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Repairing a patio door

QuestionOur home is a 13-year-old wood frame, stucco tract house. We have an 8-foot-wide patio door in our kitchen. The rollers are worn out and the door is sliding metal-to-metal. It is very heavy and cannot be lifted out of the track. I've been told that the header beam has sagged and I would need to have it jacked up. I am afraid this would probably crack the textured drywall and stucco. Do you have any other suggestions?

Answer You didn't mention if you already have cracks or not in the area where the slider is. If the header has sagged, it would have put some stress on the wall causing cracks in the wall or up in the area where the wall meets the ceiling. This one would be hard for me to give advice about, especially when I cannot see the problem firsthand. I do know from experience that the correct way to solve this kind of problem is by replacing the header.

If a header is sagging or has sagged, then this is good indication that the header is not adequate enough for the span or the weight it's carrying. Again my recommendation is to replace the header. This will be a costly proposition but well worth the investment, especially if you want to continue using the 8-foot slider. I have replaced many headers above sliders because they were not properly sized for the application—8-, 10-, and 12-foot sliders. A quick fix could be done, but there's no guarantee after the fix that the header will stop sagging. This is a job for a pro!

Troubleshooting: Now that I've said that, check the slider's upper track to see if it's loose. Check for missing or loose screws. Try pushing up on the track—if there's movement, then the track needs to be properly secured to the header. Try replacing the screws with longer ones. Make sure that the screws are going into the meat of the header, not into the plywood that's used between the header material for proper sizing.

Quick fix: If you still can't get the sliding door out of its track, then try removing the screws that hold the frame to the glass. Remove the sides and the top frame of the door. You should be able to remove the door at this point so you can assess the problem. If you have trim on the interior side, remove the top piece. Check to see if shims or wood spacers were used in the area where the sag is located. Remove them from this area and replace them with thinner ones that will allow the upper track to be secured back into its original place.

If this is not possible, then check to see how much sag there is. You can accomplish this by using a tape measure to measure the height at both ends and the middle. However, before measuring off the floor, use an 8-foot straightedge on end on the floor in front of the slider to make sure the floor surface is flat and not sagging. If it's sagging, then you have structural problems and it's time to bring in a professional.

Once you determine how much it has sagged, you can take the door to a glass company and have them determine if the door can be cut down to a height that will allow the door to work properly in the track with its new rollers in place.

Again, since I'm not able to see your situation firsthand, there's no guarantee that the suggestions I've made will work. Use these suggestions as a starting point to assess the problem and to determine the correct method to solving the sagging patio door so it will work properly.

Copyright © 2002 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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C.R.S., Inc. · Spokane, Washington · USA

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