The sliding glass patio door is one of those things that we simply don’t think about unless there is something wrong. After all, it is such a simple thing, why would you give it any consideration at all?

Repairing Patio Door © Copyright Peg Syverson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License

The door is a machine with a definite purpose and a relatively simple function. The purpose is to keep people, animals, and the elements outside of your house when you don’t want them to get in. At the same time the glass door lets in light so that you can enjoy the view outside, enjoy the natural light, and enjoy the fact that you are inside where it is warm and dry on a cold winters day.

There are basically three parts to the sliding glass door; the stationary glass, the sliding glass, and the frame. The stationary glass is simply a big window. It will usually be double paned for insulation purposes, so other than keeping it clean and inspecting it occasionally to be sure there is no fogging between the panes (indicative of a failed seal) there is little to worry about.

The frame will be secured and sealed to the structure of the house. The seal is to keep the weather out, of course, and screwing the assembly to the house frame lends rigidity to the whole assemblage. The metal frame is vulnerable to damage, which may interfere with the operation of the sliding element, but for the most part it is a stationary feature that, again, simply needs to be kept clean for years of trouble free service

What little trouble there could be with a sliding glass door occurs with the sliding glass. The sliding element is surprisingly heavy, yet it is expected to easily move back and forth in its track to allow, and then seal, access to the house. Because of the simple and robust design of the door, this will usually occur for years with no trouble. However, sooner or later, things can go wrong.

The metal parts of the door are generally made from aluminum. The aluminum was chosen for its resistance to corrosion and its relative light weight. The metal is comparatively soft, however, and if any element of the device is out of alignment, wear may occur.

A greater danger than wear is damage to the door’s locking device. Usually the damage will occur as a result of the door being slammed closed with the latch in the locked position- it sounds silly but it happens. Normally shutting the door, even forcefully, causes no damage, but when the full inertia of the heavy door slams on the latch, bad things can happen.

Replacing the sliding door locking mechanism is pretty straight forward. The pieces are pretty much standardized from one manufacturer to the next, and handle/latch replacement kits usually include extra parts which will cover any difference.

Simply unscrew the old latching mechanism from the door, replace the old parts with the new, and screw everything back together. One part that may require some extra attention is the keep where the hook in the latching mechanism hooks. Generally, there is a new keep included in the repair kit, so it is no problem to replace the damaged keep.

If there is damage to the sliding door beyond the latch, it may be wise to call for professional help from your friends at Associated Glass.