Replacing a sliding patio door

Doing it yourself cuts costs, but can you afford the time?

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Q: I’m not sure when my house was built, but I have old-style, anodized, single-pane aluminum windows and doors. As an ongoing project, I want to replace the old stuff. To start, I want to replace my patio door with a new energy-efficient one. Can I leave the frame in or must I remove all of it?

A: You’re wise to do this job in stages: one opening at a time. Retrofitting windows and doors is a fairly big job, but a good one for a couple of dedicated do-it-yourselfers with moderate carpentry skills.

Bill recently replaced the old, 6-foot aluminum slider in his Walnut Creek, Calif., house with an energy-efficient vinyl model. He’s no longer able to do this type of work himself, so he hired a skilled carpenter and an assistant. The guys were in and out in about four hours, and Bill ended up writing a check for $3,800. If you do the job yourself, figure it will take you twice as long, but you’ll pay half as much.

As for replacing your slider, it depends on what you mean by the frame. If you mean keep the anodized frame and just replace the panels, the answer is no. But you can certainly remove the entire door, leaving the wood framing in place and then put in a new unit.

Realize though that you may have to make some modifications to the 2-by-4 framing in the opening.

Get started by removing the old door. First, take off the interior and exterior trim. For each trim piece, score the paint and caulking with a utility knife so as not to damage walls when removing it. Slide a putty knife into the joint where the trim meets the door frame. Pry the trim away from the door enough so you can work a flat bar into the space and slowly pry off the trim piece. If you’re careful, you should be able to reuse these pieces.

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Now, remove the sliding panel. With the trim off, the nailing fins on the exterior are exposed and the door can be removed.

You will want to remove as much weight as possible, so first lift the sliding panel out of the door and put it in your recycling pile. Then, remove the nails in the nailing flange with a tool called a cat’s paw. There also will be a number of screws through the frame, especially through the sill, which will need to be removed. Then, with all nails and screws out, remove the old door and frame.

Measure the rough opening and check that it’s plumb and level. Even though you’re replacing an old slider with a new one, the rough openings may differ. If that’s the case, some modification of the opening will be necessary. Usually, the new door requires a smaller opening.

If so, build out the opening with the correct width of plywood to get the right rough opening. If the opening needs to be enlarged, reframing it is a big job. We’d probably return the new door and search for one that fits.

Installation is fairly straightforward. The new door will come with detailed instructions. Follow them to ensure that new door is properly secured to the rough framing. Pay attention that the door is plumb and square in the opening and that it is properly caulked and insulated to prevent water and air infiltration.

For a more detailed look, we found a thorough instructional video on replacing a sliding patio door: www.ronhazelton.com/projects/how_to_install_a_sliding_patio_door.

                                     

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