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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Oakhurst, CA (near Yosemite Natl Park)
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    1,562

    Default Leaky French Doors

    I need some help here. I serviced a client a few months ago who had a pair of French Doors that were letting in a substantial amount of water. The threshold was at the same level as the carpeting and the doors dragged when opened. The shoes were also worn out.

    So I thought, no problem! Install a sill riser and new shoes and we'll be good to go. I did that, and replaced the felt spline in the astragal while I was at it. Perimeter q-lon was fine...

    Doors still leak, quite a bit. They are very exposed, one of those bay bumpouts that the fasica doesn't follow, so they get a pitiful 6" overhang--no gutters either. In any given storm the lower 2 feet of the doors are wet.

    I went there in the rain to try and do some sleuthing. Taking my maglite to shine across the threshold, I got right down on the floor and tried to see where the water might be coming in. I was surprised to clearly see dust particles all along the threshold. It appeared bone-dry to me, but the carpet just inside was clearly wet in places.

    I'm stumped... what am I overlooking here? We're into the dry season now, but they would like the issue resolved and I would like to resolve it for them. Although I told them that my initial idea might not fix the problem completely, I feel kinda responsible now, you know how that goes...

    Appreciative of your thoughts.

    -Aaron
    www.telianconstruction.com
    Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship. - Zeuxis, 400 B.C.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Washington, DC
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    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Aaron,

    Exposure to the elements notwithstanding, sounds to me like the water is getting in under the door.

    How did you handle re-installing the door after you raised it up, particularly at the bottom? What details did you use to prevent water intrusion? Did you use a pan? If not, it needs one.

    And what about the exterior side jambs? How are they sealed to keep out water? Any head flashings?

    Maybe post some pics if you can.

    Before you take it out (which I think you'll have to do), I would use a garden hose on the door starting low, until that carpet gets wet. Then maybe after you take out the door, you'll be able to see the path that water took to get inside.

    Tom

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Oakhurst, CA (near Yosemite Natl Park)
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    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Thanks Tom...

    A sill riser is installed on top of the threshold, so I didn't exactly raise the doors at all, just cut them off a little. I've been suspicious of water penetrating beneath the threshold as well, as there is a sidewalk outside that is level with the interior slab. It is pitched away from the house, but not much.

    I wasn't into this deep enough to even remove trim, let alone look at the jambs. I'm just making sure there's nothing stupid I"m overlooking before I tell them that it's unfortunately a more deap-seated problem and it's going to be a $500 fix.

    -Aaron
    www.telianconstruction.com
    Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship. - Zeuxis, 400 B.C.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Washington, DC
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    4,703

    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Aaron,

    Well that sidewalk could very well be the culprit. That is a poor design, even if it does slope. And it makes installing a pan properly almost impossible, since you can't turn down the outer part of the pan, due to the sidewalk being in the way.
    But I have gotten lucky on a door with a concrete apron flush to the sill, like you described, in that I was able to turn the pan down into the gap between the apron and the slab. Hopefully you have a gap as well, because I think that door needs a pan. Especially because of that sidewalk. Maybe something can be done with that as well? How's your sales skills? You like concrete right? ;)

    Tom

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Oakhurst, CA (near Yosemite Natl Park)
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    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    I HATE concrete!!

    Honestly, I do it when I have to, and it's not that bad. I can do a decent job but I'm not a very accomplished finisher by any means, especially on larger flatwork.

    I don't think lowering the sidewalk here is a good option... it's continuous all the way around the back of the house.

    What about taking a diamond blade or a grinder and "kerfing" a gap into the space between the slab and the walk? That would do the same thing, right? (Assuming you could get deep enough to get down to soil and not just create a gutter.)

    Btw, no one around here uses pans... everyone just sets the threshold in a squiggle of Liquid Nails. Building my own house I'd use them, and I can see where they would come into play in a problem situation like we're discussing, but I haven't been able to justify insisting on pans for general-duty door installs.

    -Aaron
    www.telianconstruction.com
    Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship. - Zeuxis, 400 B.C.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Seattle, WA
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    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Aaron,
    Talk to your sheet metal person, or buy a little brake, a rivet gun & some solder. Pans are pretty easy to make, easier to buy, and don't really add that much to the cost. Especially if you're looking at fixing problems like that door. I've found French doors trouble enough that I try to talk people out of putting them in unless under some sort of roof.

    Without a picture all I can do is extrapolate. Kerfing into the concrete is better than nothing, but cutting all the way through will most likely result in cracks. You'll need to caulk or epoxy to slow capillary action, and that moves it into the realm of yearly maintenance. I am assuming the house is slab on grade, so putting the pan into a crack may help, but may not. How hard would it be to put in a drain of some sort? I put a small grate in front of a door with a pipe running under the sidewalk to solve a problem like this at a SOG house w/sliding doors.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Western suburbs of Chicago
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    5,554

    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Aaron, is there any room to raise the door up, frame & all? We've seen a situation similar to what you're describing, & ended up building up the rough sill with a p.t. 2x. We installed vycor over the 2x, followed that up with a sill pan & installed a new door. In our situation, we were able to order a new door that fit the modified opening, but I'm wondering if you have any wiggle room to accomodate building up the sill, even if it means trimming a little off the underside of the header (assuming there's a large enough header- most are oversized, especially in these types of situations where they're only carring a light roof above).

    Greg

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Oakhurst, CA (near Yosemite Natl Park)
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    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Thanks guys -

    Unfortunately I don't think new doors are in the budget. They just want to keep their carpet dry.

    I'm liking the idea of picking up the unit... that's really what needs to happen, as the doors are weathertight but the opening is not.

