Do Not DIY Your Patio Sliding Glass Doors

How hard can it be to do a DYI install a patio sliding glass door?  Actually, really hard.  Especially if you want it done right.  A good first question to ask yourself is how much experience to you have that involve working with a 150-200 pound, 6-8’ wide slab of double-paned glass?  Add to that, your experience working with at least 18 different tools and even very powerful glue and putty.   This is not a job for the faint of heart…….but it might be an DIY for those who are faint of brain….and that’s not a good thing.

There are a number of Internet websites that show DIY’ers how to DIY their patio sliding doors.  What most of them don’t tell you that if a patio door is not installed by a certified professional, most all patio door manufacturers will not honor their warrantySo, if you spent $700-1000 on a lifetime-warrantied patio door, you may be blowing-up that warranty by DIY’ing.

The other thing they don’t tell you is that you don’t want to try this installation without a gold-plated health insurance policy.  The weight of the doors and the precision of the installation requires not only strength but at least two persons who think weight-lifting is for sissies.

They may also fail to mention the importance of proper prep work before the installation. First, you’ve got to get the measurements perfect because most double-paned patio doors are custom-manufactured.  When you order the door, you have to make sure that the interior and exterior trim options will need to be customized to match what is already installed in or on the house.  Many manufacturers will provide the ability to special order trim pieces for the outside that match the finish of the door. Most popular molding and vinyl trim styles for the interior are available at any large home improvement retailer.

They probably also forget to tell you that you’ve got to make sure there are no nail heads or bent screws left over that will impede your effort to set the new door into place. All of the old shims are removed and that the floor where the sill is to be set into place is clean, dry, swept, and ready to accept whatever silicone sealant is recommended by the manufacturer of the door that you are installing. The jack studs – the ones on each side of the opening must be level and immobile. If the previous door was subject to years of heavy traffic, it is possible that those studs may have started to work loose and that you are able to twist them slightly by hand. If this is the case, then your new door will be loose in the opening before you even start.

And they definitely don’t tell you that the probable leaks that will follow your DIY installation could potentially cause not only a lot of physical damage to your home but also to your pocketbook.  That’s because many insurance companies won’t cover water damage caused by your own negligent installation of the door.  They seize on exclusions that you failed to take reasonable means to care for your property and that you engaged in negligent workmanship.

So, how much are you actually saving by taking all of these risks to your pocketbook and limb?  According to Fixr, probably somewhere between $400-$600.  Is it worth it?

To help you answer that question, here’s a list of the tools and materials that you’ll need to DIY a patio door:

  • #2 Phillips head, square drive, and/or flat head screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Nail set/punch
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Utility knife
  • Putty knives
  • Allen wrenches
  • Power drill with bits
  • Chisel
  • Gloves
  • String
  • Tape
  • Pencil & paper
  • Scissors
  • Brad nails
  • Shims
  • Replacement parts
  • Wooden toothpicks or dowels
  • Wood glue
  • Wood putty
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Finishing supplies
  • Silicone sealant

And then you’ll need the installation instructions for the specific door that you are installing — each manufacturer has its own recommendation.  There are as many specific methods to install patio doors as there are patio door manufacturers. This is especially true in sliding units that come with a broken down frame. The sheer weight of a full sized wooden door with insulated glass can be overwhelming, so most sliding patio door units are shipped completely disassembled. This makes them easier to handle. The key to a successful installation is to follow the enclosed directions to the letter, paying careful attention to the order in which things are done.

There’s also the time it’ll take to shop for the doors.  You’ll need to brush up on the intricacies of thermal ratings, structural ratings, and certifications. How thick is the glass and are they buying new windows with the most powerful Low-E possible? What kind of Balance System is in the window and how are they made?

OUR RECOMMENDATION:  There are so many interesting and accessible DIY projects out there that it doesn’t make sense to take on patio sliding door installations. The risks are high and the rewards are not significant.  It you are the sort of person that enjoys climbing Mt. Everest, base jumping and spelunking without headlights, then go for it. But for those of us who are not faint of brain, perhaps this is one that you leave to the professionals.  At a minimum, at least you won’t lose the manufacturers’ lifetime warranty on that $1000 piece of hardware.

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