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Site built glass doors anyone?

gusfhb | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

So, the last major efficiency project is the replacement of 4-7’8″x6’8″ aluminum framed sliding glass doors. I am not fond of sliding glass doors, and have considered changing to a fixed glass panel and a swinging door.

The problem is, of course, both style and efficiency.

The swinging door would work well except it would require a much larger wood area than ‘looks’ good, and from an efficiency standpoint, wood is worse than glass. The plus side is it is fairly simple to get a airtight seal on a swinging door compared to a sliding one.

Manufactured doors are pretty much out of the question. This is a forty year old Deck House ‘clone’ trimmed out in old growth redwood. In order to match both the trim free style[for those unfamiliar, the sheetrock slides into a groove in the window and door frames with no separate trim] and the wood grain, I will be making the frames.

I am leaning towards reproducing sliders, not only because of style, but because if I try to push the envelope on minimizing a swinging door frame, I am going to get into trouble with a triple pane window trying to distort the door. The swinging door would be 1/3 ratio, so I am not trying to swing a 4 footer, but still, the only big load on a slider is the pull handle, and with good rollers, that should be minimal.

So, the real hard core questions:

1] Has anyone designed or witnessed a really effective sliding door seal? i am pondering pairs of tapered seals to minimize the wear issue, so the seal is only really seated right as it closes.

2] If end up back at a swinging door for better air sealing, has anyone ever built up an insulated glass door?
i would be willing to have an aluminum outdoor skin. Maybe build the door, insulate the outside with 1/2 iso foam, then bond a skin to that. Makes edge seal detailing hard. Also asking for water to get into the door assembly,

It should be noted, 2 foot + overhangs everywhere so water is not a big issue. A big wind/hard rain used to make the old window frames leak at the corners, small detailing effort fixed that.

I am open to ideas, well, ones that don’t question my sanity, that boat sailed years ago……….

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    You must enjoy spending hours in your shop. If you are an experienced wood worker, anything is possible.

    If you haven't done it before, however, you will basically be building a prototype. I've done that before with chairs -- and the prototype is mostly useful so that the designer (me) can identify all the mistakes made during the design process, so that the next version can be better than the prototype.

    That's why most of us turn to door manufacturers. They've got the shop set up; they've got all their hardware ordered and sitting in little bins; and they've built enough prototypes to get the kinks out of their design.

  2. davidmeiland | | #2

    I've installed some Loewen sliders and their bottom seal details appear to be very good. You can download their technical drawings and look at the way they do it. If you can order the parts you need (the wheels, the track, the weatherstrips,. etc) you should easily be able to make something that works well (easily = you are a solid-to-expert woodworker).

  3. jklingel | | #3

    Keith: A local shop builds tilt-turn doors that work just like their windows. I think they said they are comfortable making doors up to 44" W, if that is enough. If I were to make my own, I would try to secure tilt-turn parts and go from there. Martin: It sounds like your prototypes are like mine. They work, but Gen 2 would be different "if I ever get to it".

  4. gusfhb | | #4


    Hell no, I can think of 8342 things I would rather be doing.

    My real job is manufacturing, so it has become impossible for me to make 'anything' without figuring out how to make 1000 of them, or doing mental time studies.

    The real issue is this is a custom size door. I have gotten quotes for mahogany versions and others that range from 3500 to 7000 each. That is the right size, but with large wood areas and 'tax rebate' glass. With a router table, table saw and radial arm saw, making 4 identical doors is not a huge endeavor, especially if I pay a better/ more efficient carpenter than me to do it. Besides, the intrepid guy who built my house built every window frame in it with [apparently] a radial arm saw. Of course every one is different, but that is another story.

    Sure I could buy a stock size an re frame the opening, but I dunno about you , but I can spot a badly retro'd window at a thousand yards. Yeah, that whole pretty thing, bites you in the butt.

    Thank you! Loewen makes em in fir, hmmmm, and triple glazed.......may have to ask if they do custom sizes[gulp]

    I don't understand the reason for any added complexity, regular hinges on doors seem fine for me.

    My wife will not allow too many endless prototype iterations, but believe me, this is not even the third most ambitious science project on this house.

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