Building the new porch closets, part deux

Closet framed and drywalledAfter just two full weekends and a few odd nights here and there, the new sleeping porch closets are about 75 percent done. When we last left this project, I had framed and drywalled the first closet, but hadn’t put  in any trim or doors yet.

We were out of town this past weekend on a long-awaited and once-postponed Babymoon — sort of like a honeymoon before the baby arrives (and free time and ample sleep cease to exist.) So I didn’t work this last weekend, but I made tons of progress the previous weekend and here and there at night during the week before we left.

Hanging the doors was certainly the most challenging part of this project and something I’d never tried to do before. I was more than a little nervous about it, just because it’s so difficult to get the finished opening perfectly square. And if you get it wrong, you have to go back and undo your work and potentially start from scratch.

Fortunately, there is a little more wiggle room when installing bi-fold doors rather than the typical interior side-hung doors. I thought about doing this bigger closet with two normal interior doors, but with the precision required for hanging combined with how much more room they take up when open, I decided against it.

Having never installed doors like this before, I wasn’t totally sure of the precise size for the finished opening for the doors. And at the time, I didn’t actually have the doors in my possession to measure and work backwards. On a friend’s recommendation, I left 3/4″ for the (jamb) trim and 1/4″ for shim space on the rough opening, which added up to 2″ on each side. (If you’re using me for a tutorial, you might want to do a little more looking, because I was totally flying by the seat of my pants.)

I started with the side pieces of trim. I put in an 8d nail up at the top and one at the bottom just to hold the piece in place while I shimmed and leveled them. I measured on each side of the jamb from the wall to make sure they were level outside to inside edge (front to back). I used a 4-foot level to level them top to bottom, inserting and nailing down shims along the way. And then I measured across the opening to the far wall to doublecheck the level from front to back. Once this was level, I moved to the top piece and repeated.


(I’d also finished the mud on this closet before the trim went in.)

Of course, the top just needs to be level and square, but the distance to the ground increases left to right because of the gentle slope of the sleeping porch. It runs down about 1/2 to 1 inch across the full depth of the porch — formerly to let rain or water run off back when this was open to the elements in 1920. But well within reason to hang the door without too much of a gap.

I repeated the process on the other side and got everything nice and square, but I think I must have added a little too much for the opening. After I had both side pieces of trim on and hung the doors, the opening was still about an inch too big, leaving a big gap between the doors when closed, so I just slapped one more 3/4″ jamb up on one side on top of the one that was already there. Once they’re covered with casing trim, no one will know!

After that, I set the nails so the holes can be filled and painted over.


Then I put up the track, the lower pivot points, and hung the doors. As I thought it would be, once the opening was square and finished, actually hanging the doors was relatively quick and easy. With the extra jamb on one side, the opening was just right. Though the right-hand door gets raised up farther on its pivot since the floor is lower on that side. This keeps the top of the doors level and square, which is much more noticeable than leaving a gap at the bottom edge.


And voila! New closet doors!


(You can see the second piece of trim on the right side of the frame — it’s extra thick with two pieces there.)

I went ahead and started cutting the casing that I’m going to use to put around the doors. I tacked it up into place just long enough to show Rachel what it’s going to look like when finished and take a picture — it’s easier to finish priming and painting without the trim there so there aren’t any edges to worry about. But this gives a better sense of what it’s going to look like when finished. The only thing missing in that photo is the bigger piece of casing that will go level across the very top edge like a piece of crown moulding.

Closet doors hung

Wondering why this closet isn’t any taller? The roof access is unfortunately above everything here, so a closet all the way to the ceiling would cover it up. Though even if the closet was full height, it isn’t quite deep enough to make those higher shelves reachable and usable. This gives us space on top we can use. (Rachel is envisioning some sort of matching containers to go up there, I think.) I’ve cut some sanded plywood that sits on top of the framing — no drywall on top.

I had almost all of this done the weekend before we went to Charlottesville and I’ve made more progress since then on this closet and the second one, so look for that in the next post.

As well as some amazing things I found in the opposite wall. Curious?

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