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Community and Q&A

Building a sliding patio door from scratch?

kurtgranroth | Posted in Green Building Techniques on

Does anybody build sliding patio doors from scratch or is that the domain of swinging doors only?

I ask because I’m building a house with a 10ft-wide “moveable wall of glass” section and am trying to come up with a solution that is
a) ADA-compliant (low threshold)
b) As air-tight as possible
c) As much glass as possible
d) Inexpensive

That last requirement has torpedoed my initial plans, since there is literally no such thing as a 10ft-wide low-threshold air-tight door out there that costs less than $500/ft (typically closer to $1000/ft)

I am probably going to just end up building a set of double French doors with sidelites all from scratch, since I know I can do it and I know I can do so in a relatively air-tight manner. I purposely don’t say “energy efficient” because 70 sq ft of glass alone is going to be a heat transfer demon, but air sealing is still worth doing.

What I’d still really like is some form of sliding door, though, since those use up significantly less space than a swinging door. Unfortunately, I’m coming up dry when trying to find examples of people who made their own patio sliders. Even the detailed drawings I can find of good quality patio sliders omit crucial details about weather stripping and the like in their cut-aways.

So, have you done this yourself? Do you know of anybody who has? Is there some place I can look that will give me the details I need to figure this out?

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  1. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #1

    My understanding is there are only a couple of glass companies that supply the glass assemblies for all windows made in the US. So first question is going to be whether you can even buy the glass.

    That said, I think the most economical path would be to buy a door and modify it to your needs. I would start by looking at mid-range doors in stock sizes.

    1. kurtgranroth | | #3

      I've ordered dual-pane tempered glass custom made from and have been very happy with the results, so that part isn't a problem.

      And yeah, I am already customizing some pre-made slabs from Therma-Tru for two other door assemblies in the house. I didn't want to use those for this case, since there's just too much non-glass area in those slabs.

      I debated getting an inexpensive slider and modifying it but those would be PVC and I'm not sure that I have the skills or tools to be able to mold it to what I want. As a quick example, the sliders I've found in a somewhat reasonable price range all have 2"+ thresholds and I'm wanting something as close to 3/4" as possible. Could I even pare down a PVC threshold? Seems unlikely.

      So yeah, my skill-set is in wood and wood sliders are egregiously expensive to even start. That's why I'm looking at the "from scratch" route.

  2. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #2

    Kurt, if you have the skills and equipment, building doors and jambs is not very difficult. The challenge, as you have found, is designing for, procuring and installing the right combination of hardware. I have built entry doors, passage doors and doors for furniture and cabinetry, but considering the many things that can (and often do) go wrong with sliding doors, I'd be inclined to leave them to companies who have worked out as many kinks as possible.

    If you want to look into it anyway, check out Pemko for sills and gaskets, and Hoppe or Hafele for hardware. I don't know for sure that they will have what you need but that's where I would start.

    As DC mentioned, there are two main suppliers of insulated glass in the US: Guardian and Cardinal. You probably can't buy direct, but you can buy IGUs--insulated glass units--from your local glazier.

    1. kurtgranroth | | #4

      Yeah, I've made swinging doors before so that's well within my comfort zone. Getting the dual pane insulated tempered glass panels is also very easily done via

      I also very recently discovered sites like which make/sell not only simple slider mechanisms but also full on lift-and-slide parts. I have no idea if they would sell exactly one door's worth of hardware to a non-contractor like me.

      And even then, we're back to my main issue which is not knowing exactly how it all goes together to work as a system. That's why I'm trying to find somebody that has already done something similar and that ideally would show details on what they did. I would hate to spend $1K+ on hardware only to find out that I bought the wrong bits or simply am using them wrong.

      Put another way, I'm sure that I can eventually figure everything out by just examining every tech doc I can find and correlating it to the available hardware plus track down as many videos on how they work as possible... but finding an existing resource that has already done that would be infinitely easier!

      1. Expert Member
        Michael Maines | | #5

        I understand, and hope you get some good answers. One other suggestion you've probably already thought of is to get detailed drawings from manufacturers. I wouldn't feel right about sharing the ones I have, but most manufacturers have accurate CAD drawings available, sometimes online or sometimes by request.

        Have you considered documenting your experience and sharing it with others? I bet you and I are not the only ones who would be interested in that kind of resource.

        1. kurtgranroth | | #7

          Yes, I actually have a YouTube channel (Granworks Workshop) where I will be detailing all aspects of the house build. One way or another, the door build (whatever it ends up being) will be a video.

