Monday, February 11, 2019

How to install a sliding door by yourself, part 1

You're probably thinking I dropped the damned door on myself
and have been trapped under it since my last blog post.
Not so. 

The sliding door installation project (click here if you missed the video preview)
has actually been moving along quite well. In fact, it's almost done.
And as yet, no major fuck-ups! 
I did think I was in way over my head on this one,
but with a little help from above, so far, so good.

Let's start with a quick overview of what I'm trying to accomplish.
Here is the official "before" picture.

The goal is to install a sliding door across this opening in my bedroom.
This will involve:
1. Buying the door.
2. Getting the door home without breaking it.
3. Buying a board on which to mount the track on which the door will slide.
4. Removing the wall sconce and replacing it with a can light in the ceiling. 
5. Attaching the board to the wall in the right place.
6. Attaching the track to the board in the right place. 
7. Sanding and sealing the board and the door.
8. Hanging the door on the track.

My previous glass-door hauling experience came in handy,
as did a little rope, a little cardboard and a few bags of chicken feed.
I scoffed at the drawing of two guys carrying the door on edge,
then improvised with a small furniture dolly,
toppling it over just once.

The door proved very sturdy. It survived the crash.
On to the electrical work.

This wasn't my first recessed light, and the hole-cutting and wiring hook-up went well,
as did the dozen or so round trips tiptoeing through the attic trusses. 

No legs crashed through the ceiling during the installation. Score!
Next up, fix the hole left behind by the wall sconce.
Look closely at the wall to the right of the ceiling fan pull chains
and you'll see the terrible job I did the last time I patched drywall.
This time would be different because YouTube.

It taught me about these 3M wall repair kits. Who knew? 
They work as advertised. Score another one for me.

I sourced a lovely oak board at a lumber yard in Albuquerque
and set up a temporary wood shop in the yard.
Fake carpentry is fun when it can be done in the sun.

I moved the sanded board to its approximate destination and contemplated my next move.
It needed to be screwed into the studs about 10 inches higher 
than where you see it now atop the ladder.


I went into the garage looking for something 10" high, sturdy enough 
to hold the weight of the board, yet small enough to fit atop the ladder.
In a moment of divine intervention, my eyes immediately landed
on a milk crate.

It was the exact height and shape I needed to hold up the board.

Now this isn't just any old milk crate. My dad made a lid for it and checked it as baggage 
one time that he flew out here to help me with some project or another. 
How else would you get a circular saw on a plane?

 Anyway, he handed down the saw and the crate to me, 
along with a treasured cache of knowledge about building and fixing things, 
and excuse me for a moment while I reflect upon 
what a lucky girl I am to have had him as my dad.

Yeah, so it seemed like he was here with me every step of the way on this project.
As were Danni and Tall Paul. 
Did you see that fancy digital laser level two pictures back? 
Birthday gift from them because they knew this project was in the works
and thought I might need it. Did I ever!

With my improvised board-holder-upper and the world's coolest level,
it was easy to screw the wood into the studs and keep it straight.

I countersunk the 4" deck screws, filled the holes with wood putty,
then applied four thin coats of polyurethane, 
lightly sanding the board between coats because the can said I had to,
and making a gargantuan mess and stench in my bedroom.
So maybe I should have done the polyurethaneing/sanding
before I hung up the board, but I figured I'd scratch the hell out of it
trying to get it up there, and oh well.

Ta da!

Meanwhile, over in the garage, I was polyurethaneing/sanding the door.

Then it came time to decipher the instructions for mounting the hardware –
very few words, just illustrations and lots and lots of measurements.
Oddly, it seemed to make sense.

Here we are back at the ladder and milk crate,
with a boost from a hunk of 2x4 to raise the metal track to the right place
and a couple of clamps to hold it still while I leveled it and drilled in the screws.
I wonder if real builders use makeup removal pads with their clamps to prevent scratches?
If not, they should.

The hard parts are over.

You: Why didn't she paint the drywall patch before hanging the board?
Me: I don't have much green paint, so I'll do all the touching-up
at the same time, once the door is hung and the wall-nicking is done.

Back to the cold garage we go to sand and seal and sand and seal
the door a few more times, except it's so cold now that the sealer
is taking forever to dry.

