Sliding glass doors are a popular feature in many homes, allowing light and fresh air into the home while not taking up precious space as French doors do. However, they are prone to some annoying little malfunctions.
One of the common problems is sliding doors often rattle in the wind. Sliding doors rattle in the wind because they are either out of alignment or poorly weather sealed.
These problems can usually be remedied with some simple do-it-yourself projects.
In this article, I will explain the basic parts and energy efficiency of sliding glass doors, and walk through all of the ways to repair the alignment and weather-seal issues.
Parts And Efficiency of a Sliding Glass Door
Sliding glass doors have many moving parts. Besides the obvious door panels themselves, sliding doors have:
- Door Frame: The frame holds the door in place.
- Runner Tracks: The tracks have grooves in which the door slides along the bottom frame.
- Rollers: The rollers are attached to the door and fit into the track grooves.
- Roller Adjustment Screws: These screws are located behind rubber plugs on the vertical door frame. Adjusting these screws causes the rollers to tighten or loosen, usually 1/4-1/2 cm at a time.
- Latch: Latches are designed with a hook that secures the door closed, and usually also includes a lock.
Any of these moving parts can become worn or damaged. Most problems with sliding glass doors—rattling, whistling, sticking, or shaking—are related to these 5 parts.
Ill-fitting or badly sealed sliding doors can lose more energy and create drafts, besides noise. Heat can be lost between the frame and door, and if the door is rattling in the wind, you are bound to have heat loss.
One way to mitigate heat loss is to locate a door out of prevailing winds or on the leeward side of the house (source), but of course that is not always in your control. You could possibly make windbreaks outside the door with shrubbery or fencing, but that doesn’t solve the problem of wind rattling through the door. What does? Read on to find out.
Why Bad Alignment Causes Sliding Glass Doors to Rattle
Sliding glass doors can commonly become unaligned on their tracks. You may notice air leaking through visible gaps around the door. These gaps cause wind pressure to vibrate the door in its frame. Sometimes a whistling noise is also detected.
Often alignment causes not only rattling, but also stuck or difficult to operate doors. A door that is hard to slide along the track or seems wobbly in the frame is probably suffering from poor alignment. Several things can cause these issues:
- Debris build-up
- Worn or damaged rollers
- Door knocked off track
- Rollers not level
How to Fix Alignment on Sliding Glass Doors
Most of these problems are free or inexpensive to fix. Let’s look at what to do.
- Debris build-up or Damaged Rollers: Probably the most common complaint of sliding glass doors, debris build-up in the tracks and rollers can cause the door to not slide easily or close fully. This can allow air to leak through and cause rattling and whistling noises. Dirt, hair, and other bits of muck collect in the corners and along the track. To clean the track and rollers, do the following:
- Carefully remove the door from the track. You may want help to perform this step—glass doors can be heavy. Adjust the roller adjustment screws in the side panel of the door frame to retract the rollers. Then, unscrew the door stop along the top panel of the frame. Carefully lay the door on its side to access the rollers.
- Remove rollers: Use a screwdriver to remove the roller mechanism from the bottom of the door.
- Inspect rollers for damage. If they are damaged, take them to your local hardware store to match the same size, and replace.
- Clean rollers. If the rollers are undamaged, clean them with rubbing alcohol. A toothbrush or small wire brush can be helpful.
- Oil rollers: Silicone spray is recommended for longevity. You want to use a product that can withstand extreme temperatures, not build up a sticky residue that attracts dirt, and is non-toxic for pets and children.
- Reinstall rollers on door. Use a screwdriver to tighten onto the door frame.
- Clean track: Vacuum debris with a hose attachment. Then, clean with rubbing alcohol, using a toothbrush or wire brush to really get the grooves and corners clear.
- Oil track: Paraffin wax is recommended for this job, as it holds up even better than silicone spray. However, you can use silicone spray here, too.
- Oil roller screws: While you are at it, spray the roller screw mechanisms in door frame with silicone spray.
- Reinstall door: Again, get help as needed. This time, start with re-screwing the door stop at the top panel, then walk the door back onto the track. Once in place, readjust the roller screws to catch the track.
2. Door Knocked Off Track: Another common cause of rattling sliding glass doors is the door has been simply knocked off its track. If you have sliding closet doors, you have probably seen this happen a lot. Again, any gap can cause air to pass through and vibrate the door.
To fix, simply remove the door from the track by adjusting the rollers screws down and then removing the top door stop. Realign the door on the track, reinstall the top plate, and readjust the roller screws.
But really, while you have the door off the track, you may as well take the time to complete a full cleaning like above. It is bound to need it.
3. Rollers Not Level: One final alignment issue is common in sliding doors. If your door is loose in the frame, difficult to slide, and especially crooked, then the rollers are not properly adjusted.
To fix, adjust the roller screws one at a time until the door sits properly in the track. Rest a level on the sill of the glass to check for a level fit. Once this adjustment is made, you should notice a considerable difference in function and gapping.
Why Bad Weather-Sealing Causes Sliding Glass Doors to Rattle
Weather-sealing should protect your home from air leaks and water penetration. However, weatherstripping does wear out and needs replacement. Often, sliding glass doors have weather-seal issues that cause wind to vibrate the door. Sliding doors should have:
- Brush seal along roller track
- Rubber seal on door jamb
- Weatherstripping on exterior
How to Fix Bad Weather-Sealing on Sliding Glass Doors
Let’s look at each seal and how to repair or replace them.
- Brush seal: The brush seal, or furry strip, should run along the track and vertical edges of the door frame. It is usually included on sliding glass doors, but it can wear out through time. To replace:
- Remove the door as per instructions above.
- Remove old brush seal: If any brush seal is left, carefully scrape off frame with a scraper or flat edge screwdriver. Use an adhesive remover to get any stubborn bits.
- Replace with a new brush seal: Follow manufacturer’s instructions to adhere the product.
- Replace door on track.
- Rubber Seal on door jamb: Similarly, a rounded rubber seal run vertically along the door jamb can wear out and need replacement. To replace, simply remove the old one and install a new rubber seal. No need to remove the door.
- Weatherstripping on the exterior: Finally, weatherstripping used on the exterior of the house to stop gaps and air leaks only lasts a few years. Replacing the weatherstripping can stop unwanted air that may be causing your door to rattle.
What About that Pesky Latch that Doesn’t Work?
Sliding glass doors are notorious for problems with the latching mechanism, which creates a gap as the door cannot close properly. Obviously, the door is not weather-sealed if it can’t even latch, and the wind can whistle through and rattle the door.
Thankfully, sliding glass door latches are easy to replace. Unscrew the old one, match it at your local hardware store, and replace.
Wind rattling a sliding glass door indicates not only an annoying noise, but also air leaks that can raise your electricity bill, allow unwanted pests and insects in your home, and potentially damage the door over time.
Usually, air gaps are created by improperly aligned sliding doors or defective weather-sealing. The latching mechanism could also be broken.
All of these issues can be solved with cleaning, oiling, replacing worn parts, or reapplying weather-sealing materials. A properly working sliding glass door should be an asset in your home and a link to your property. Fixing it is worth the effort.
Recommended Reading: Wall Shakes When Door Closes: Why and How to Fix It
As a homeowner, I am constantly experimenting with making the structure of my house more energy-efficient, eliminating pests, and taking on DIY home improvement projects. Over the past two decades, my family has rehabbed houses and contracted new home builds and I’ve learned a lot along the way. I share my hard-learned lessons so that you can save time and money by not repeating my mistakes.