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My New Home: Installing Windows & Doors

…and a Deck Ledger

The most important thing I’ve learned about installing doors and windows—and of course I learned it the hard way—is this: Look at the Whole Picture, then always start at the bottom and get the sill perfectly level. That lesson paid off big time while setting a French door and sidelights in my own home.

A Note from the Publisher:

WARNING: POTENTIAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST!

Many people have asked about my new home and shop, so we’re publishing a new series of From the Road articles. You’ll notice I’m using a lot of Katz Roadshow-sponsored materials. We choose our sponsors carefully, from among the best manufacturers in the industry, and that’s why I chose to use their products on my own home, too, some of which were donated.

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The back third of my new home is a converted patio. The roof is supported by 4×4 posts on concrete piers set every 4-5 ft. (the span varies…a lot!). The floor is framed from 4x4s, too, hung parallel from the same posts, and set on more concrete piers.

_MG_1235_1

(Note: Click any image to enlarge)

The span between joists is over 3 ft. I’m certain the original owner/builder used a string vial to level the entire foundation and floor system. Thankfully the floor sheathing is 2×6 T&G—that’s the only reason the floor doesn’t bounce!

So when I decided to install a French door and sidelights in my new bedroom, I ran into an interesting problem (which had nothing to do with the door or sidelight openings). There wasn’t anything to attach the deck ledger to, at least down where ledgers are normally mounted. And I’d need a deck outside that door—the finished floor was 16 in. off the ground.

I hadn’t really thought about the deck until that moment. Like most decks, I imagined I’d tackle that project later and build more or less a large landing outside the door. But planning the deck wasn’t something I could put off.

Mast. Bed. Ledger_1

I knew I’d be installing a ledger somewhere on top of the Zip R-panel I installed…

…so I removed the foam from the back of the R-panel beneath the door and window openings, and I filled that void with sheathing. That way, the ledger bolts would have solid backing between the 4×4 rim joist and the sheathing. Because the floor joists and rim didn’t extend down far enough to provide backing for the ledger, and because I couldn’t attach the ledger to the foundation (since there is no continuous foundation), I had no choice but to hang the ledger from above. _MG_0497_1

But before I could to that, I had to level the sill—right…always start at the bottom and get the sill perfectly level…

···

Comments/Discussion

30 Responses to “My New Home: Installing Windows & Doors”

  1. andrew

    Looks good. Did you think about building the deck free standing? I believe it is a better long-term solution.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Andrew,
      You’re probably right. I did think of that, briefly. Then I thought of the extra piers, the diagonal bracing, and I kept going with what was familiar to me. I probably should do a combination of the two–I could still dig two piers beside the existing ‘foundation’, but that ledger is on there pretty good…and I’m itching to get the joists in and the decking on! :)
      Gary

      Reply
      • Rich

        The other issue is that you’ve attached the top of the ledger to the house and will be hanging the joists from the bottom of the ledger. With enough of a load on the deck you risk splitting the ledger right across the middle. What I have done in similar situations is to attach posts to the foundation that rest on the footing of the foundation and run up to support the ledger or a beam under the deck joists.

        Reply
        • Gary Katz

          Rich,
          You’re absolutely right. I woke up in the middle of the night a few weeks ago, sometime after writing that story, and in my head I ‘saw’ that ledger split. But then I realized that our lower row of Simpson SDW screws would prevent that, at least up to a point. So I WILL add a couple of posts along the foundation to pick up the weight of the ledger. Gary

          Reply
  2. DAN FOX

    Gary, have always enjoyed watching you. You’re a great educator to the trade. Thank you, your work is greatly appreciated.

    Dan Fox
    The Handy Fox LLC.

    Look forward to seeing you at the JLC show in Rhode Island

    Reply
  3. David Pugh

    Gary: Great and thorough job as usual. Thanks for your clear explanation. Thanks also for all you do to make us more professional.