    Greg - since I already put in a sill riser I would remove that and cut the jambs down at the bottom to bring the original threshold up to the doors... that would get me half of the height I need right there.

    I guess I'd like a little more detail on pans while we're on the subject. Are they sloped? Grooved? There must be an upturned lip along the interior edge... how does that integrate with the threshold? What about the sides of the pan? And does anyone have a good supplier to recommend?

    As far as jambs go, they're not usually flashed either, but I'm starting to run that 6" paper flashing down them. That's better than nothing, but it still bothers me that I can't really integrate this flashing into the existing drainage plane with removing the siding and opening a whole new can of worms.... Might be realisitic with board-and-batten but definitely not Hardie or horizontal Pine T&G.

    -Aaron
    www.telianconstruction.com
    Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship. - Zeuxis, 400 B.C.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
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    4,264

    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Sounds like you need a water return threshold. Pemko makes them. I would also put in a pan. If that doesn't fix it, then you need to re-do the opening and address the drainage outside and add an overhang. The stuff is stacked against these doors being weather tight, unless there is a major upgrade. Ask the client do they want to pay you multiple times to address these issues piece meal or take care of it once and for all?
    Last edited by Kgphoto; 05-16-2006 at 08:32 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    Seattle, WA
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    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Aaron-
    Pans have a lip that turns up around 3 sides, and down at the front. I generally have them made at a sheet metal shop or make them myself (I'm not as good as the sheet metal guys) since they have to fit in the rough opening. I like to have them made of welded stainless, but copper works also. I'm sure someone makes them out of plastic. I have the pan fit the rough opening, with the upturned inside lip set tight to the threshold (then a piece of trim or the carpet will hide it) and the sides set flush with the framing. That way you can wrap the door flashing into the pan so any water that may make it in will (hopefully) drain into the pan and then outside.

    No, they don't have to be sloped, and often aren't- most thresholds are designed to sit on a level surface and have metal or plastic bottoms. Tho creating a drainage plain is always better than creating a bowl.

    I have had some luck sneaking ice & water behind siding- pull a little of the backer loose, push the top in & then pull the backer off that part. Once the top is set, push the rest in under the siding, leave the backer on until you have it where you want it, then pull the backer off. It's a little difficult, but if you go slow it is possible.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Central NJ
    Posts
    162

    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Aaron,

    I had a similar situation where no-one could figure out where the water was comming in. I told the homeowner that I could most likely find out where the water was entering, but they would have to compensate for my time (in writing, of course)

    With that out of the way, I proceeded to cut a single piece of 6 mil plastic the same measurements as the frame brickmold to brickmold, sill to top brickmold. I installed the plastic with protective tape used in bathroom remodels- doesn't pull off paint, but doesn't fall off with water spray. This prevented any water from entering inside the frame of the door or directly at the door seals.

    Now that I had a watertite seal I started to spray from the outside starting at the bottom & working my way up top. No matter where I sprayed I couldn't get it to leak inside. I worked the hose up to the fascia behind the gutter (no soffit on this house). Nothing. I finally broke out my 8 ft ladder & shot a spray on the roof & left the hose there running on the roof. Within about 10 minutes the floor was wet in the house. As it turns out, the roof was leaking through some nail holes at the edging of the 3 tab shingles & running down the studs in the wall to the bottom edge of the door & onto the carpeted concrete floor. I

    Told the H.O. They authorized me to replace the few shingles above the door entry & haven't had a issue since.

    I hope this info. can help. Another option is to tell them that french inswing doors leak on purpose. This keeps the carpet clean...
    Last edited by T. Wolf Home Improvements; 05-16-2006 at 04:44 PM.
    T.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Oakhurst, CA (near Yosemite Natl Park)
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    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Thanks all... good stuff.

    I kinda hate to tell them that it's impossible to seal the doors without lowering the sidewalk and framing an overhang and blah blah blah... that just doesn't seem right. But, the fact remains that the water is getting in, and that needs to be addressed.

    T., interesting scenario you bring up, although it seems more like a fluke than anything else. I'm not familiar with that tape you used--what is it specifically?

    -Aaron
    www.telianconstruction.com
    Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship. - Zeuxis, 400 B.C.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Central NJ
    Posts
    162

    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Quote Originally Posted by littlebluetruck
    Thanks all... good stuff.

    T., interesting scenario you bring up, although it seems more like a fluke than anything else. I'm not familiar with that tape you used--what is it specifically?

    -Aaron
    www.protectiveproducts.com 1-800-789-6633 Protective Products. product code TP-3. Great company!

    Fluke, Maybe but I've had no call backs & no leaks since.

    P.S. don't leave the tape on for very long. When the glue sets, it will remove paint. Temp. works great.

    Take care.
    T.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    fort worth texas
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Aaron,
    Just in case it does turn out that you need to install a sill pan try this link http://www.jamsill.com/. We have only used aluminum pans (and only occasionally ) but I have wanted to try thes pans , just haven't yet.

    Jim

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Oakhurst, CA (near Yosemite Natl Park)
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    Default Re: Leaky French Doors

    Well I had to drop in to the house again today and took another look at the doors.

    The sidewalk is not at the same level like I thought... it is about 1" - 1-1/2" below the threshold. When you look underneath you can see a PT sill beneath the threshold; I think it is embedded in the slab under the door area. I've come across that a few times.

    I had to remove a door shoe and it was WET in there. The bottom of the door was just soaked. Like I said earlier, these things are just really exposed.

    Anyone ever caulked the top of the door shoe? Any more ideas? What about water running into the hole for the astragal?? My thinking is swinging away from the water-under-the-threshold scenario...

    -Aaron
    www.telianconstruction.com
    Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship. - Zeuxis, 400 B.C.

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