Sliding Glass Door Installation Tips – Bringing the Outside In

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If you like windows, you’ll love the look of a good set of sliding glass doors. Open up your home with a sliding glass door set and expand your living space to a deck or patio for a bonus “room” during the nicer months of the year. Installing Sliding Glass Doors is a way to bring the outside in, (or is it the inside out?) Anyway, it’s easier than you think, just be sure to get a really strong helper because these suckers can be heavy!

Opening up the Hole

In our sliding glass door project, we only had to remove the old sliding glass door. If you’re trying to install a sliding glass door where there wasn’t one before, you’ll need to install a header—similar to this header installed here by my HomeFixated colleague, Phil. If you’re unsure how to install a header, don’t hesitate to call in the pros!

The doors are out and the frame is ready to be removed. Get out the drop cloth please!
The doors are out and the frame is ready to be removed. Get out the drop cloth please!

Our demolition project was right next to some very sensitive wood flooring and freshly painted pool deck, so we had to be extra careful and put down plenty of drop cloths before we started. This particular door was in a wood framed opening, so it didn’t require the heavy demolition that a stuccoed in place sliding glass door would take to get free. We quickly removed the trim, pulled the sliders out and backed out all of the screws in the metal track and frame.

The tracks out and the area has been shop vacuumed.
The tracks out and the area has been shop vacuumed.

There are four doors in this series of sliding glass door panels. Since the two doors hook together at the fin, the inner two have to be removed first. Moving panels are easily lifted out from the track by two people grasping the door firmly on each side and lifting straight up. The bottom of the door can then be tilted out away from the track. Once free from the bottom track, the top of the door easily comes out of the track and can be walked to a safe location for transport.

After the doors were out and the track was free, we cleaned the hole of any debris and took all of the old sliding glass door parts out of the way. With everything clean, it’s time to assemble the new track.

You’re on Track Now

Simply screw it in from the back, but be careful...
Simply screw it in from the back, but be careful…

Its bonus if you have the ability to assemble the new track in front of the opening like we did. Plenty of space allowed us to build the frame, weatherproof with caulk and then tilt the frame right into the opening—piece of cake! Sometimes, you’re not so lucky and you have to build the door frame somewhere else and move it to the location. Be careful not to twist the frame or you could end up with some serious problems when you try to install the new sliding glass door panels.

The track is not aligned even though the screws are in the provided holes...
The track is not aligned even though the screws are in the provided holes…

Because this was a vinyl set of doors, there was some assembly required to the track. Aluminum guides for the track had to be put into place as well as several other metal pieces needed to be attached to the vinyl frame before it was assembled.

Now tracks are aligned and ready to go!
Now tracks are aligned and ready to go!

Once the four sides of the frame had everything ready to go, it’s just a simple matter of installing the screws into the proper groove. The trouble part of this project came into play when the tracks on each side of the frame did’t line up correctly. We had to put a few screws in sideways to get each of the tracks to line up with one another. This was also a good time to add a little silicone caulking on each of the seams before fastening them together.

Sliding Glass Door Test Run

We measured up the now complete sliding glass door frame to see how well it fit into the opening. We found that while the original track was a little wider than the old track, it wasn’t enough to make a big deal out of. At first, we thought maybe we have to pour an additional concrete stoop to pad out the opening, but once the track was assembled, we found that it really only needed to be padded about 1-1/2 –inches and that a nice piece of cementitious board would work just fine.

Padding the door opening for the new frame
Padding the door opening for the new frame

The opening was slightly smaller with the new frame, so we padded one side with a small piece of ½-inch plywood. After another measurement, we were sure the new frame would fit perfectly into the opening. A quick test fit of the frame verified our suspicions, so we removed the frame from the opening and proceeded to weatherproof the opening with silicone caulking. With caulk in place the frame was set into the hole and secured to the walls and ceiling.

Laser leveling made this part of the job go quick and easy
Laser leveling made this part of the job go quick and easy

To level the opening, shims were needed to keep the track smooth and consistent both on the top and bottom as well as the sides. We used the CST/Berger laser level we reviewed a while ago to level the upper tracks and sides of the new sliding glass door frame. The laser level’s nifty wall attachment for a drop ceiling install came in handy when we leveled the upper track. In no time at all, we had the frame ready to go for the new doors.

Installing New Doors? Not without the Incredible Hulk

Seeing as how the old sliders were made from aluminum and the new doors were made from vinyl, you would think that they would be much lighter – fat chance. More glass equals more weight and hoofing these doors from one side of the house to the other was a job unto itself. If you’re dealing with heavy doors, the more muscle-power you can enlist, the better.

Center panels in, now it's time for the other two fixed panels
Center panels in, now it’s time for the other two fixed panels

The other hard part about sticking the new door on the new track is that they all have to go in in the right order. The two fixed panels had to go into place first. Putting the new doors in place was the reverse process of taking them out. You’ve got to tilt the top of the door into the track in place first. Follow that by swinging the bottom of the door in place and sliding the door up into the track. Once the bottom of the door is in the track, the other doors can be installed so that the fins on the edges of the door overlap and the door becomes one unit. The two fixed panels are then secured to the door frame with the provided hardware and screws.

All that’s left at this point is to adjust the doors for level, install the hardware and replace the trim. Adjusting the door takes a just few minutes and a little help from a Phillips head screwdriver. There’s a small port with a Phillips head screw in the bottom of the door that needs to be turned to raise or lower the wheels that ride on the track and adjust the door.

We also had to cover up the alarm installers handy work with a bit of trim
We also had to cover up the alarm installers handy work with a bit of trim

After the door adjustment, the hardware is attached, the locking mechanism aligned and the door is complete! While many sliding door installations are similar, just about every project has it’s own unique variables. The same is true for different door types and manufacturers, so be sure to follow their recommendations for best practices on your install. Have any sliding glass door installation tips or tricks? If so, be sure to share them in the comments section below!

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About Eric

Since Eric built his first skateboard ramp in his parents driveway; he’s breathed, slept and eaten DIY construction. As a second generation master carpenter who runs two Florida-based construction firms, Eric’s had the chance to work on everything from Mcmansions to your local mall to the cat lady’s bathroom. So when it comes to dealing with construction s@#t; he’s the man—literally. There isn’t a tool or construction material that Eric hasn’t used and abused, and if there is; it’s rocking in a dark corner nervously waiting for him to show up for work.

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2 thoughts on “Sliding Glass Door Installation Tips – Bringing the Outside In”

  1. Those glass doors can be very heavy. You need to be pretty strong and lucky to keep the door in place and to get the sliders lined up right by yourself. Finding a few willing hands to help out when the time comes to put it in place is a huge help.


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