    Reply
  4. Dan Foster

    As the son of a banker, I’ve relied heavily on tutorials like this throughout my career as a carpenter. Many on the job simply do not have the time or patience to teach. I get excited every time i recieve an e mail alerting me of a new article, no matter how basic or technical it may be. They not only teach me to be a better craftsman, but also how to keep the trade alive through teaching, what i’ve learned in the past 18 years of working.
    Much obliged,
    Dan Foster

    Reply
  5. Michael Duft

    Gary,
    I love how thorough and conscientious you are with your work, granted it is your own house, but you are like I am and do work for others as you would have someone do work for you. Looking forward to trying the products you highlighted in this project especially the adjustable door from Milgard. When I was working in Sweden they use an adjustable cam system to install wood doors and windows which allows jamb adjustment without the use of shims. Have you seen that type of installation? Carry on with the exceptional website!

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Michael,
      No, I haven’t seen the cams you’re talking about, but I do know of some door units that are shipped with screws that act like cams–you run then in and they press against the framing to lock the jamb in place and to adjust the fit of the jamb to the rough opening.

      As for installing jambs without shims…I think I’ll stay away from that subject. I wrote an article for FHB once and described that method for hanging hollow-core interior doors in apartments and tract housing. People are still complaining about it! In fact, a carpenter on a forum mentioned that article just a few weeks ago. Some fellows have elephantine memories! Amazing how much data they can store in their heads.
      Gary

      Reply
  6. claude poulin

    How would you apply Cedar wood siding to the Zip r panels .
    Rain screen ?

    Thank you

    C

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Claude,
      Yes. On a rainscreen. The same way I installed the Windswept trim and siding (we’ve almost finished the siding on the shop and cabin–pictures soon). In the second post & picture (below), we’ve installed the HomeSlicker just around the openings so we could trim out the whole building. Before installing the siding, we wrapped the whole building.
      G

      Reply
  7. Sonny Wiehe

    Gary,
    Great installation videos. With regard to your advice (end of second video clip) on adjusting the horizontal throw on those door hinges…

    You said that you want to adjust them symmetrically. I’m not clearly seeing the symmetry in your example where if the top hinge screw is adjusted 1 turn and the bottom is adjusted 1/2 turn, then the middle should be adjusted 1/4 turn. I would have thought that would have meant the middle screw should be adjusted 3/4 turn. It might be that I’m thinking of this linearly, instead of symmetrically as you suggest. Can you explain the logic on this step further? Also, how do you know the hinges are adjusted from the factory in some type of symmetrical condition that can be maintained with symetrial turns of the screws? Seems like there should be some other type of fixed benchmark ( like you pointed out on your doors when referencing vertical adjustment symmetry) to go by. I often use Anderson 400 series patio doors that have similarly adjustable hinges and want to make sure I’m not adjusting them incorrectly. I often just gauge by even reveal and pressure (which the latter is probably subjectively wrong) on the respective screws to indicate correct adjustment .

    Sonny

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Sonny,
      As usual, you’re right. The word “symmetrical” probably isn’t accurate for everyone–it works for me but not you. There is a ‘fixed benchmark’ line on each of the Milgard hinges, and they do come from the factory with a pre-set ’0′ adjustment. At least they appeared that way to me. I may not be as fastidious as you, though. In the end, I adjusted them according to the directions supplied, and I ‘felt’ the pressure on each center hinge ‘believing’ that I had them tuned to carry the weigh of the door equally. I suspect we’re doing the same thing.
      Gary

      Reply
      • Sonny Wiehe

        Gary,
        One more question: Why not make the auxiliary aluminum sill nosing (nice detail BTW) out of one length (notched 4x’s) so that you don’t have two butt joints exposed? Is this material only available in lengths under 8′? I realize it is not a weatherability issue with the zip flashing, but it could be considered an aesthetic issue for the more fastidious among us ;).

