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How To Unfreeze a Sliding Patio Door

How To Unfreeze a Sliding Patio Door

Fellow patio enthusiasts, it’s getting to be that time of year. The leaves will fall, the days will get shorter, and before you know it, we’ll be deep in the throes of winter.

I’ll tell you a little secret: I hate the winter-time.

From December to March, I’m in a state of denial and mild sadness. This kind of mini-depression gets worse whenever I try to head outside on a cold, wet morning and am met with a frozen sliding patio door!

I don’t want you, kind reader, to be in the same position I’ve been in before so I’m here to answer the question: How do you unfreeze a sliding patio door?

What Causes a Sliding Patio Door to Freeze?

To understand a proper solution, we’re going to have to examine the potential causes for why your door keeps freezing.

Most likely, the warm humid air from inside your house is leaking outside. As we know from science class, the humid air condenses into water droplets as it cools. As the air cools down further, those water droplets turn into frost and ice.

If the ice makes contact with both the door and the frame, it can lock the sliding door into place.

A similar cause can happen if you’ve recently experienced a major snowstorm. As the sun melts the snow above your house, the water can leak down your siding to your door. The temperature around your patio door could be lower, causing the water to freeze again.

A less likely cause can occur when your sliding door is constructed from a different material than it’s frame.

As the temperatures cool, the metal of the frame can shrink in response, causing the patio door to be stuck. There’s nothing much you can do to “unfreeze” it in this case (short of buying a new patio door), so we’re going to assume yours is caused by the first two reasons!

Let’s Unfreeze The Door Already!

If my patio door was frozen, I’d be eager to get it taken care of as well. So let’s dive in and do it!

  1. First, secure your work area by removing any ice or snow from around the exterior of the door. If removing the ice will be difficult, it’s also possible to put sand, gravel, or even kitty litter down to add friction and prevent yourself from falling. Remember, safety first!
  2. If you have an ice pick, you can easily crack / shatter the exterior ice by tapping the pick directly on the ice. Start with a low impact and slowly work up in force. A mallet can make this job much easier.
    • It’s possible that this is all you need to do. Try opening the door — if it slides open then congratulations! Your problem is solved. If it doesn’t…
  3. Take a large pot of warm (but not hot/boiling) water outside. Carefully pour it around your door frame, ensuring that none of the water gets on your patio door’s glass. Once the ice melts, put some towels down to absorb the water so you don’t run the risk of letting it freeze again.
    • Warning: When glass changes temperatures quickly, it can shatter. Patio doors aren’t as prone to shatter as other types of glass, but it can still happen.
    • This probably solved your issue, but if the water froze in the door frame / on the sliding door tracks, you may need to perform the next step.
  4. Fill a spray bottle with alcohol (Isopropyl works. So does high-proof liquor / distilled spirits) and generously spray around the door frame and the sliding tracks. Wait a couple of minutes and try the door. If it still won’t budge, apply another few coats until it does.

How Do I Keep My Door From Freezing Again?

a melting branch

After going through all of the trouble of unfreezing your sliding patio door, it’s only natural that you’d want to avoid letting it freeze again.

You only have to drag a bucket of warm water outside in the freezing cold once to know it’s not a fun way to spend a winter morning. You might consider taking the following steps to ensure that you door doesn’t freeze again:

  • Check the door frame for heat loss and insulate the area appropriately
  • Make sure the area is draining appropriately
  • Apply an insulating lubricant to the door tracks (while you’re at it, check out our article on helping your doors slide easier)

Do you have any other tips to keep your patio door from freezing? Share in the comments and help out your fellow patio lovers!

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