Installing Sliding Closet Doors

Before installing sliding closet doors, you will want it to until after you have the drywall installed, textured and finished in your home. The door should be installed before your floor covering, even if it means removing the doors to install the floor covering.

Sliding closet doors, sometimes called “bypass doors,” make for an attractive alternative to bi-fold closet doors. While slightly higher in price, they are generally more durable. Another advantage to sliding doors is that you can buy them with full mirrored surfaces, something that the women really appreciate. On the other hand, if you are putting six-panel doors in your home, six-panel sliding closet doors are hard to find (although they are available).

Before You Begin:

When you buy sliding doors, they generally come as a complete kit, with the door panels, track and all hardware that you need. You may or may not receive the door frame as part of your kit, if not, you’ll want to buy a separate kit for the door frame.

Regardless of the style of width of your sliding doors, they are pretty much always made 80” tall. This is the door size itself, not the rough opening for your framing. So, you’ll need to add 2” to the height and 2” to the width for your rough framing opening. Make sure your header is as level as possible and your door frame as square as possible; as anything that is out of square will be very obvious once you install the doors.

You’ll want to wait to install your sliding doors, until after you have the drywall installed, textured and finished in your home. The door should be installed before your floor covering, even if it means removing the doors to install the floor covering.

How to Install it:

Start by installing the door frame itself. Many contractors, especially those who build tract homes, don’t bother with door frames, but instead drywall the opening. The risk in this is that the track will eventually get wobbly, as the drywall can’t provide for as solid a substrate for the track.

Door frames come in three pieces, with the lintel (top piece) mortised into the doorposts. This mortising gives you a little bit of flexibility as far as dimensions are concerned, as you can pull the doorposts out about 1/2” (total) to accommodate slight errors in cuts or spacing.

Before assembling your door frame, measure the height of the door opening, and cut off the doorposts as necessary. You don’t want your door frame to fit tightly into the opening, but rather have about 1/4” of space all around. This will allow you to shim it, insuring that the track will end up level and the doorposts exactly plumb. Attach the door frame together with finish nails.

Place the bottoms of the door frame in place, and tip the door frame up, into place. You’re going to want to attach the lintel first, as it is the most critical. Shim the lintel as necessary with door shim pairs, to insure that it is level both side to side and front to back. At the same time that you’re insuring level, you need to keep the door frame centered in the opening and the edges of the frame flush with your drywall surface. Nail in place with plenty of finishing nails (side-by-side nails every 8” to 10”); remember, it has to support the weight of the doors.

Shim and nail the doorposts in, making sure that they are plumb, once you’ve got your lintel securely installed. The door casing can be installed when you do the rest of the interior trim.

Once your frame is in, you can install the track. Sliding doors of this type generally only have one track, the upper track, which the door hangs from. The one thing you want to be careful about when installing the track is to insure that you have it straight (meaning that one side isn’t farther out than the other). For the longest life, without having to make repairs, attach the door track through all the holes provided, even if they don’t supply that many screws.

Check your door height, to insure that you don’t need to cut any off. If you do need to cut it, I recommend cutting on the bottom, as this will be less noticeable. If your doors are covered with luan plywood or veneer, score the cut line with a sharp utility knife first, cutting through the outer layer of wood, so that it won’t splinter while cutting. After cutting with a power saw, clean up the edge with a plane or power sander, to insure there’s nothing that can catch on the carpeting.

The doors will need to have roller hangers attached to the top. These generally attach to the back of the door, instead of attaching directly to the top, for added strength (it’s less likely for the screws to pull out sideways). You’ll want to attach these brackets about 2” from each end of the door.

The doors hang from the top track. Put the inner door in first, then the outer. Insure that they both slide evenly. You may need to adjust the roller brackets to make the doors hang level. They have slots for the screws for this very reason.

The final step is to install the bottom guide. You’ll want to wait until your floor covering is installed to put this in. The guide is formed like a double “U” for the bottoms of the doors to slide through. It sits in the center of the door opening. After making sure that the doors are hanging straight, attach it to the floor with screws.

What You Need to Know About the Building Code:

The building code doesn’t say anything about these types of doors.

Tricks & Tips:

An easy way to keep the edge of the door frame flush with the drywall surface is to scab some thin scrap pieces, diagonally across the top corners. Be sure to use small nails and keep them where they’ll be hidden by the door casing. When these scrap pieces hit the drywall, you know you’re flush. If it isn’t perfectly flush on the inside, no big deal, as nobody is going to see it.

Once you have your doors hanging straight and level, you may want to add extra screws to the roller brackets, locating them at the ends of the slots, to act as a pin to keep the bracket from sliding. This will save you maintenance later, having to adjust the doors. Use round headed screws, not flat heads, for this, putting the screw right into the end of the slot, so there is no wiggle room.

Money Savers:

You can save money on your door frame, by just installing a lintel, cut from a 1 x 6. You’ll need to rip it down to match the thickness of your wall. The doorposts, which don’t support anything, can be made of drywall.