        Sonny

        Reply
  8. Gary Katz

    Jeepers, Sonny, you just don’t quit. I’d sure like to see a few dozen photos of your jobs and a few dozen articles that you’ve written about them! :)

    I wish I had had a long enough length of sill nosing but I didn’t. I had about six pieces left over from old jobs. Sorry if that bugs you. But it pleased me to no end.
    Gary

    Reply
    • Sonny Wiehe

      Gary,
      I’m guessing that you’re having a bad day. I don’t believe my inquiries are without merit or just cause. After all, you consistently stress the importance of the using the right tools and the right materials in order to elevate ones work as much as possible. I don’t much hear about compromise when it comes to using your sponser’s tape seal over less costly (or more readily available options). I’m not saying your choice of sealing/flashing tape is wrong or inferior to another, but consistency in presentation would be more appropriate for one that chooses to carry his career into the public domain. It is a double edge sword to be sure. Seems you have a little patience for the edge that may, at times, be pointed toward you.

      I also believe your defensiveness toward them says more about your attitude in your decision making than mine. Maybe it does really please you that you chose to make that compromise. Either way, you’ll never look at those two joints on your rear deck sill the same way from now on . Not because of what I said, but because of how you reacted to it. Think about it.

      For the record, I’ve sent you more than a few dozens of photos of my work or jobs…and you’ve actually published one article that includes some of them. If you would like to take the time to address some questions or concerns about them as I have yours, then I’d be more than happy to address them (without admonishment for doing so I might add).

      Best Regards,
      Sonny

      Reply
  9. Gary Katz

    Sonny,
    I’m sorry if you think I’m defensive. Not in the least. I’m very accustomed to feed-back and to criticism–I’ve been writing articles and books and putting my work out there for almost twenty years.

    And I have plenty of patience; what I lack is time…there are so many things I want to do. Which is one reason I spliced that sill. I’ve spliced sill nosings like that many many times, on high-end custom homes, and always right at the center of the mull. The material doesn’t often come come long enough for back-to-back mulled jambs. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but we always install sill nosing under thresholds, and usually install the thresholds, too, after the jambs are set. So that joint might bother you, but it doesn’t even interest me. I think the whole thing looks great. I’m more interested in getting the job done here than I am in sweating the small details.

    I learned a long time ago that sometimes the small details aren’t worth investing the extra time, and that’s particularly true on my own home, but there’s nothing inconsistent with the joint in that sill nosing :0).

    You tried to make a connection between the flashing tape I used and the sill nosing, but there really isn’t any connection. The flashing tape is part of the Zip Wall system. I couldn’t use a different product–it wouldn’t be compatible. There’s a big difference between compatibility–installing the correct material–and accepting things that aren’t perfect. I have so many other things going on in my life, I really can’t afford perfection. If I can find the time, I’ll put together some photos of other things that I’ve done here that also aren’t perfect! And that’s consistent with everything I’ve ever said or written about my work. It’s never perfect.
    Gary

    Reply
    • Sonny Wiehe

      Emanuel,
      Thank for your input.
      Two questions for you: First, Why would you have re-routed those vents?* Second, would you have paid to do so out of your own pocket?**
      Sonny

      *If your going for the code argument, don’t bother. It doesn’t apply to this ordinary repair job.
      ** Remember this was 40 feet in elevation– on a sheer brick gable. If you argue that you would pay for it out of your own pocket, you would have to have some pretty deep pockets– because you’d lose a bundle on this type of job. There is no way you could have possible worked the masonry opening and vent caps from the inside. That was the main point of the article in case you missed it.

      Reply
      • Emanuel

        Sonny,
        If I was doing that job I would have included the re-routing of those vents in the original bid. I know that bathroom vents pull moisture from the bathrooms and can cause some serious problems to the building and also to people’s health if they are not directly vented through the wall. By leaving them where they are moisture is building up in the attic due to the vent sucking in air for the roof and forcing the vent air or moisture back in. If the homeowner isn’t willing to pay for that work I would not have done the vent work because I wouldn’t want the responsibility or liability of what those vents are really doing.

        Like I said earlier we do the best we can with what we have but their are times like your vent job that must be done to a further degree because it involves a peoples health and the buildings structure.

        As for the code argument any ordinary repair has its limits. It’s just common sense for those bathroom vents.

