Help me get to the garden! How can I unlock the patio doors?
August 17, 2007 3:14 AM   Subscribe

In our new house, I can't work out how to get out of the double glazed sliding patio doors. They are locked, and I think I have the key (well, I have a key), but they just won't open. What am I missing?

I have always lived in older houses, so am new to the world of double glazing and window locks and patio doors, so I expect I am missing something simple - but here is all the information I have:

These are large sliding double-glazed glass doors. About half way up the left edge of the left door (where it fits the wall) is a fixed sliding door handle (does not turn) with a small lever attached. This lever goes from about -45 degrees to +45 degrees from the horizontal. Below this, at the base of the door, is a metal box with a lock and a small plastic knob which turns but doesn't seem to do anything.

I have a big bunch of keys, and one of these keys, when inserted into the lock, turns about a quarter turn. I have tried both states of the lever with both states of the key (up-vertical, down-vertical; up-turned, down-turned). No luck.

On the right hand door (at the base) is a small box with a light on it. When I touched this box, the light went from green to flashing orange (this, I assume, is something to do with the burglar alarm). The box with the flashing lights does not seem to have any other features. There do not seem to be any other locks or bolts, but I'm not entirely sure what I am looking for. We do not (yet) have a contact number for the people who have just moved out. I know the doors do open, as they were open when I viewed the property.

Any ideas?
posted by handee to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Is there a small button on the front edge of that little box at the base? I imagine this controls a pin that goes into the door frame. Are you sure it's a knob and not a button to push the pin down?

I'd fiddle with the plastic box a bit. Having a lock on it makes me think this is what's holding you back.
posted by comiddle at 3:26 AM on August 17, 2007

Lift the door handle up as high as it goes, then twist the knob below it. This will unlock the door. Now open by pushing down on the door handle and pull.
posted by wile e at 3:43 AM on August 17, 2007

This may be overly simple, but people often use a long, skinny object as a barrier to opening sliding glass doors, as a security measure.

Is there anything like that at the base of one of the doors? If so, pick it up and try to slide the door open again.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:42 AM on August 17, 2007

Best answer: Does the lock at the bottom look anything like one of these?

If so, you have to turn the key until that pin pops out. Since you have been trying to open the door, you may have too much pressure on the pin for it to pop out when it's supposed to. Try pushing the door towards the closed position to relieve pressure on the pin, and then use the key on the lower box again.

The lever on the upper handle likely has to be flipped up to open the door. (after you've released the lower pin, of course)

The lower lock is in place because the upper handle locks are notoriously easy to defeat (usually it just involves lifting the door from the outside).
posted by davey_darling at 6:14 AM on August 17, 2007

It's hard to say without pictures, but one easy solution might just be to call your realtor.
posted by caddis at 7:27 AM on August 17, 2007

Response by poster: Great ideas so far, I'll give them all a go when I get home tonight. Caddis - I'm not sure what a realtor is. We phoned the estate agent but they don't know, so we've asked for a contact no. for the vendors, but they haven't provided one (yet).
posted by handee at 7:38 AM on August 17, 2007

realtor = estate agent
posted by davey_darling at 7:44 AM on August 17, 2007

This is a bit of a long shot, but you should look in the bottom track to see if there’s something there blocking the door. Its fairly common for people to add an extra measure of security to an unoccupied house by dropping a stick of wood into the bottom track of a slider.
posted by Huplescat at 11:58 AM on August 17, 2007

Response by poster: davy_darling nailed it, turns out that in order to unlock the door you have to push it shut and I mean shut for the pin to pop out. I have so far only achieved this by going out the main door, walking round the house, and pushing it shut from the outside, which is not the easiest way to open patio doors but hey at least they now open!
posted by handee at 7:27 AM on August 18, 2007

You may be able to realign the lock unit or enlarge the hole that the pin goes into slightly in order to avoid having to do this. The fit doesn't have to be super snug, and enlarging the hole by a millimeter or so will prevent the pin from binding, allowing it to pop out when it is supposed to while still preventing the door from being opened from the outside.

You will likely have to remove the sliding panel of the door if you choose to enlarge the hole. It should just lift up and tilt out at the bottom. Pick up a small round file or a drill bit slightly larger than the existing hole.

Option B would be to slightly loosen the screws holding the locking part. With the door closed and the pin pushed in, you should be able to move the lock unit around enough to find a spot where it is centered in the hole and will pop out without having to push the door closed tightly.

Good luck.
posted by davey_darling at 10:53 AM on August 18, 2007

Lift the door handle up as high as it goes, then twist the knob below it. This will unlock the door. Now open by pushing down on the door handle and pull.

I was housesitting once and couldn't figure out how to lock the patio doors. It was a pain. Figured out to do what wile e suggested. There was a long metal pin that ran through the edge of one of the doors and bolted into the frame in the top. Lifting the handle all the way up would cause it to pop in or out of the frame, allowing the door to be locked or unlocked.
posted by radioamy at 4:02 PM on August 18, 2007

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