Installing Exterior French Doors: Fit the Doors
With the opening prepared, dry-fit the doors to check that everything is good and then apply the sealant and install the doors permanently.
We’ve got the opening completely prepared. Our sill pan is in. Everything is ready for the door. The only thing I want to do now is dry-fit the door. It’s important to do a dry-fit because the sill pan has tightened up the opening a little bit. Before I put the sealant in and make a mess of things, we’ll put the door in and make sure everything is good, pull the door out, and then put in the sealant. Let me get some help putting in this door.
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Adjust for Plumb, Level, and Square
Take the shipping handles off and pull the flanges out. Once the door is lifted into place, I go inside to check all the clearances. I have to make a modification here. My hinge screw will come in right here, but there’s no meat to grab. I have to extend this 2x and fur the whole wall out to here, drywall over it, and it’ll come flush with the door.
We need to apply sealant to the sill pan and around the outside of the opening. The instructions are very specific about where the sealant needs to go. It corresponds with the bottom of the door. We’re going to follow those directions, make some marks on the sill pan, seal that, and then seal the door. Don’t skimp on the caulk. Lift the door back into place in the opening. Let’s go inside.
This is an automotive tool. It’s just a small airbag with a one-way valve. Put it between the jamb and the door and pump it up. I use it to position the door, one airbag on either side. Then I check it with a level, and the door is dead plumb. Next, I shim the jambs, and then I can take the airbags out. I set shims just above the top of the hinge. I have to remember when we set up the wall, we knew the door would tip in a little bit, and 5/8 inch is too much.
It’s important to have a tall level, because it will show us a couple of things. When I put the level up on the frame, if there’s a bow in it, I’ll pick it up right away. If you use a short level and slide it up and down, somewhere the frame is going to be plumb, even if there’s a bow in it.
I like to put the corners on after I’ve got the door frame in, but before the sealant sets up. Just run a small bead of caulk at the intersection.
The next thing I want to do is check the dimensions of the door from edge to edge, diagonally across the door: 106 and ¾ for both. We’re square. The reason for the diagonal cross-check is to make sure the door is square. If it’s not, it won’t operate correctly and the reveals won’t be right. If I didn’t get the same measurement on both sides, I’d have to go back inside and find out what’s not right. We’d need to readjust the door to make it plumb or level.
Now we’ve got to set the door. I’ve dropped my screws into place. I’m not going to overdrive the screws; just snug them up. If you have a drill with a clutch on it, set the clutch so that you don’t overdrive the screws. It’s not a good idea to do this with an impact gun, because impact guns have a tendency to overdrive screws. After I release the airbags, I can set the head screws.
To avoid a classic mistake, make sure to cut the shims before you open the door. I use a sharp saw rather than a utility knife. If I slip with a knife, I can damage the jamb.