Installing a sliding door is a great way to spruce up a room, as it adds tons of light and openness to any space, and of course makes it easy to get some of the fresh outdoor air breezing through your home. Installing a sliding door can indeed be a very intimidating process, especially if you’re unused to working with power tools yourself. And there are certainly many unforeseen contingencies that commonly plague from any do-it-yourself activity, but with a little research and preparation, the whole process can become a lot more approachable. This article is intended to give you a rough blueprint of how to approach installing a sliding glass door in what is likely the most common of situations; that is, installing a sliding glass door within a wooden wall.
Remove Any Existing Windows & Doors
The first step of the process is to remove any windows and / or doors that might be present within the existing wall to be converted into a sliding glass door. Existing doors and windows are a likely obstacle you’ll encounter in installing a sliding glass door, because they’ll be in locations where you’d like an upgraded passageway. Most of the time, doors can be removed by carefully unscrewing hinges, and windows (and the wall itself) is best removed using a reciprocating saw. If you intend to save the old windows, you can use your reciprocating saw to cut around the window hinge, and then carefully remove it before demolishing the rest of the wall. Cutting out the size of your glass sliding door can be accomplished almost exclusively by a reciprocating saw. And once the wall is carefully pulled down, simply clean up any loose ends and prepare the space for the door frame.
How to Lay and Level a Frame Floor
The first step in a framing a sliding glass door is to make sure that the sliding glass door frame sits on a flat and level surface. Most likely, you will be laying new cement as the bottom surface of your sliding glass door. A tip is to use a 2X4 as a “form” that will be used like a guide and will hold the cement level and straight. Once you’ve excavated the floor so as to make room for the 2×4, and of course, to create a void for the new cement to be poured, you should screw in the 2×4 to the existing floor, and proceed to fill the void with cement. To fasten the 2×4 to the concrete, you have to pre-drill a whole using a masonry bit and a hammer drill. Then you can screw the 2×4 down using a masonry screw. You should use a quick setting cement mix and make sure the consistency is on the thicker side. A pro tip is to wet any existing cement where the new cement will be laid, so that when you pour in the new cement, the old dry cement doesn’t absorb the moisture of the new cement. Use caulking to run a bead against the edge of the 2×4 and on the surface of the floor; this will create a gasket between the new cement and the old concrete, so if any water were to seep toward your door entrance, it will not be able to enter your home. Then pour your cement, and level it to the top of the 2×4.
Erect a Simple Wall
Once your cement is poured and laid, you should then measure the difference in length between your sliding glass door frame, and the void in the wall that has been created as a result of demolishing. Most of the time, if you have to work around old existing windows, or old existing doors, you will not have a perfect fit between the void and the sliding glass door; therefore, you will have to close the void by building a simple wall. Use pressure treated wood that sits flush against the new concrete (known as a seal plate), and nail it to two studs that run vertical (called “king studs”). Nail the king studs to a “top plate”, which sits parallel to the seal plate, and then finish off the simple wall with a stud that runs vertical and along the existing wall of the house. It is best to use pressure treated wood for that portion of the wall as well because it will likely be sitting flush against a concrete wall. After your simple wall is constructed, put sheeting along the outside wall. Use a 5/8th of an inch piece of plywood to place over the studs. Nail the plywood in place and then cover it with 15 pound felt paper and use a staple gun to keep it in place.
Install a Door Jamb
Next step is to install the door jamb. The top part of the door jam has something called a nailing flange which is intended to secure the door jamb between the existing walls. You want to run a nice think bead of caulking along the nail flange in order to seal the joint. A nice thick bead of caulking will ensure that when the threshold sits against the caulking, it will seal it, not allowing any water to enter the house. Do so on the top and bottom of the door jamb.
Once the sliding glass door frame has been inserted and sealed by caulking, you then want to make sure that the left and the right sides are plumb. Of course, if you were careful to level the cement upon which your sliding glass door is sitting, most of this work should be done for you. Nonetheless, take your measuring tape, and measure diagonally from corner to corner, first from bottom right to top right and then from top left to bottom right. The measurements should be exactly the same. If measurements are the same, you know your frame is square and the sides are plumb. If your measurements are off, use shims to make sure your frame is square and your sides are plumb.
The next step is to secure the sliding glass door jam to the simple wall. This is done by shimming behind the frame and then screwing through the shim into the 2×4.
Pop in the Panels
Sliding glass doors are usually composed of two glass panels, one of which rolls for entering and closing, and the other stays stationary. It is a good idea to install the sliding panel first, by securing it in the track on top of the sliding glass door frame. Then install the stationary panel by pushing it to be flush against the threshold, and using the bracket provided with the sliding glass door to hold the panel permanently in place.
Next spray some minimal expanding foam between any additional space that may exist between the sliding glass door threshold and the simple wall. No matter how great your craftsmanship, you will likely have a small gap which can be filled with this minimal expanding foam. This foam will seal the unit and keep the house airtight.
And that’s it! Your sliding glass door should be fully functional now by this point. Of course, there still will exist some aesthetic improvements to be made to the simple wall, but other than that, your sliding glass door should be ready to use. Just don’t lose your keys!