Leaking Sliding Glass Door

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Old 07-16-08, 12:47 PM
J
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Unhappy Leaking Sliding Glass Door

I recently went to install new flooring and after I ripped up the carpet, I found that the subfloor was rotted at the corner of the sliding glass door. So much so, i could poke a hole through it with my finger. The trim on the outside of the sliding glass door is spongy and appears to be rotting too. I also supspect the bottom of the door frame is also rotted.

I had my condo association look at it (since they are suppose to be responsible for exterior walls) and they said the problem was that the sliding glass door was not keeping the water out and that it was leaking where the side meets the bottom (inside the track). They said I would need a new sliding glass door unit and that would be my responsibility.


its not uncommon for snow to build up against the exterior of the sliding glass door and eventually melt in the track or even hard rains may drive water in there.

My questions are if the Framing and subsill was properly flashed (like using foil tape) would this still be a problem? How do sliding glass doors normally channel water out of the track? Does it sound right that I need a new sliding glass door?



Thanks in advance for your responses,
-Jay
 
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Old 07-16-08, 05:04 PM
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The words "properly flashed" are subject to interpretation. So I'm not sure there is a concrete answer to your question. Number one, you'd need to know if the door installed according to the manufacturer's instructions? And it's pretty hard to know what those instructions were back in the day when the door was installed, however many years ago that was. Add to that the fact that you can't apply current installation practices to something that was done 10 or 15 years ago. Many of the products we use now were not commonly used in the past.

Secondly, not all locations around the country "enforce" the same building standards. For instance, how a patio door is to be installed in Florida with their driving rains would not apply to the desert SW where it seldom rains.

Finally, "sill pan flashings", something that helps prevent leakage under doors and windows, are optional in many places. They are often recommended as a "best practice" but their use is often not enforced except in certain locations where installation practices have been standardized by local codes.

It's hard to say what the original source of the leak was that has led to your rotton subfloor. If the door is wood, it's likely that the patio door rotted FIRST, allowing water onto the subfloor. That happens. The longer one waits to replace the door, the worse the rot will get. Wood doors commonly will start to leak around the glazing, causing the rail and stile to rot. Other times, it is just the soft wood they were made of that is to blame. Wood doesn't last forever, especially if it is allowed to get wet and stay wet due to a lack of maintenance. Also many people don't know what to look for (what's to maintain?) until it is too late.

Sometimes you will see another scenario- water coming from above a patio door (such as from a deck ledger above the problem door) where the leak will not show up until it has travelled down the wall, into the rough opening around the door, until it pools on the floor around the bottom of the patio door. Such a scenario might cause the door to rot prematurely, and would really not mean the door is the cause of the leak. The only real way to figure out if that was the case is to remove the door and examine the header, sides of the rough opening, etc... to see if you can detect any traces of water where it should not have been.

Sometimes installers do a bad job of flashing the bottom of the rough opening. Some of the fault lies in the fact that a lot of patio doors are not designed to seal up very well under their thresholds- many of them have screws in the threshold that rust and leak water- some even weep water out under the nose of the sill. Yet others will caulk in front of the threshold after the door is installed, thinking that this will help keep water from blowing under the door, and it will often do more harm than good by trapping water under the door and not letting it drain out, kind of a catch-22. Dirt in the outer track and plugged weep holes can also cause water to stand and backup, which can mean constant wetting, which on a wood door will eventually lead to failure.

So I think you may have a real hard time placing the blame on anyone for this... but if you want to try to ensure it doesn't happen again, have a sill pan flashing installed under your new door to protect your subfloor. Also, using peel-and-stick flashing membranes that you mentioned will also result in a better install and hopefully that will translate into a longer lasting, better performing door. I'm sure others will have some comments on this as well... most of us have seen quite a few rotten patio doors in our day.
 
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Old 07-18-08, 10:14 AM
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Some clarification

Just to clarify,

The sliding glass door is aluminum and was installed in '98.
 
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Old 07-18-08, 01:47 PM
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If the door is aluminum, I would assume that there is leakage occurring around the siding, and you still have not mentioned what type of siding you have. (if you get water behind the siding it would get behind the nailing flange of the door and it's likely that the insulation around the door would be wet, which you can examine if you remove the interior trim as mentioned above.)

It could also be that the bottom of the rough opening was not properly sealed when the door was originally installed. (This is hard to tell without removing the door).

There is a remote possibility that dirt and debris has clogged the screen track and weep holes on the exterior of the door, which may have forced water to run backwards into the house. It's also a possibility that someone caulked the outer threshold of the door which acted like a "dam" and held water or caused it to back up. If its clear that the door install was "botched" then you might have a case... or at least you could have some leverage to split the cost 50/50 with them.

Another possibility is the level of the surface outside the door. If you have a sidewalk, concrete pad, or deck that is HIGHER than the subfloor, standing water or snow could cause water to run back toward the house.
 
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