How Hard Is It to Install a Sliding Glass Door?

Patio doors, also referred to as sliding-glass doors act like large-scale windows to offer amazing views of the outdoors, plus they give the benefit of easy access to your home’s exterior. But, how hard are they to install? Here’s what you need to know.

Modern living room and balcony

Modern living room and balcony

Living room with sliding glass door to balcony - artwork from photographer portfolio

Photo by: Elena Elisseeva

Elena Elisseeva

Installing a sliding glass door is not for a first-time DIYer. However, if you have some experience under your tool belt and the necessary materials it can be accomplished with relative ease. First, you’ll want to know what type of sliding glass door you plan to use. All sliding glass doors feature one door that gently glides past the other, offering access to the outdoors. This door is on a track system that is installed in the framework or jamb of the door. Wood and fiberglass are the two most common residential materials for the doors, and many models can be ordered with transoms or sidelights to allow additional light into your home. 

As for styles there are numerous options available. Perhaps, the most popular version is the classic full pane that reveals a complete view of the outdoors. More contemporary models offer different pane designs that appear similar to French doors or have patterned panes that add a decorative touch. If you want a screen to allow a breeze into your home — without inviting insects indoors — many models are also available with this option. You can browse models online or at a local home improvement store. 

When you find a style you’ll love, there are few things you’ll want to know before purchasing and installing the new door system:

When you go to purchase the doors, be sure to take the measurements of your existing door (both inside and outside the frame) to ensure you order or purchase the proper size. The same goes for doors that will be going into newly made openings. Most sliding doors come in kits with framework; you will need to construct the frame onsite before installing the doors. At a minimum, you will need a drill or screw gun and wood glue for this. 

If you are replacing an existing sliding door, you’ll need to remove the door that is in place along with its jamb. Once these are down, make any necessary repairs to the surface before putting the new framework and door in place.

Be sure to have at least one other person to assist you with installation. Sliding glass doors can be heavy, and you’ll want another set of hands to help with placing the framework and holding the doors in place while they are secured. 

As with any exterior door, proper fit is key. You may need to use shims and caulk to fill any gaps in the framework to ensure the door is plumb and that there are no air leaks, which could lead to added energy costs down the road. 

Remember, installing a sliding glass door can be a bit more of a challenge than installing a typical exterior door. If you don’t feel comfortable with the brief description above, contact a contractor to install the door safely and securely. 

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