Flashing Details for a Balcony Door
Credit: Illustration: JLC Flashing Details for a Balcony Door

I can't tell you how many jobs I've done where the scope and complexity increased enormously after hearing the homeowner utter this seemingly harmless phrase: “You know, we were thinking ...” A new deck can be a gateway project for customers: Once they see how awesome it is, their creative juices start flowing and you start talking about add-ons. Typical items, such as planters, pergolas, and landscape features, are usually the bailiwick of deck-building carpenters, who can create them with ease.

On the other hand, turning a wall into a window or a door is a different story. Such projects are remodeling carpentry and require a working knowledge of everything in a wall section from siding to drywall to trim, as well as some familiarity with what's required for working inside a home. The complexity of the task raises the stakes for deck-builders who offer this service.

BASES COVERED A pre-bid or design checklist can help you organize your presentation, and is useful for managing your process and your customer's expectations when going “wall-out.” Be aware of two things:

Utilities. You can nearly guarantee that electrical will have to be re-routed. Check for plumbing supply lines, waste stacks and vents; HVAC vents and returns may need relocation.

Subs. You'll need to get a subcontractor's bid, and you'll have to weave the sub into your schedule.

HOW TO DO IT Here are some suggestions for managing this complicated job:

  • Lay out the ledger and finished deck height to correspond with the door threshold; the control point for layout is the interior floor.
  • Siding cuts must be exactingly laid out — no matter what kind of siding it is. There must also be a provision for head-flashing.
  • Framing alterations should be part of your permit drawings, including header size and king/jack studs. Then figure out how you will install the header (usually from the inside). Note: Framing a temporary interior wall helps keep the house from sinking as you remove load-bearing studs.
  • Expect to remove/replace/refinish/paint the drywall.
  • New interior casing must be installed; it must intersect seamlessly with existing base molding, and be caulked and painted.
  • Use dropcloths and/or items such as carpet samples to protect existing floor finishes.

Opening a wall is no small undertaking. If it plays to your strengths, great. If not, subbing the job to a remodeling contractor may be the better part of profitability.
—Mark Clement is a freelance writer and former contractor in Ambler, Pa.