As our realtor walked us through what would soon be our first official house, only one thing made us stop dead in our tracks… and not in a good way. We had just wrapped up looking at the backyard, turned back towards the house, began walking to the patio door and stopped. The patio door looked like it had been attacked by gremlins trying to claw their way into the house. What sort of beast would do such a thing to an innocent door?? Well, you can rest easy. The world isn’t overrun with gremlins. Just misbehaved dogs. The owner’s dog had chewed halfway through the door over the years. Good thing they moved out when they did because that door didn’t have much of a chance left.
Upon placing our offer on the house, we were told that the owners acknowledged the door had to be replaced and would take care of it before we moved in. Being the penny-pinchers we were, we saw an opportunity to knock off some of the price. We negotiated back saying- no worries, take another $1000 off the asking price and we’ll replace it ourselves. No biggie.*
What’s the asterisk for you may be wondering? Because, as this point, I would like to note that it seemed like a lot of work to replace an exterior door but Chris reassured me a zillion times saying he could fix it in less than a day. It was nothing they couldn’t handle. Nothing to worry about. So I didn’t. The sellers were happy. We were happy. Alls well that ends well. Right? Wrong.
I figured I’d only have to wait a month or two to rid myself of the hideous near-death door. Chris kept saying, all I need is another set of hands and I can take care of it. So, in enters my family. That’s an extra FOUR sets of hands of help. That Saturday, while Chris is at work, I excitedly venture off to a builders surplus hardware store with my dad for a heck of a door deal. With two doorknobs, one door, and several minutes of convincing the cashier that I am NOT my Dad’s trophy wife but his daughter, we happily returned home to present our treasures to the rest of the group.
Now, my husband doesn’t anger easily. It’s why we work so well together. He’s the Type B to my Type A. It takes a lot to get him riled up… like when his wife goes out and buys a door without him. Oh, and she’s already started painting it so he can’t return it. Yikes. Not a fun day to be Julie.
Well, he got over it… eventually. Until an hour later he figured out that the door frame wasn’t exactly a perfect rectangle and that I had purchased a steel door instead of a wood door. I thought I had been smart with this purchase decision since steel would better insulate the house and be a studier door… it also is impossible to mold into a different shape meaning our un-rectangular door frame would make the project un-doable. Yikes. Not a fun day to be Julie.
So, I gave Chris a few months to figure it out. He came to the conclusion that he couldn’t do it himself. So, I did what every wife would do. I called a professional. Perhaps another error in my ways was scheduling the handyman to come while Chris was at work. All I knew to do was to show him the door I bought then show him the door frame. I prayed that would be enough. It wasn’t. He scratched his head for a full 45 minutes then told me I had two options. Option 1) Pay him $900 and give him a full weekend and he could replace it for me using the door I purchased. Umm no thanks. Option 2) Buy a different door, this time made out of wood. Definitely not… that would mean fessing my mistake to Chris. Fat chance. So I went with Option 3. Told him thanks but no thanks, we’d figure it out ourselves.
Several months later, Chris convinces his dad to help him finally take on the door project. Chris reassured me that with his dad’s help and Uncle Tom’s advice, they’d knock it out in no time.
2 DAYS later, and several pounds of dog hair vacuumed from the perimeter of the door frame (gross!), we had a shiny, new, partly-painted door installed. Chris and I still fondly look over at our patio door and wonder if the $1000 knocked off the purchase price was really worth all that… and then remember the Gremlin-like markings and decide yes, indeed it was.
Let me clear a few things up. When we were negotiating the details when buying the house, I said I could replace the door… I never said anything about how long it would take me. To be honest, I didn’t want to do it- I had attempted to install a door once before, and it was such a beating that we gave up. Doors are surprisingly tricky to install, and I wanted no part of it. Oh, and I definitely did NOT tell Julie it was OK to buy a door.
Doors are a finicky beast, and just about the most frustrating thing to install. Everything has to be exact… and when I say exact, I mean within 2-3 millimeters, or else the door won’t close. The more exact you are, the better your door will open and close. That said, I knew the exact dimensions the door needed to be, so when Julie announced she and her parents were going to the builder’s supply store I reiterated that I wanted to see the doors for myself so I can make sure they fit. So imagine my surprise when I got home from work on day to find Julie painting away on a now un-returnable door… that wasn’t the dimensions I gave her. I had heard it hundreds of times growing up but somehow I just couldn’t resist saying it: “That’s exactly what I told you not to do.”
As always, Julie tried to reason her mistake under the rug. She had to get the door because it was “super on-sale” and she had to paint it right away because it was a “yucky color.” She also seemed to think that there was no cause for alarm because, don’t worry, her parents were here to help us install it. Now, I like my in-laws, but they’re not DIYers, and this wasn’t a job for beginners. And let’s not forget that it was over 100* outside at the time.
I reluctantly propped our shiny new door against the wall in the garage and waited for cooler weather, and for my parents to come visit. Finally, February rolled around and we caught a break- my parents were in town and we had two days of absolutely beautiful weather, so my dad and I got to work. If you’ve never seen how a door is mounted, it’s really not much more than a few nails. We pried off the trim and I showed my dad how much fun a sawzall is, buzzing through the nails like butter. Within minutes, the old door was off, and now the fun could begin.
The new door went up, and of course didn’t fit. The problem was that there was too much space between the house and the door frame, so it would be almost impossible to mount the door in a way that the trim would cover the gaps. We shimmed and adjusted, and reshimmed and readjusted, and repeated… a lot. First, the door wouldn’t open, then it wouldn’t close, then it wouldn’t sit right, etc. The worst part is that the whole time you’re doing this, the door has to stay closed, so we had to go in and out through a window… because that doesn’t make me feel like white trash or anything.
We must have made a few million tiny adjustments all around that door before finally making desperate phone calls to anyone we knew who owned a hammer. Finally, a fellow family DIYer came through (good ole Uncle Tom) and told us the trick is to mount the hinged side on the door and frame to the house, and then shim the other side. A few hours later (time mostly spent vacuuming dog hair out of the crevices), we had a door that closes so effortlessly the cat can do it… but usually she just sits behind it and waits to get whacked when it opens.
And now for the photographic evidence.