A.JLC editor Dave Holbrook responds: I had the
same problem recently. The weight of an entry door is mostly
concentrated on the topmost hinge, which calls for beefy hinges
and an unyielding jamb. Prehung door manufacturers usually
leave one or two screws out of the top leaf and ship a couple
of 3- to 4-inch-long screws with the door, expecting you to
drive them through the jamb into the framing. When your closest
framing is a foot or more away from the hinge because of the
foam-core sidelight, you've got a problem. The hardware stores
don't seem to carry #10 wood screws 16 inches long.
I solved the problem with a length of 1/4-inch threaded rod and
a tee-nut connector secured in the framing. Installing this rig
was a job, though: I had to pull the entire door assembly to
install the connector. But when I discovered that one sidelight
jamb was rotted, I decided it was worth the hassle. I pulled
the whole door frame out, replaced the bad jamb, and proceeded.
I left the sidelights loose in the frame and took the door off
the hinges to make the job easier.
Threaded rod, drilled clear through a
flanking sidelight into the framing just high enough to clear
the glazing, counters the weight of an entry door at the
topmost hinge and prevents it from sagging. A site-made steel
retaining plate prevents the tee-nut connector from pulling out
of the framing under tension. The adjusting nut is recessed in
the hinge jamb, just above the hinge.
Tacking the frame back in the opening, I drilled a
1-inch-diameter hole in the hinge jamb, directly above the
hinge, high enough to clear the sidelight glazing and just deep
enough to recess the rod's nut and washer. Then, using an
extra-long 1/4-inch-diameter twist bit, I drilled a hole
through the center of that counterbore and through the
sidelight. The bit bottomed out a little shy of the far jamb,
but it gave me enough of a pilot hole in the sidelight to let
me pull the sidelight and complete the hole from the back side.
The bit didn't emerge exactly opposite the starting point, but
side pressure and plunging action on the drill bit reamed the
foam sufficiently to realign the hole.
I put the sidelight back in the jamb and inserted the threaded
rod to mark the jamb for drilling. A light hammer tap on the
nut-capped rod did the trick; I pulled the sidelight again,
drilled through the jamb into the framing, and once again
pulled the entire jamb assembly out of the rough opening. I
enlarged the hole in the framing to accommodate the tee-nut
connector's shank, drilling deep enough to allow the rod to
pass through with room for adjustment. Although barbs on the
flange of the tee nut prevent it from twisting, they don't
resist pullout, so I capped the nut with a steel mending plate,
center-drilled for clearance and screwed to the framing with
four 11/2 -inch screws.
I permanently reinstalled the door frame and inserted the
threaded rod, finger-tightening it in the tee nut. After
sliding a washer on and sending a nut after it, I dabbed some
5-minute, 2-part epoxy adhesive on the threads, nut, and washer
to fuse them together, then cut off the excess rod with a
hacksaw, flush with the nut and hence the jamb. After letting
the epoxy cure, I gave the nut a few cranks with a socket
wrench to snug it up.
I hung the door on the hinges, closed it, and checked the
clearance. Initially, it hit the striker jamb, but a few turns
to the nut fine-tuned the clearance and alignment to
perfection. I gave myself a pat on the back.
Because my crude sidelight drilling had removed enough foam
between the sidelight's steel facings to create a potentially
sweaty, cold-weather condensation flash point above the glazing
panel, I removed the glazing from the sidelight. (The glazing
panels in the sidelights and door consist of a pair of matching
plastic frames that screw together from the interior side,
sandwiching the glass panel and the panel cutout in
compression. A couple of beads of silicone caulk around the
outside perimeter of the glass and the cutout seal the deal.)
Sure enough, there wasn't much polystyrene left around the rod.
I hosed the cavity with expanding urethane foam, let it cure,
cut away the excess, and reinstalled the glass.