As a young carpenter working on a condo project, I gained a good bit of experience installing 6-foot-wide sliding glass doors. The builder-grade units came fully assembled, and once we got past the hurdle of hauling them to the right room, installation was just a matter of laying down a bead of silicone on the floor, lifting the door into position, cross-taping it to make sure it was square, and screwing the nailing flanges to the wall sheathing. The doors functioned well when they were new, but years later, I noticed on a return trip for a remodeling project that many had been replaced with hinged units.

Recently, we installed a much larger sliding glass door unit as part of a kitchen remodel and patio addition. The client was opening up the interior floor plan, replacing the kitchen cabinets, and adding a roof over a large patio off the kitchen, but a major part of the project was replacing the existing windows and a door separating the kitchen from the patio with a 16-foot-wide-by-8-foot-tall sliding glass door. Sliding the two 4-foot-wide center operating panels open created an almost 8-foot-by-8-foot opening that extended the kitchen space outdoors.

Complicating the project, a large beam—installed as part of a previous remodel and carrying considerable roof and ceiling loads—was buried in the bearing wall that we needed to remove to install the new door unit. Supporting the exterior roof loads and the interior beam while we made a 16-foot-wide rough opening was going to be a tall order. Since we needed engineering to size the new header, I looked for a simpler solution.

Read More