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tomberlins 04-08-2012 08:37 PM

Replacing windows with French doors
I am planning the first big project for my older home - replacing windows in the dining room with French doors. I am trying to build a budget and get some good info before asking a couple contractors for a quote. Essentially, I have a group of 3 windows in my dining room, totaling about 108" across. I want to remove these and replace them with French doors to provide access to the back yard.

I have a few questions:
- I have a set of hand me down French doors with no frame, can they be used in is project?
- I think a standard set of doors will be about 72", what do I do with the remaining 36"?
- What should I be budgeting for the whole project?
- assuming the doors can be used?
- assuming the hand me downs can't be used?

Evstarr 04-08-2012 09:34 PM

What are the finishes inside and out?
Brick, plaster etc. Thickness of wall?
Maybe a photo or three.

KennMacMoragh 04-08-2012 11:33 PM

Do some shopping for doors first, note all the different sizes and find one that fits your budget. If you can't find a door that matches the size of your window, then you will have to get a smaller one. Which means lots of drywall work, mud, taping, texture, paint, and lots of work filling in new siding.

joecaption 04-08-2012 11:39 PM

To me used doors with no frames would be about useless. Far more work then it's worth.
It's hard enough to hang a new prehung door, get it plumb and air tite.

ratherbefishing 04-09-2012 08:01 AM

I suspect you'll end up with new doors. IF there are no load bearing studs between the windows (unlikely), then you could reuse the header. That'll make the job easier. A new header may not be a big deal, depending on what the siding/interior is made of. You could probably fill the entire area with French doors with side lights. I'd start by stopping by a lumberyard that does millwork and see what's available.

Daniel Holzman 04-09-2012 08:16 AM

We did a reasonably similar project last year, specifically we replaced two windows with a set of Marvin french doors. In our case, the required opening was larger than the windows, so the work (all of which we did ourselves by the way) included:

1. Demolition of existing windows and studs
2. Installation of new header. The header was a steel beam (used because it was less deep than a wooden header), supported by a king stud and two jack studs on either side.
3. Preparation of opening.
4. Installation of door, including flashing, trimwork, drip cap (I made one out of copper), and floor pan.

The doors were about the same size as you described, 72 inches wide. These were the custom Marvin doors, cost about $4000 delivered. Total installation time for us (my wife and I) was about 24 hours of work, including installation of trimwork and painting. If you hired the job out, it would probably cost at least $2000 for installation, particularly since we needed a steel header. But these figures may have little to do with your project, since I have no idea what type of door you are planning to get, and I have no idea what labor rates are in your area, and I don't know if you need a header.

As for use of hand me down doors, I have no idea what condition they are in, but I would be cautious about using them if they are not in perfect condition. French doors are notorious for leaking if they do not fit perfectly, and this site is full of discussions of failed installations that have lead to leaks. One critical area is the floor pan, another is the top cap, both of which are potential weak spots with a hand me down door. You certainly don't want leaks, bad for the house and bad for the marriage.

KennMacMoragh 04-09-2012 09:00 AM


Originally Posted by ratherbefishing (Post 894947)
I suspect you'll end up with new doors. IF there are no load bearing studs between the windows (unlikely), then you could reuse the header. That'll make the job easier. A new header may not be a big deal, depending on what the siding/interior is made of. You could probably fill the entire area with French doors with side lights. I'd start by stopping by a lumberyard that does millwork and see what's available.

Good call, I didn't notice he used the word "windows" plural. Meaning maybe there are two windows with a post in the middle.

People should post pictures if they want a legitimate answer.

tomberlins 04-09-2012 12:23 PM

3 Attachment(s)
So I snapped a couple photos (in hopes of a legitimate answer :) ). I am also adding a deck off the back of the house and plan on using these French doors as access.

The French doors are in perfect condition - they have been installed in my parents house - access from the inside to a large screened porch. My parents have recently remodeled and framed in their porch and simply removed the doors to allow easy access into the new room. Unfortunately, they will not be removing the framing so I have access to the 2 doors but that's all.

Daniel Holzman 04-09-2012 12:42 PM

Two issues you should consider. First, are the doors at your parent's house outdoor rated? Interior French doors would obviously not be suitable for your application. And second, are you prepared to build the casing for the doors, or were you thinking of hiring someone to do this? Personally I have had trouble hanging uncased doors, the Marvins I got were a fully cased unit, and even in that case installation had to be done very carefully to insure that the doors were plumb, square, and in plane.

tomberlins 04-09-2012 12:50 PM

The hand me downs are outdoor rated - I am really intimidated with trying to build the casing on my own, keeping everything square and plumb seems like quite a challenge.

sublime2 04-09-2012 12:51 PM

using the old doors will not save you much in terms of total cost of the job.may very well be cheaper with a set of pre-hung doors.
Is there any electrical that has to be moved,where does the service run once in the house,does that need to be moved? The plumbing outside of the opening,does it need to be moved?
All things considered I'd guess around 4 to 5 g's minimum.
To put French doors in that location.

ratherbefishing 04-09-2012 01:04 PM

If you are hiring this job out, depending on the skill level of the carpenter, you may pay more for the labor of building the casing than you would for stock dimension pre-hung doors. If you're going to DIY, pre-hung is the way to go. It's a shame to waste your parents doors, but you'll need someone good to scratch build a frame and casing.

I'm guessing that you'll want the doors to open out, to save room in the dining room.

I'd guess, from the pictures, that there are king studs in the space between the windows. So you'll need to build a temp wall to support the roof (not a big deal) while you install a new header and frame the new rough opening. Whether or not you do that from the inside or outside depends on if you'd rather cut the siding (metal?) or do drywall.

Double french doors will probably be either 32x2 or 36x2. You can make up the width with side lights, giving you a place for kings or jacks between the door casing and the side lights.

CoconutPete 04-09-2012 01:36 PM

Tear the wall open from the inside to figure out what you are dealing with. Drywall is cheap ......

I put sliding doors into a very similar space in my house. I got lucky and found a header running all the way across the top of the window and only cripple studs carrying no load underneath the window. I did have to move some power and an an a/c duct though - do you have anything under the window?

My door is approximately 1' narrower than the windows were. I used the siding we removed from the bottom to fill the gap, but I have vinyl - i can't tell if that would be an option for you. Based on the photo it looks like you might be able to pull it off if you put the door away from the electrical meter and use the siding from underneath the window to replace those pieces.

Again .... tear the wall open from the inside - find out what you are dealing with.

CoconutPete 04-09-2012 02:03 PM

Oh, and just to echo what the other guys said, I think you can do a lot better with a standard size door rather than building a frame for those french doors.

There is a HUGE range when it comes to doors..... I remember when we started looking at sliders. The price range for those started at $200 and it went all the way up north of $4000! I needed up with a midrange door for about $1200 w/ a sliding screen and we are very happy with it. I know you are looking for french doors but the "range" concept should still apply.

tomberlins 04-09-2012 03:05 PM

There is one outlet right underneath the window (I thought this would be perfect to add some lighting on the deck outside). Reusing the siding is brilliant! I was worried about how we could finish the outside and keep the color match.

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