        Thanks
        Emanuel

        Reply
        • Sonny Wiehe

          Emanuel,

          Thanks for your reply.

          If you feel this exterior trim vent repair job has code limits, don’t just refer to them obliquely; please explain what they are. Also remember, ye ol’ legal scholar, that I am under no obligation whatsoever to address code issues that are not associated directly with my work. I could have conjured up any number of them as I walked by in the course of my work in this 1960′s era townhouse; but that does not make any of them my responsibility…or liability.

          For the record (and not your imagination) one vent is connected to a pull chain motorized bath fan in the attic (about 10 feet away at the head of pull down stair–why it’s there I’m not in a position to explain; nor need to be)…and the other one is connected to a powder room that does not have any bathing fixtures whatsoever (unless you consider your sink or toilet for those purposes). So I ask you, what moisture and harmful gases would you be so determined to vent that would cause you to so surely pass up this well paying job? A couple of foul smelling farts whose gases somehow defied the laws of physics and couldn’t manage to pass through that louvered vent when the powder room fan was switched on?

          So then let’s turn to your structural concerns.

          M.C. of nearby rafters were checked before and at the time of installation (I always carry my Lignomat mini and an inexpensive pen type hygrometer/thermometer in my briefcase). They were all in the 5-6% range. The R.H. in the attic was approx 26% during both checks. In other words: This attic was, and always has been, dry as a bone (besides maybe the occasional thunderstorm rain blowing in the rotted vent which I fixed). There was absolutely no evidence of mildew or rot on the framing or anywhere in the attic (I consider the old vent and outside element). Besides the fact that this duct configuration was not in my scope of work and was not modified in the least, it had been there at least 30 years. Between both duct “systems” that terminated at the inside face of louvered vent, they had deposited little more than thin layer of dust on the screening. So I’m sorry Emanuel; your argument that the duct configuration constitutes a structural and health safety issue is not warranted. IMO, you’re grasping at straws in an effort to dutifully defend your patron.

          BTW, under which law of thermal dynamics do you see either duct system sucking air (to address your apparent negative pressure concern) from the roof and into the house? Even if it could, how would the “roof” air be any different from the outside air that is being drawn for the high efficiency gas furnace during the combustion cycle and consequently pumped into the house? (to further address your health hazard concern). Shouldn’t that keep you from at least 30% of residential remodel jobs within homes serviced by high efficiency type combustion furnaces? They are sucking in air from the outside after all… and according to your argument, that constitutes a serious health risk.

          Regards,
          William

          [Edited by TiC to maintain positive and valuable exchanges in this forum.]

          Reply
          • Gary Katz

            Sonny, I appreciate the contributions you have made in the past. In the future, please be more professional and respectful.

            Manny,
            I think you were trying to support me. Thank you. But there’s no need. I’ll be okay. :)
            I suspect you were also thinking of Sonny’s comments on your article: Repairing A rotten Door Entry. I was tempted to jump in there, too, but knew you could handle it, and you did. But if you wish to continue this conversation with Sonny–which I can’t see why you would–please do it in the comments section of his article. But in my opinion, when a contributor begins to act offensively, it’s best to drop the conversation.

            Gary

  10. Emanuel

    Hey Sonny,

    Quit being such nit-picker. We do the best we can with what we have on all our projects. I have seen your article and liked how you rebuilt the gable vent, however I noticed that those vents were left in place because they were already existing. I would have re-routed those pipes directly through the brick wall and would not have left them where they were, as you did. I guess we all have to work with what we have as you did there!

    Reply
  11. thetoolnut

    Outstanding workmanship Gary, i see you have recieved delivery of the new Stabila levels, any chance of a video review? Thanks, keep up the good work.

    Reply
    • Gary Katz

      Thanks Sean.
      Yes, we’re working on a comprehensive review from multiple trades. The new levels are really something–a definite improvement over any level I’ve used before, and because they’re ‘different’ they take some getting used to. But use one for an hour and you can’t go back.
      Gary

      Reply

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