How to repair your sliding door
Sliding doors can be a pretty and practical addition to your home. This style of door usually serves as an entryway to a patio or garden, connecting the inside and outside portions of your house. Since sliding doors are generally made of large panes of glass, they allow a lot of natural light in, creating a bright and welcoming space.
Additionally, large sliding or screen glass doors allow for a panoramic view of your yard from the inside, creating an aesthetically pleasing flow between your house’s interior and exterior. This unobstructed view to the outdoors can be especially practical if you have kids or pets that you want to keep an eye on.
Aesthetic advantages aside, sliding doors are simply convenient. Instead of swinging open on a hinge, the door slides back and forth on a track, allowing for easy opening and closing. While this is a practical system, it can become faulty with time as the rollers or track they’re on wear down with consistent use.
This article highlights some common issues you may experience with your patio door and provides DIY tips for how to fix them.
Common causes of sliding doors breaking
Sliding glass doors can break or malfunction in many ways. Here are some common issues to look out for:
- Misaligned track and rollers: If the sliding door’s rollers don’t line up perfectly in the track, it won’t slide smoothly. This can happen because the tracks or rollers are dirty, bent, rusted or otherwise damaged. Instead of sliding smoothly, a misaligned door may get stuck and jerk across the tracks. It can also make grinding or squeaking noises.
- Damaged frame: A damaged frame is more likely to occur with sliding screen doors since they have less sturdy frames. An aluminum frame may bend under the force of a rambunctious kid or pet crashing into it, for example. Glass sliding doors require a more robust door frame to hold heavy glass, so a damaged frame usually only occurs due to a purposeful exertion of extreme force — like an intruder trying to pry the door open.
- Shattered glass or a torn screen: Modern sliding glass doors are usually made with safety glass. If the glass breaks, it doesn’t create dangerous shards but breaks into many small pieces. While this is less dangerous, it means replacing the glass pane. Alternatively, sliding doors with screens instead of glass may experience torn screens.
- Broken weather-stripping trim: Sliding glass doors generally have weatherstripping around the edges. Over time, weatherstripping can become cracked and worn. In some cases, it may detach completely. This can cause drafts indoors, impeding energy efficiency and making for an uncomfortable environment when winter comes. It can also cause your heating bills to go up.
- Faulty latch: Sliding glass doors generally don’t require a key to get in. The entire point is to simplify indoor-outdoor accessibility and permit an easy flow of traffic, so having to reach for a key every time you want to get in would defeat the purpose. Instead, these doors can be locked from the inside using a small latch mechanism. If the door lock breaks, your house might be vulnerable to intruders.
How to repair your sliding door
The severity of the issues described above varies significantly. Some of the problems can be easily fixed yourself. Others require a professional handyman to complete the patio door repair. For example, in the case of broken glass or a damaged frame, it’s best to call a pro. These issues may require a new door installation. In contrast, a broken screen can typically be fixed yourself.
The below list highlights quick fixes you can do yourself and provides a quick how-to for each issue. Before you get started, gather the tools and materials you’ll need. These include:
- 4-in-1 screwdriver - used for different types of screws
- Stiff-bristled brush or toothbrush - to clean debris
- Silicone lubricant - used to create seals
- Hand-held vacuum - to clean debris
- Putty knife - to apply lubricant
- Pliers - to remove parts or debris
- Drill - to make necessary holes during installation
- Screen roller - to fit a new screen
- Replacement parts as needed (e.g., new screen, rollers, weatherstripping, rubber spline, etc.)
Once you have your supplies ready, you can get started. Here’s what to do.
Take the sliding door out
The fixes below are best done with the door removed from the frame. A bottom-supported door can be lifted off the tracks by lifting straight up and then angling the bottom of the door outward. If you’re dealing with a heavy glass door, have a second person stand by for support. You don’t want to end up paying for glass door repair services because you dropped it.
Before you proceed, check whether your door has a stop molding at the top. This is meant to keep the door from falling out of its frame. Before you can lift the door out, you’ll have to remove the stop molding by taking out the screws holding it in place — these will be located inside the jamb. Be aware that the door may shift once the molding is removed.
To put the sliding door back in once you’re done with repairs, screw the stop molding back in place and lift the door back into the tracks.
Clean the sliding door track
A dirty sliding door track can get gunked up with dirt, pollen, dust and grime, impeding sliding. First, use a handheld vacuum to remove debris. Then, clean the tracks using a stiff-bristled brush and soapy water. Finish up by spraying the track with silicone to lubricate it. For the bottom track, which has to support the weight of the door, consider adding additional lubricant by rubbing it down with a block of paraffin wax.
Adjust or replace the door rollers
Once the door is out of the frame, take a look at the rollers. If they are dirty, clean them with an old toothbrush and some water. Then, apply a few drops of silicone lubricant. The rollers should spin easily. If the rollers are cracked, bent or worn down, they will need replacing. You can buy a new pair at a hardware store. Use a screwdriver to remove the screws holding the existing roller in place and pry it out of the doorjamb. Then, screw in the new rollers.
Replace the weatherstripping trim
Torn or cracked weatherstripping should be replaced completely. Start by loosening the weatherstripping using a flathead screwdriver. You should then be able to pry it off gently using a putty knife. Use pliers to pull out any staples holding it in place. Once the frame’s weatherstripping is off, apply the new weatherstripping. You’ll need a drill to get the job done.
Align the weatherstripping at the top of the door with the head stop, securing the flange (the flat strip for attaching the weatherstripping) along the door’s edge. Then, drill a hole in the spots for the screws marked on the flange and put in the screws. Repeat the process for the fixed panel of weatherstripping that goes into the frame. The two pieces should interlock snugly.
Fix a faulty latch
If your latch won’t catch, first check whether it’s simply stuck. You can use a toothbrush to clean it and add a few drops of oil. If it still won’t catch, you’ll need to replace it. First, get the replacement latch (you don’t want to leave your door without a locking latch). Then, you should be able to use a screwdriver to remove the old latch and handle and replace it with the new one. Test the newly installed latch, making sure it clicks securely into place when locked.
Fix a broken screen
While broken glass will usually require a new door, screen door repair is a simple DIY fix. Lay the door frame on a flat surface to work. Hold the screen in place using clamps and reattach it using a rubber spline or staples. If you use a rubber spline, use a screen roller to work it into the frame. Make sure the screen is pulled flat but without too much tension. As you secure the screen in place, working your way along the edge, remove the clamps.
How much does it cost to fix a sliding door?
The cost of materials for fixing a sliding door likely won’t be much. However, the process can take one to three hours of manual labor, depending on how extensive the damage is.
Nonetheless, it’s usually worth the time to do the DIY fixes described above. Replacing the entire door will cost significantly more. For example, you can get patio door rollers for less than $15 online, while a latching patio door handle can be found for about $30.
Protect your home from unexpected repairs with Cinch
For the most part, sliding glass patio door repair is a home improvement job you can probably handle yourself. The above guide covers the basics. However, your home also contains many other high-quality appliances and systems that are far more complex, from your washer and dryer to your plumbing system.
When certain major appliances and built-in systems require repair or replacement due to normal wear and tear, a Cinch Home Services warranty can help cover the costs. Find out how Cinch helps homeowners like you and request a free quote today.