them between the plates, using shims if necessary. To make sure they stay in place, I fasten them temporarily by toe-screwing the studs into each plate once they’re plumb.