          1. Expert Member
            Michael Maines | | #9

            Cool, I just subscribed. You have quite a following!

            Regarding sill height, that's mostly a function of water resistance. The dam has to be high enough to keep accumulated blowing rain from cresting the top. Is your house in a dry area or will it have a deep roof, preferably a full porch over it? If not, I would be leery of a 3/4" threshold. I've used sills with dams as high as 3" on coastal projects. We recessed them into the floor so they look flush: (Edit to add: I just saw that Charlie beat me to the recessing idea.)

          2. Expert Member
            MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #13


            I hope you do build them and I admire you thinking of taking it on. I've found just repairing sliding patio doors hard enough.

          3. kurtgranroth | | #18

            Thanks, Michael.

            I'm not that concerned about water with respect to this door. First, there will be very little opportunities for water since I live in the Sonoran Desert in Phoenix -- we get very little rain every year and even went more than 8 months in 2020 with zero rain. And that little bit of rain will never get to the door since it is inside a 10-ft wide covered patio. ALL of the doors are inside of very wide patios, for that matter. The only way water will physically get to the doors normally is if somebody was spraying the doors with a hose!

            (I suppose there might be splash-back water if very high pressure rain came in at a very sharp angle... but all of the kinetic energy would be gone by the time it hit the door and so the regular weather-stripping will handle it just fine)

  3. charlie_sullivan | | #6

    I'll throw out an idea that I'm unsure of in case it helps: get an ordinary door with too high a threshold. Modify the construction of the rough opening to allow the base of the door to be recessed such that the threshold is level with the floor.

    1. kurtgranroth | | #8

      I've definitely considered that! My reluctance to go down that route is mostly because it feels like a bit TOO ugly a hack when maybe there's a more elegant solution. I mean, I'm having to hack all sorts of things to get everything to work, but since the rough opening is the concrete slab, having to cut and hammer out a couple inches of that slab seems like a bridge too far.

      It may still happen, though.... never say never.

      1. Expert Member
        NICK KEENAN | | #12

        If you rent a concrete cutting saw cutting a slot like that is a few minutes work. I've even cut slots for conduit in concrete using this blade:

        and a regular circular saw (one that I didn't care about). It goes down 2-1/2" but you can only do 3/4" to 1" per pass, I think I did the full depth in three passes. I had a helper pour water in the cut as I went. It's loud and messy but not particularly time consuming. Cut the edges of the slot, and if the waste piece doesn't come right out just keep cutting it until it does.

        I would cut the slot oversized so you can put a nice bed of sealant on both sides.

        All this assumes that the slab isn't structural, in which case all bets are off.

        The nice thing about concrete is you don't have to worry about water intrusion causing rot.

        1. kurtgranroth | | #15

          Thank you for that description! I have very little experience working with concrete (the slab and foundation pour are only one of two aspects of the house build that I farmed out to the pros) so my mind tends to spend as little time as possible on any solution involving concrete work. But that does sound very straightforward.

          I'm going to have to eventually cut through a concrete patio slab for an underground electrical conduit, so maybe I can scoop out a section of my house slab at the same time. Definitely worth considering.

  4. mark_be | | #10

    I’ve built a bunch of exterior doors and have been happy with this company’s products.

    No experience with sliding doors so I have nothing to offer regarding hardware, but it looks like these might work well for sealing the bottom and top of a sliding door with or without a threshold.

    1. kurtgranroth | | #16

      Thanks for the link and the reminder that they exist! I tend to forget about them since they rarely pop up in any search results when looking for weatherstripping-style products.

      Even regardless of the 10-ft "all glass" door, though, I am definitely going to need a few automatic door bottoms for three other swing doors. The Conservation Technology option looks like a much better fit for my needs than the Zero and Pemko ones I've used in the past and were planning on using going forward. Cool.

  5. Expert Member
    Akos | | #11

    I would look at this detail (their blog is a great resource):

    This can be done with standard doors. The idea is to separate the walking surface from the drainage plane and drop the drainage low enough that won't cause any issues with water pooling at the door.

    Important detail here is that the weeps for the patio door should not be blocked by any of the deck boards. Make sure those are clear and free draining.

  6. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #14

    Have you thought about a ramp up and a ramp down? My recollection is ADA allows a 1:12 slope so a 3" curb would be a 3' ramp. You could run it right up to the edge with a small gap so water can't collect.

