A sliding glass door must suit your style and physical needs if it’s going to be useful. For some homeowners, that means reversing the direction of their sliding doors at some point. But how do you safely reverse a sliding glass door?
To reverse a sliding glass door, you must first familiarize yourself with the door’s sliding and fixed components. Next, remove the panels, bumpers, and sliding tracks. Flip the frame vertically, and then switch the doors and handle. You’ll also need to switch the latching mechanism and lock.
Most manufacturers give detailed instructions on whether and how you can safely reverse their sliding glass doors. Even so, there are some tips and tricks that’ll make the process a lot simpler. Let’s take a closer look at how to reverse sliding glass doors and what you’ll need to get it done.
Can Sliding Glass Doors Be Reversed?
Generally, you can reverse the direction of a sliding glass door, but only if it has wheel tracks that you can remove and flip to accommodate the new placement. You should contact the manufacturer before making the switch to determine how to do it safely and efficiently.
That said, not all sliding glass doors can be reversed — and only a few are meant to work in both directions.
If you’re not sure whether it’s safe to reverse your existing sliding glass door, the door’s manufacturer can guide you on how to place it so that it best suits your needs.
What About the Screen?
If you remove and reinstall the glass panels, you must ensure the one-way sliding screen allows for easy locking from the inside. It also shouldn’t trap anyone from the outside.
As you reverse the screen, ensure it fits properly, and that an intruder cannot place a putty knife on the wheels and pop out the door.
Can I Really Do This Myself?
Before you proceed, you should be aware that it can take considerable time and effort to reverse a regular sliding glass door safely.
However, switching the direction of a reversible door may take less than an hour. That said, it’s best to go for a reversible glass door if your budget allows it.
You can switch the direction of a reversible sliding glass door with relatively little effort, and the unit typically features easily detachable wheeled doors and a reversible wheel track. Some manufacturers also include latches you can install on either side of the door.
But unlike sliding doors with a fixed pane, changing the direction of a reversible sliding glass door often requires detachment.
As such, you have to be careful not to break it. These doors are also more expensive because they’re a niche product, and manufacturers incur higher costs making each unit.
What Materials Do You Need to Reverse a Sliding Glass Door?
These are the tools you need to reverse a sliding glass door:
- Screw gun (on Amazon)
- Flathead screwdriver
- Prying tool, e.g. putty knife (on Amazon) or small pry bar
- Pliers (on Amazon)
- Silicone-based lubricant (on Amazon)
- Spare door bumpers (optional)
Step 1: Familiarize Yourself With the Door’s Components
Before you reverse a sliding glass door, you should understand how the various parts work so you can switch them seamlessly. Generally, sliding glass doors move in one direction because they wouldn’t be stable enough to act as barriers if they were able to slide in both directions.
A sliding glass door has fixed components to ensure it’s best suited to the dominant hand of users and to make more room for easy access and control on one side. It’s also designed not to get slammed in both directions and usually faces the room’s interior.
One of the key components of a sliding glass door is the sliding track that allows for lateral movement of the door. There are also wheels or rollers on the door that run on the sliding track. Moreover, the door assembly often has a stopper to ensure the sliding panel doesn’t slam against the frame’s interior.
The sliding track, fixed panel, and frame work together to keep the whole unit firm and sturdy on the wall. You’ll have to flip them all to ensure the door can switch the direction of motion.
If you’re installing a new door, you’ll merely need to reverse the installation instructions. Newer door models feature prefabricated sliding components and frames for easy installation.
But if you’re thinking of reversing an already-installed sliding glass door, you can’t escape the disassembly part, which tends to be comprehensive.
Once you’ve determined the kind of work that lies ahead of you, you can gather the right tools for the job. You also want to consider the kind of handedness to work with and fit your frames and tracks accordingly.
Step 2: Remove the Panels
The best way to reverse your sliding glass door is to start by removing the panels. You can use a flathead screwdriver or a small pry bar to remove the panels from their tracks. From this point, you’ll be left to deal with the sliding tracks, stopper, lock, and handles.
