The Trick to Hanging French Doors
Knowing where to place the shims is half the battle.
Synopsis: From checking the opening before you begin to the exact locations of shims and nails, this article walks readers through a tricky installation of interior double doors. Drawings illustrate common problems and how to fix them.
The old adage “Children should be seen and not heard” must have been coined by a French-door salesman. Most people I know like French doors. They’re an elegant way to cordon off rooms without visually separating them. In fact, they act more like windows between rooms than doors.
Hanging French doors, however, can be frustrating. Getting two doors, either of which may be slightly warped, to meet up perfectly when installed in the almost certainly imperfect framing of a house requires several levels of adjustment. Correcting the rough opening or fixing an out-of-plumb, or cross-legged, opening might call for the use of a sledgehammer, which doesn’t take much technical skill. Making adjustments for an out-of-level floor or a bowed door, on the other hand, takes a little more finesse.
Assessing The Rough Opening
Rough openings are rarely perfect, but a door jamb must be plumb and level. Some properly placed shims will correct most rough openings.
Install Jamb Into Tuned Opening
With one side of the rough opening plumbed, set the jamb. Additional shimming will be necessary to fine-tune the jamb for a perfect fit.
The Ideal Door Installation
French doors should have a nickel-thick gap all the way around. Wood doors shrink and grow with humidity. This gap ensures clearance for the doors to open and close even when swollen with moisture. If you want to be really good, gauge the humidity when you’re installing the doors. If they’re already swollen, make the gap between them a bit tighter so that it doesn’t open objectionably when the wood dries out. If the doors are dry when hung, allow a little extra room for growth. If gaps are uneven, the drawings below show how to get them right.
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