    1. kurtgranroth | | #17

      Yes, ramps would be the "if all else fails" solution. I'm just approaching it now from the point of view that this is brand new construction done with universal design / ADA compliance baked in as a major design requirement. If I can't create a no-bump threshold at this stage, then I will consider that a failed design goal. So... I will install ramps if I have to, but only after all other efforts have fallen by the wayside.

  7. gusfhb | | #19

    I did it 11 years ago, they are holding up fine
    online pics are gone
    the bypass seal is a bitch
    Mine I installed the trucks so that they move the door into the seal as it closes.
    At the time I was able to buy triple pane glass from the manufacturer[Cardinal]

    If you are not buying superior glass or doing an unusual size, dont bother it is not cheaper or easier

    1. kurtgranroth | | #20

      Ah, yeah, I did see your Q&A about that but since it was almost a decade ago and the pictures were gone, I didn't get very far with it.

      Do you have any more details you can share about the install? How did you do the seals? Are the trucks just angled into the seals or did you actually bend it near the end? Did you get specific high performance hardware or just off-the-shelf "replacement" parts?

      I do realize that this won't be easier but I'm still assuming it will be notably less expensive, since 10ft-wide doors are egregiously priced.

  8. gusfhb | | #21

    So imagine the bottom of the door. Draw a diagonal line which will allow the trucks to stay within the margins of the bottom of the door. The door will be thick so this is not difficult. Pick two spots to mount the trucks to, and cut pockets for them. Helps if you own a CNC milling machine with 'rotate; function[gloat]

    I used standard trucks below, and then just machined a groove in the top of the door[mind you this is all before the door is assembled] and set an aluminum bar with tapped holes for a pair of cam followers.
    When you install the door, you bolt the trucks in, then set a piece of standard rail on the surface it is goin to run on and align the door as you want it[one would assume square] and screw the rail down.
    On the top, I just used a piece of aluminum 'U' channel and the process is similar. Set the U channel on top of the door, then slide the bar with the cam followers installed into the grove in the top of the door, plumb the door, and screw the U channel to the frame.

    The seals are by and large just standard door weather strip
    with some additions as required
    The crossover seal is not quite right, but is passable, and frankly I have not been over impressed with the quality of commercial products out there

    I should have gone with oversized swinging doors, The sealing of which I could do pretty easily, and having an assymetric design in a modern house such as mine would look fine.

    I think you are trying too much with too large an opening and wanting to reproduce an opening wall which is a heavily engineered piece of work.

    A ten foot opening could be 3, 40 inch panels with one opening. Standard door style framing and sealing. Or 4 30 inch panels with 2 opening french door style.

    What I was trying to do 10 years ago was:
    Match the wood, my whole house is old growth redwood, obviously no one makes sliders out of redwood

    Better glass, no one was using truly high performance glazing. The Cardinal triple pane is something like U.16 COG.

    Save money. I spent less for 4 door than one door with inferior glass and the wrong wood. The latches cost more than just about anything else.

    1. kurtgranroth | | #23

      Thanks for the details!

      And thanks, too, for the advice to hold off. Considering that you HAVE made them, advising me to NOT make them matters a bit more than normal.

  9. user-2310254 | | #22


    Have you considered doing a pivot window instead? Seems like it would be simpler (and maybe cooler).

    1. kurtgranroth | | #24

      I like the visual impact of pivot windows/doors but I'm struggling to find a practical aspect for them in this specific context.

      That is, a pivot door allows for much wider doors than traditional hinges would permit. But if the pivot is close to the jamb (minimizing inactive space and maximizing active space) then they would take up a LOT of the patio when opened. If the pivot is placed closer to the center of the door, then it takes up half the space that a traditional door would, but at the cost of halving the usable width of the door, too. That it, if it was a 5' wide door, then I would have two 29" openings on each side.

      Add on to that the fact that the pivot design makes effective weather sealing much more challenging than any other type of door and it would have to have some very compelling advantage to make me go that route.

      They ARE visually striking, though, and since this particular "wall of glass" is THE statement piece of the entire house, that may be enough. I'll have to think about that some more...

  10. hughw | | #25

    To answer your first question....Will Parry on Martha's Vineyard builds sliding doors from scratch. He's built a 20' wide version for one of my clients with 5' fixed panels on on the sides and a pair of 5' panels in the middle providing a 10' wide opening when both doors are retracted. He's made even wider doors for others. One of the best things about his doors is that he uses some amazing (German, I think) lift slide hardware that allows the door to be pushed one way or the other with a single finger. They comply with all your criteria except the last....Give him or his son a call....they're good people. Perhaps, he'll tell you want hardware he uses.

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