Due to age, improper maintenance, improper installation, structural and settling issues, sliding doors can be hard to open. The rollers and hangers wear down over time and the tracks get damaged, causing the doors to stick and bind. When your sliding doors start to give you a headache, it is time to consider repair or replacement. Professionals are available to do both. But don’t wait too long or replacement may become your only option-and that’s usually more expensive and time consuming.
Below, we explore some of the common options available for repairing, replacing and upgrading sliding doors.
I. Repairing Sliding Doors
Repairing the Rollers
Rollers can misalign over time making operation difficult. When dirt fills the rails, the rollers get clogged and can “freeze up”. This can be a DIY project if a simple cleaning or adjustment of the track and height alignment screw is required. But if the wheels are damaged or the tracks are really messy, you should contact a professional, who will align the panels and clean the tracks using the appropriate tools and materials. If the rollers are completely damaged, door replacement may be required.
When the track rail develops divots, waives or dents, it is time to seek a professional repair. Instead of replacing the track, some contractors will install a stainless steel C cap over the top of the damaged rail, providing a smooth dent resistant surface. And filling in the divots with silicone will facilitate smooth rolling.
Rubber Gasket Repair/Replacement
Due to weather, age and other factors, the rubber that cushions the glass becomes thin and brittle. This causes the frame to pull away from the glass. One repair option is to spray a restorative liquid onto the gaskets to restore flexibility. Partial gasket replacement is also an option
Advantages of Repairing Sliding Doors
- Often less expensive than replacement
- Avoid the time and expense of modifying adjacent framing, sheetrock and related painting
- Faster than replacement
If the problem is misdiagnosed, or not corrected, the repair probably won’t last and future repairs will cost more.
Case Study: Avoiding Misdiagnosis and Saving $2,200.
Two years ago I was asked to render a second opinion on a “leaking” sliding door. The technician who preceded me advised the Owner that the flashing above the head casing was faulty or absent. Due to water infiltration over many years, the doors had warped, preventing smooth operation. Sometimes, the doors wouldn’t operate and locking them was not possible. The Owner was advised to spend $2500 to replace the doors and properly flash the installation to keep the water out of the wall and away from the doors.
When I entered the scene, I noticed that the sill on a second story window directly above the first floor sliding door was rotted. Water had leaked into the wall cavity below and migrated to the top of, through and around the components of the first floor slider. Following a good discussion, the Owner hired me to stop the leaks and fix the sliders. I flashed and replaced the rotten window sill on the second floor. That stopped the “leaking” and prevented the wall framing from rotting. After about 6 months, the wall cavity dried out and some of the warping in the sliding doors disappeared as everything dried. I also installed a more “forgiving” latch and lockset and a new handle. Now the slider works almost as good as new. I charged $300 for the repair. The Owner saved $2,200 by repairing in lieu of replacing.
Photos of the final product, which show the relation of the sliders to the formerly leaky second floor window, appear below.
View of leaky 2nd floor window
to left of air conditioner. It leaked
rainwater through sill onto sliders
below warping the doors & making
II. Replacing Or Adding To The Components Of Sliding Doors
When the damage is severe and beyond repair, you should hire a contractor to replace all or a portion of the door assembly. This will usually be a longer lasting solution than repair. Though, as you would expect, it can be more expensive. Some of the replacement options are discussed below.
Track and Roller Replacement
When the rollers and the track rails are severely damaged, complete replacement is the only solution . Most technicians will detach the panels from the opening and replace the old dilapidated track. The side jambs are then loosened and removed from the wall. An adhesive is applied to the corners and below the new track. If the sliding door sits on a concrete base, galvanized tapcon screws will be used to fasten the track to the concrete substructure. Finally, the side jambs are reattached and the rollers are replaced.
If the glass on your sliding door breaks, cracks or has a hole, it must be replaced. The panel will be removed from the opening and the rubber gasket adjoined to the door frame is thoroughly cleaned. The panel is then pulled apart, a new piece of glass is installed and the frame reattached. If the door is a stock dimension and still being manufactured, it may be more cost effective to replace with new door panels than to replace the glass in an older panel assembly.
Addition Of Waterproofing Pan
Often, water will attempt to migrate underneath a door assembly towards the inside of your home. Installers (mistakenly) address this issue by placing a continuous bead of silicone caulk beneath the door threshold and seating the door assembly in generous amounts of caulk. Over time, the caulk breaks down, the bond disintegrates, and the water intrusion prevention properties fail. Following failure, any interior flooring that abuts the threshold will most likely experience water damage.
A longer term solution, for an additional cost of around $100, is to install a waterproofing pan- aka sill pan. It simply is a form of flashing. Think of this as a thin metal cookie sheet that slips underneath the base of the door assembly and turns up along the perimeter of the sheet that is inside your home. The lip that is created by turning up the interior perimeter of the sheet acts as a dam, preventing water from migrating beneath the door and into your home. The cookie tray is pitched slightly towards the outside and gravity acts to direct the water back to the outside, where it belongs.
Advantages of Replacing Or Adding To The Components Of Older Sliding Doors.
- Usually provides a longer lasting solution to some of the problems that plague older doors that were installed using older installation techniques.
- Creates a more professional, elegant and finished look.
- Often provides more glass area, thereby facilitating the introduction of more natural light.
- Increases the energy efficiency of the door assembly due to recent improvements in glass, interstitial gas and gasket technologies.
- Increases the energy efficiency of your entire home if your installer knows how to air seal and insulate the space between the building framing and the framing attached to the perimeter of the door assembly.
III. Upgrading Sliding Doors
Sliding doors are normally used in areas where space is limited. If you’re remodeling and find that you’ve been able to create more floor area in your home, you may want to consider installing French doors, which swing on a hinge, or removable glass walls.
Case Study: Replacing A Single Door With Double Swing French Doors
Five years ago, I replaced a single swing door, that connected a sunroom to a living room, with double swing French Doors. This allowed more natural light into the living room from the sunroom. And when the Owner entertained, there was more room for people to circulate through the living room through a much wider double door opening. Before and after photos appear below.
After: Living Rm
Advantages Of Upgrading Sliding Doors
• Increases the beauty and functionality of your home.
• Adds details which contribute to the elegant appearance.
• If you upgrade to energy efficient models, you can reduce your energy bill.
Depending on your needs, room space, and budget, there are many choices for repair, replacement and upgrade of sliding glass doors. A good contractor should present a variety of reasonable options so you can choose the best fit.