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How to open a frozen sliding glass door

A sliding door is a great addition to a house, especially in the summer when you can constantly access your back garden. A sliding patio door opens up a whole new room that you and your family and friends can enjoy. Though, everyone who knows the joys of a sliding patio door in the summer will also learn the struggles of that same door freezing shut in the winter. 

A frozen shut patio door is not only an annoyance, but it can be a safety hazard as well. Having a sliding glass door that doesn’t work properly can get in the way of all kinds of regular household duties; taking out the trash, letting the dog out, airing out a hot kitchen.

Preventing sliding patio doors from freezing shut when the temperature drops only takes a few precautions. We’ll go over the best ways to keep your patio door from freezing in the winter, but first, we’ll explore why your sliding door may be getting stuck in the first place, and how to unstick the door from its tracks.

What causes doors to freeze

Because your sliding patio door is made of moving parts, it may be susceptible to freezing shut in the cold weather – this is especially true for doors that are single-glazed. 

With single-glazing, cold weather outside combined with the warm humid air inside can cause condensation to form on both sides of the sliding patio door’s glass. Double glazing avoids this issue 

The condensation caused by the humidity inside can drop down into the glass door’s tracks. When the temperature inside eventually cools down, the condensation can turn to ice, causing the metal frame of the door to freeze to the tracks.

You may find a similar problem after a snowstorm. The sun will heat the snow on your roof first, melting it and causing it to drip down your house, and inevitably, your patio door. Once it reaches the patio, the temperature is likely to be below freezing, causing the melted snow to turn to ice, freezing your metal door frame in the tracks once again.

Unfortunately placed space heaters and a single-glazed door may also cause your door to freeze shut.  If you have a door that forms condensation easily, the space heater is too close to a glass door, there is snow outside, and the warmth and humidity from inside is a much higher temperature than outside, then you may find your patio door freezing shut often in the winter. In this case, it’s best to look at either moving the radiator or having a new patio door with double glazing and weather stripping installed.

Top Four Techniques for Unfreezing your Sliding Glass Doors

Now that we understand why your door is frozen in its tracks, we’ll look into some ways that you can get it sliding again in the cold weather.

1. Isopropyl rubbing alcohol

Fill a spray bottle with isopropyl rubbing alcohol and spray it along the edges of your door frame until the ice begins to melt. Check the door occasionally to see if it opens. After a bit of time, the ice should melt and your sliding door will be up and working again.

2. Hair Dryer

This technique is simple and easily done with minimal mess.

  1. Lay some towels at the bottom of your glass door’s tracks to soak up any excess water.
  2. Use the hair dryer along the edges of the door frame and simply melt any ice or frost that’s freezing the door to the track.
  3. Pull the door occasionally to test it.

3. Hot Water

If you don’t have access to a hair dryer, then hot water will be your next best bet!

To melt the ice along your doorframe you’ll need; a large pot, warm water, and a few towels.

Begin outside and carefully pour the warm water along the edge of the door. Once you’ve done this, head back inside and lay the towels along the bottom of the door and do the same on the inside. You may want to use a small cup to pour the warm water for more control. Test the door intermittently to see if it unsticks.

You should be able to eventually pull the door along the tracks. Once you do, use the towels to soak up any water along the tracks, this will keep it from re-freezing once you close it.

4. Ice Scraper or Ice Pick

If the ice or frost is frozen in chunks along the edges of your door, you’ll need more of a heavy-duty approach. With this technique, you can use a stiff plastic object or anything metal to pick away at the ice holding the door in place. 

Once you’ve removed a good portion of the ice, use one of the techniques above to finish the job and get your door sliding on its tracks again.

How to prevent freezing in the future

Preventing patio doors from freezing before it happens is the ideal approach to your frozen door problem! There are a few ways that you can prepare your sliding patio door and prevent it from freezing.

  • Buy a better door

Unfortunately, an old door may not have much that can be done for it. Old doors aren’t often double glazed, allowing the humidity from inside to create condensation on the glass. You may also find that your door is warped, there are gaps in the frame, or it doesn’t close as flush to the frame as it should.

If you come across any of these issues, then replacing your current sliding door with a new patio door may be your best bet.

  • Use a lubricant

To keep your door from freezing shut, you can use an insulating lubricant or any lubricant with a high freezing point. WD-40, or vaseline is great as they don’t freeze easily. The lubrication they provide can make it easier to remove ice from your door frame and tracks.

  • Properly Seal the Door

Sealing the door is a great way to improve the insulation in your house. This will help keep the warm air inside and prevent heat loss. You can do this by making sure your door locks shut when you close it, installing weatherstripping, or replacing the door completely.

  • Check for Dirt in the Tracks

Check your door tracks intermittently throughout the year to make sure they are clean of dirt and debris. Especially make sure that they are clean before a large snowfall. Anything that freezes in the tracks will cause extra pain when trying to unstick a frozen sliding door.

Final Thoughts

While frozen sliding doors are an unfortunate symptom of the cold weather, there are many ways that you can prep and avoid this from happening this winter. Luckily this is only an issue for a small portion of the year; once the weather warms, you’ll be in the clear.

Looking for more information on sliding external doors? Learn how to completely winterproof your doors. Need a little more peace and quiet from the hustle and bustle of outside? We can show you how to soundproof your sliding glass doors for the perfect calm inside. Or learn more about sliding doors in general with our sliding external door FAQs.

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