Tuesday, December 11, 2012


It can be a little chilly near your glass sliding patio door during our Midwest winters, so here are three things that could help warm things up a bit.
1. When your door is closed, the sides keep out drafts by being wedged between strips of weatherseal. Over the years this material wears down and air can seep in. It is relatively inexpensive to have these strips replaced.
2. If your weatherseal is OK and you still feel a draft from the right or left side of the door, open your door just a smidgen and look at the light gap between the door and the jamb. If it is uneven from top to bottom, the door will not be sealing well on both sides. An inexpensive roller adjustment will even out the gap.
3. Most sliding patio door systems have at least 50 square feet of glass that gets cold even if it is new Thermopane. Cold temperatures will radiate off this surface and convection can make it feel like a draft. Good window treatments (lined drapes) can create a barrier to keep you comfortable. Plastic vertical blinds just don't do the trick.

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Saturday, April 28, 2012


In the last decade, there seems to have been a large number of all-vinyl sliding doors installed in our area.  Most have been manufactured by virtually unknown companies who sell to builders' supply distributors for resale to independent contractors looking for a product they can sell for less to the consumer.  Even some major manufactures have developed an all-vinyl line to compete.

The selling features are...
1.  Vinyl is a good insulating material.  2.  They are cheap.

Our company is usually called upon to maintain sliding patio door systems that have been in service for 25-35 years or more.  However, we experience the need for service to vinyl doors in only one to five years as a result of thermal expansion.

With wood, vinyl clad wood, aluminum clad wood and metal framed doors, adjustments to improve operation can be easily made to the frames and track walls in order to compensate for settling over the years.  However, that is not the case with the dimensionally unstable properties of many PVC (vinyl) framed doors that have flooded the market in recent years.

Many manufacturers of vinyl doors apparently have not taken the expansion rate of the vinyl material into consideration when finalizing their designs.  Consequently, in a relatively short period of time, the doors and the channels in which they travel expand creating pressure against each other.

Vinyl against vinyl doesn't slide well under pressure.  In addition, as settling occurs, the critical tolerances of the vinyl components move closer together and the doors drag.  We recommend lubricating these surfaces with a PTFE (Teflon) dry lube.  Never use any kind of oil, soap, grease, wax or any petroleum based product.  In any case, it probably won't help much.

It is our opinion that many of the vinyl doors we have encountered appear not to have been designed with periodic "maintenance" and longevity in mind, but more obsolescence and disposability.

Several manufactures of these "plastic" doors also keep their costs down by using poor quality brackets, handles, locks or rollers.

Our recommendation is to avoid buying an all-vinyl system... even if it means waiting another year to save up for something better.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


When the operating (moving) sliding patio door closes and locks, the other end should interlock with the stationary door (fixed panel) to seal out wind and drafts.
There can be several reasons why this interlock may not perform as designed...
1. The weather seal has worn and needs to be replaced.
2. One of the doors, usually the operating door, is warped.
3. The stationary door (fixed panel) has moved away from the jamb slightly and does not allow for a good seal at the other side where the doors interlock.
4. The width opening for the sliding door system may have been sized slightly too small during installation, usually by a 1/4" - 1/2", which prevents the operating door from having enough room to close far enough to interlock with the stationary (fixed panel).
The solutions are as follows:
For #1, The operating door needs to be temporarily removed so that the weather seal can be replaced.
For #2, The same as above, but oversized weather seal material needs to be used.
For #3, The fixed panel needs to be re-set in the jamb and secured.
For #4, The fixed panel needs to be removed and the jamb side planed (shaved)down the necessary amount for the doors to seal.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


When new flooring is installed in a room with a sliding patio door, there can be a problem if the installers do not provide an "expansion gap" adjacent to the door track.  This thin gap should run the entire length of the door track and is often concealed by a thin strip of matching trim, such as a quarter round.

This gap is to allow for the seasonal expansion and contraction of the flooring.  But, if the installers do not make provisions for such a gap, the flooring will force the track wall against the patio door during periods of expansion.  This pressure will make the door more difficult to operate, if not impossible.

This situation is only of concern when the moving patio door is designed to operate on the interior side of the adjoining stationary patio door panel.  When the operating door moves on an exterior track, such as with the Pella brand, lack of an expansion gap is of little concern.

When the lack of an expansion gap has caused a patio door to be difficult to move freely there is often a remedy.

First, we must understand the construction of the bottom patio door track.  It is typically an extruded aluminum channel with a raised bead in the center on which the door rollers travel.  The track walls (the legs of the channel) often incorporate a thin weatherstrip the entire length to provide a weather seal against the door when it is closed.  The system is designed to allow just enough clearance for the door to slightly compress the weatherstip to prevent a draft, but not enough to cause drag as the door moves.

When floor expansion has resulted in sufficient drag to restrict the door operation, this weatherstrip can be removed.  An awl, lightly tapped with a ballpein hammer, can access the underside of the weatherstrip and slide it out from its retaining sleeve.

Sometimes, this weatherstrip is not on the track wall, but on the interior side of the door.  In this case, the door will need to be removed to access the strip for removal in the same manner.

If removal of the weatherstrip is still not enough to permit the door to move freely, then a "hand-seamer" tool is suggested to slightly bend the track wall away from the door.  The door should be removed when using this tool to gain access to the entire length of the track wall.

Note: A hand-seamer is ineffective on vinyl patio door tracks.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


In the winter, are you a bit chilly when you sit near your sliding patio door?

We'll be very happy to explain why.

Over the years, weatherstripping around the doors can wear and the doors can become mis-aligned allowing air to seep through where the panels interlock when closed.

Replacing the worn weatherstripping and aligning the operating door will take care of these concerns.

Sometimes, aligning the door by adjusting the rollers may not be possible due to deterioration of the rollers themselves and then roller replacement is necessary.  This situation is often quite apparent as the operating door most likely has become more difficult to move than it had been in the past.

Even if the door is aligned properly and sufficient weatherstripping has been properly installed, but the framing of the patio door system is aluminum, you will still feel cold air emanating from the metal.  Aluminum is a poor insulating material... wood is better.

Additionally, if you see a little condensation or cloudy glass in spots that you can't clean, it's because it's inside between the glass panes, telling you the Thermopane has lost its seal and insulating properties.  The surface of the glass inside the home will now be colder.

So, even if all is insulated well, but the aluminum framed glass has lost its seal, it's going to be cold.  And, it will be even colder if the patio door faces north.

But, you say... "I am telling you I can feel a draft!"

If you are near a north facing, aluminum framed patio door on a cold day and you are wearing just slippers (most often in the bedroom and kitchen) YOU CAN FEEL A DRAFT.

But, the draft is not coming from the outside.  It's "CONVECTION".

As the warm air in the room rises to the ceiling (as it is light) it naturally migrates to the coldest surfaces, which are the cold patio door frame and glass.  When it come in contact with the patio door at the top, the air gets cooler and heavier... and, begins to cascade down the glass...cooler and cooler, heavier and heavier and faster and faster... until it reaches the floor as a breeze and right up your jammies.  This "convection" breeze is more predominant on uncarpeted floors. (ie. wood, tile)

There are now only four solutions left.  (1) Move your chair further away from the patio doors.  (2) Install lined curtains or drapes. (plastic vertical blinds don't do it)  (3) Go to Florida for a few weeks.  (4) Replace the glass and/or the entire system with a solid wood framed design.  (These are in order of cost, low to high.)

Finally, certain individuals are more sensitive to patio door cold in the winter.  These include, but are not limited to, people with very little body fat, people that are used to a much warmer environment, people that are living in a home with less than desirable humidity and the elderly.