Today, there are very few restrictions when it comes to getting exactly the kind of custom windows you want.

Homeowners no longer settle for changing their old windows with the same kind, but let their imaginations fly to get the most comfort and convenience out of their replacement.

That’s why projects like turning a window into a patio door or changing a regular window into a bay, are becoming more and more popular.

Before Converting a Window Into a Patio Door

It’s true that these projects have their own particulars, but when done properly they aren’t any less successful than a regular window replacement.

Here are some things you should know if you are considering putting a patio door in place of an existing window.

Attention! Expanding the opening to accommodate a patio door, almost always requires a permit.

The exception in most cases is if the wall is only cut downward. Because cutting a bigger opening requires removal of king studs in the wall, reinforcing or replacing the weight carrying header above the window, and potentially compromising electrical work around the window, this work must be done in accordance with city permits. Because a lot of these factors contribute to the structural stability of your home it is important to ensure that the potential project doesn’t create problems. Let’s look at the following diagram that demonstrates the anatomy of a window opening.

Expanding window opening diagram
King studs often have to be cut, and headers replaced with bigger ones when expanding a window into a patio door.

Remember, you (not the window company) are responsible for any permits that are required for work on your house.

We strongly suggest you consult the city before getting a quote, or get some measurements and ideas from a project consultant and then see if it’s possible to obtain a permit with the information you’re given. Unless the expansion you’re planning is extreme, most of the time these permits are fairly easy to obtain. Either way, be cautious and make sure you obtain or inquire about permits before any work commences on your windows.

Challenges of Converting a Window to a Door

Wall cut-outs for patio doors present specific challenges. Pretend you’ve obtained the permit and the city has greenlighted your project.

What next?

Depending on where the new patio door is to be located you may also be responsible for having to find contractors to do the cutting. Most window installers are trained and comfortable with doing cut-downs and cut-outs through dry-wall, stucco, and siding. Very few window companies cut concrete, so if you’re looking for a walkout in the basement you may have to turn to a specific company who can handle it. Most times concrete cutting is done the day before a window or door installation to keep parts of your home exposed for as little time as possible.

Cut-outs also present a challenge in preserving the drywall inside the house. Most of the time when a window is turned into a patio door the header has to be expanded beyond the projected opening of the door. Therefore you may be left with missing siding or drywall at the end of your installation, requiring refinishing and painting around your new patio door inside and outside. Although most installers try to avoid this, it is simply impossible sometimes when a header replacement is required.

Missing drywall around patio door
Note the excessive drywall missing around the door. This is a common problem with cut-outs for patio doors.

Once the opening is enlarged it is also important that the area around the new door is reframed properly so that it can not only hold the weight of the door but also ensure no moisture or air is let into the structure of the walls. How well this is done depends entirely on the expertise of your installers. This is why we often say that proper installation is just as important as product quality.

Window replacements are not always the cleanest jobs when it comes to dust and debris. But this is especially true with cut-out projects. You can imagine what happens to a material like a stucco or drywall. Although good installers try to ensure the cleanest working site possible, be prepared for above average amounts of dust when cutting is done.

Electrical Wiring Around Future Patio Door

Depending on where the existing window is located, the wall around it may or may not carry electrical wiring. If the cut-out has to interrupt the current wiring arrangement you may have to look into hiring an electrician as well to ensure everything is put back properly.

A window opening is ready to be cut for a new patio door.
A window opening is ready to be cut for a new patio door.
The patio door after it has been installed
The patio door after it has been installed.

Turning a window into a patio door may seem like an overwhelming project for a homeowner. Not only do you have to manage securing permits and the window company, but you may also have to hire additional trades like drywall installers, painters, or electricians if you want the work to look seamless. But homeowners who go through with these projects say that the benefits of new patio doors far outweigh the challenges associated with this kind of project.

What’s more important if you’re considering this kind of a project, is that everything must be done right the first time. While you may get a leak or some drafts with a badly installed window, a poorly installed patio door can result in a wall collapse. Do make sure you get the necessary permits and secure quality window installers.

Not cutting corners when cutting walls can save you a lot of headaches in the long run!

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