Dear Barry,

Every time it rains, our sliding glass door leaks. Water seeps in at the corners of the threshold, soaking the carpet edges and rotting the subfloor. We’ve tried repeatedly to caulk and seal these thresholds, but nothing seems to work. Water seepage stubbornly persists. Is there anything we can do to solve this problem? – Jay

Dear Jay,

Water leakage is a common problem with sliding-door thresholds. Sometimes water intrusion is severe, staining carpets and causing dryrot at the subfloor, baseboards and sometimes even the wall framing. Caulking is the first line of defense, but unfortunately, this does not always alleviate the problem. Your idea to add flashing is a good one, but even this is not always effective. There is, however, a failsafe method of correction, but it is intrusive, costly and only recommended where all other methods have failed.

This repair involves installation of a sheet metal drain pan beneath the door threshold. The pan must be ordered from a sheet metal shop and fabricated to fit the doorway for which it is intended. Three sides of the pan should have a raised edge, about three-fourths of an inch high. The fourth side should face toward the exterior of the building, with a downward sloping flange to promote drainage.

To install this pan, the entire door assembly must be removed – a process that entails surgery at the exterior wall. Once the doorframe is extricated, the pan can be set in place with copious applications of high-quality exterior caulk. The door assembly is then reinstalled, with the threshold inserted into the pan, again with generous applications of exterior caulk. When done properly, this method has been a foolproof means of preventing water intrusion. If all sliding doors were initially installed in this manner, such leakage could be prevented at minimal cost: an ounce of prevention during construction; a pound of cure when leakage occurs.

Dear Barry,

My neighbors have a very old home, built before the age of building codes, and therefore, without a setback from the property line. Recently, they installed a new laundry, and the dryer exhaust now blows against the side of my house. The noise, lint and steam create a nuisance whenever they dry their clothes. I assume that this laundry was added without a permit and I am wondering if I should complain to them or to the building department. What do you suggest? – Barbara

Dear Barbara,

All plumbing and electrical alterations require a building permit. If the laundry was installed without a permit, then the installation is not legal. It may also be illegal to vent a clothes dryer onto a neighbor’s property. You can discuss this with your neighbors to see if they are willing to make some reasonable adjustments, such as diverting the dryer vent to another location. If they are not feeling neighborly, you can file a complaint with the local building department, but the cost of that action would be unfriendly relations with your neighbors. You’ll need to weigh that discomfort against the perceived advantages of upgrading their laundry.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


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