It’s important to remove the components in the correct order and leverage the path of least resistance to do it more efficiently. Here’s how to take them out:
- Use a flathead screwdriver to remove the outermost screen from the door frame. It may be fixed or sliding, but you must remove it first.
- Take out the stoppers (bumpers) that prevent the sliding part from slamming against the frame. Some doors don’t have them since their function isn’t crucial to the sliding action. So don’t sweat it or spend an hour looking for them if you can’t see them in your door assembly.
- Gently guide the sliding panel onto a putty knife and pop it out of the wheeled area from the guiding tracks. You can lift it out carefully with a screwdriver or a small prying bar.
- Remove the sliding track with a screw gun and place it on the openings on the opposite side of the door. Otherwise, you’ll simply need to flip it the other way round and reverse the door.
Your door may have a double sliding track or one, but the important thing is to remove it carefully and switch it to accommodate the new direction.
Step 3: Switch the Doors and Handle
Here’s where you put the components back into the new position, which involves switching the doors, handle, and bumpers. You’ll be doing a vertical flip, but the bottom wheels (or rollers) will stay at the bottom.
Flipping the frame and installing things the right way will make the work easier, rather than maintaining the frame position and installing things upside down. Follow these steps to reinstall the door and handle in reverse:
- Flip the door frame vertically.
- Place the components in the opposite direction of the original setup, starting with the sliding track.
- Apply silicone-based lubricant to ensure the parts move smoothly.
- Put the door back and carefully guide the sliding panel onto the tracks.
- Put back additional accessories like bumpers if you removed any of them earlier.
Once you’ve put the door in a stable position, you need to readjust the latch and lock mechanism. The door must allow for locking on the inside and not the outside. However, this may also depend on the context, and you can allow for locking both from the inside and outside.
You might have recently moved into a new house and realized the doors are poorly installed or allow for locking only from the outside. In that case, you’ll want to remove and reverse them.
Unless your sliding glass door has reversible components that don’t require flipping the frame, you’ll most likely need to remove the frame and reverse the door. You can also flip every detachable component without flipping the frame, but this option is tedious.
Consider Making Any Outstanding Repairs
Since you’ll be removing and flipping all parts anyway, this is a good time to fix things like rusty sliding tracks and broken latches. The process involved in reversing your sliding glass door gets you up close with the parts that keep it working in good condition.
That said, you want to examine the pieces as you take them apart and clean them. If it looks like they’ve taken slight damage over the years, in the course of manufacturing, or during transit, your best bet is to have them repaired.
You can get help from the staff at your local hardware store or a professional with a manufacturer’s helpline. They’ll help you figure out the correct parts to restore your door to good working condition.
Don’t reverse a sliding glass door with obvious signs of damage to the sliding mechanism or frame. It could compromise the structural integrity of the entire unit, and the damage will likely worsen over time.
Want to Switch Your Door From Right-Opening to Left-Opening?
You probably want to revamp your home and are looking for ways to get a new perspective on your entryways.
That said, you can usually switch your door from right-opening to left-opening. You can do it while installing a new door or refitting an older sliding door unit.
When Installing a New Sliding Glass Door
To switch the direction of a new sliding glass door, you’ll typically need to go over the installation instructions and switch them. Here’s how to do it:
- Use a screw gun to take out the door’s handle and lock.
- Flip the lock and screw it in place with the same screws you removed.
- Test the handle to ensure it fits firmly and securely.
- Reinstall the door in the opposite direction.
When Refitting an Existing Door
Follow these steps to reconfigure an older sliding glass door and make it slide in the opposite direction:
- Carefully remove the fixed and sliding parts from the door frame. You need to do this gently, so you don’t break the glass or compromise the frame’s overall structural integrity.
- Gently pop out the glass panes and track from the door’s framework.
- Place the sliding track on the other side of the frame you want to open and shut.
- Remove the door’s roller assembly and reverse it to accommodate the opposite movement.
- Carefully fit the wheel track and glass panes in their new positions.
- Unscrew the lock and handle, then reverse them for easy use.
- Fit the reversed door back into its frame, taking proper care to fill all gaps.