 So yesterday morning I moved the door to the sunroom,
where I'll seal-and-sand x 4 the remaining side and it should dry faster.

Assuming all my measurements were correct (let us now bow our heads in prayer), 
the next time you see this door, it should be in its final resting place.


  1. VERY impressive Carson! You take any project on and accomplish it well. 👍👍
    Pat in east TN

  2. you are sooooo talented.. I love that last shot

  3. You have been BUSY!!

    M in NC (waiting for the reveal ) :)

  4. Hello from Canada eh! I was beginning to wonder if you had fallen down a well ;) Google and YouTube have saved my sanity more than once for learning how something is done. Good work and that door is going to look great when done.

  5. Smooth. Love the customized milk crate. You are your Father's daughter. Going to be a cool new feature.

  6. Northern AB gal2/11/19, 6:39 AM

    Very nice! Once again you have impressed us with your diy skills, you are truly an inspiration to a lot of us. BTW, is there insulation in the attic?

  7. YAY! you. You are my hero/heroine. I'll stick with putting together IKEA metal shelving, for now.

  8. Loved the step by step....and then leaving the reveal to another day😀 Can't wait to see it. Somehow I imagine an audience of Smooch and Alex watching all of this. Awesome job! Bonus points for tackling this with stuff you had on hand and using the skills Dad passed on to you. Lisa G in TN

  9. Holy cow, what an epic post and project! Can't wait for the reveal. Thanks for bringing us along. /Gretchen

  10. All cheers for our fearless DIY'er bustin' a move out there in the middle of nowhere! You rock Carson! Love how this blog morphs from Critter Champion to Better Homes and Gardens know how - and back again. Good luck with the next steps.

  11. Yay Carson! George (Dad) comes through again with helping you. You have always been creative and I believe you can do just about anything.
    So excited to see the final pics. ( Thank you to Danni and Paul for making sure it was level) :-)

  12. Great job on figuring out how to solve the problem attractively, turning the prescribed 2-man installation into a creative and successful 1-woman one, and presenting us with your usual delightful "show and tell" posting! Your dad would definitely be proud. And I'm looking forward to the final wrap-up!

  13. Wow! What a terrific project and outcome! As an international student exclaimed to me once, “You are so genius!” Looking forward to the rest of the story. It’s so lovely you have your dad’s legacy to accompany you on this project.

  14. I just went and bought three of the 3M large hole wall repair kits.. HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS EXISTED?!
    Also - great job! I have a dad like you did and I am lucky every single day.

  15. Wow good work! I'm so impressed with your ability. I'd be lost at step one. Can't wait to see it installed.

  16. The suspense! I can't wait to see the finished product!

  17. You are just freaking amazing! The instruction sheet alone had my brain shutting down. Can't wait to see the finished project. It's going to look great.


  18. Alright!! looking good.

    jigs, clamps, boards, ladders, milk crates and tote bins have been my saving grace for years. It's pretty good how they seem to be exactly the right height or width etc isn't it? Getting a heavy, older tv off and on and off and on a wall several times was my aha moment back in the day. Two huge tote bins on top of each other...and a couple of boards clamped onto ladders helped to steady it and I managed to do it with no mishap...was pretty sore afterwards from wrestling with it but finally it was hanging on the wall with the small holes drilled for concealed wires etc......feels like an accomplishment when all is said and done.

  19. You’re a rock star with renovations. I love it! Can’t wait to see the final photo. :)

  20. Well done, and bravos on this beautiful achievement! The whole crate-with-a-lid improve that your dad used to fly with a saw is brilliant and inspired. It is easy to see where your skills came from. I, too, had a dad that could do anything, and I grew up at his feet, watching and learning. He was always very patient to explain to me what each tool was and how it worked. I'm forever grateful for that knowledge, and have used those skills throughout my life. I am so happy to have his tools, and always feel 'the force' is with me when I use them. Not to slight my mom, I have to mention that she also had amazing skills, as well. My memories of them truly are always about them working on projects together. A fine pair indeed. Can't wait to see your finished door! Again, WELL DONE!

  21. what a job! and well done!you should wear a real mask when polyurethaning though

  22. I'm still amazed at what a cool solution this door is for privacy. Something I NEVER would have come up with! Add to that the fact that you can implement it on your own, is just mind blown! You are seriously incredible!

  23. Good planning for a complicated job for one person.