Sliding patio doors are your gateway to barbecues, the family swimming pool and other outdoor activities. As building technology advances, these patio doors are becoming glass walls that open out to rooms that extend your total living space. Patio doors traditionally let in a shower of light, and visually bridge the space between inside your home and the outdoors.
Sliding glass doors and alternatives like French doors and folding patio doors are becoming more popular. With many months of warm (not hot) weather, more homeowners consider them to be a requirement where they used to be optional. The questions now are about the type of sliding patio door you want, so here's some information to help you decide which one to put in your house.
Benefits of Using Sliding Patio Doors
Sliders, also called sliding patio doors, combine two or more very large plate-glass windows to form a continuous wall of glass. An unencumbered view is one feature that draws many home owners to this choice. The most common doors are primarily glass, with a narrow metal frame, and some sliders are designed to look like French doors.
With sliders, you get simple, easy-to-operate access to your patio or deck. They offer a larger-than-usual opening for carrying through large items such as a tray of burgers for the grill. Sliding patio doors glide along top and bottom tracks, coming to a stop immediately in front of the last (and often fixed) door. The benefit is you don’t need room for a door to swing open, giving you more living space.
Traditionally most sliders had a sliding side and a stationary side. The stationary side is fixed, and cannot open, but some manufacturers design sliders that allow both doors to slide, giving you more options. If you order a slider with a fixed panel, make sure you are very clear about which side is fixed as my handyman technicians often had to reinstall (and sometimes re-order) sliders when homeowners ordered the wrong sliding patio door.
Alternative to Sliding Patio Doors
With the advent of the Internet, you've probably seen many different patio style doors, which essentially provide access from one living space to another. Here are the current choices you have to consider:
- Sliding patio doors with two, three and I've seen up to five glass panels.
- French doors (shown above) where the two center glass panels operate like doors, swinging in (in-swing) or out (out-swing).
- Folding doors (below) don't need as much space as French doors because the panels aren't as wide.
- Wall of glass windows, with single door can give you great views with less access.
With French doors, you might not get as much light infiltration, but that's not true with all models. There are also French doors with more decorative feature, including a combination of panels and glass lights.
Some home owners believe French doors offer more privacy and security, although sliders are manufactured to be secure, as well.
Factors to Consider When Picking Patio Doors
From my handyman days, I know patio sliders collect a lot of grime in the tracks. You can usually vacuum out the grime, and doing this on a regular basis will help you avoid problems and costly repairs. While the weight of the sliding glass door won't be affected by small amounts of dirt, the screen door is much lighter. The screen door rollers come off the track when there are problems. It's one of the top 20 projects we had with my handyman business.
- Initial cost, both materials and labor to install. French doors will cost more and don't forget to add the cost of a screen door (they're included with sliding patio doors).
- Ongoing maintenance costs for cleaning and repairs.
- Energy efficiency as a few more dollars spent for dual pane glass will reduce your heating and cooling costs for many years.
Patio sliders are often added with a new deck or patio, for easy access from the kitchen or family room. The biggest installation challenge is re-routing any heating, plumbing or electrical hidden in the walls when you go to add patio doors. Even if the door is going where there were windows, other wires might be hidden in the wall just below them.
Security is another consideration for new patio doors. You want easy access to your outdoor living space, but remember it also provides easy access for unwanted visitors looking to break into your home. That's why you'll usually find in addition to patio door locks, that homeowners have placed extra security rods on their doors. With sliding patio doors, this is usually done with a single rod at the bottom while French doors often have rods that slide into the door jam at the top and bottom of the door.
Privacy and Window Treatments for Patio Doors
There are many window treatment options for patio doors. Give yourself some time to decide which one best meets your requirements for privacy, controlling sunlight and room decor.
- Traditional drapes, although these can get tricky with a French door(s) that swing in.
- Vertical blinds are another option because they're stored on just one side of the door.
- Roll down shades like the shades shown above.
- New “top down, bottom up” shades that are installed at the top of the window, but allow you to raise and lower them from the top or bottom of the window (learn more with this video on top down / bottom up shades, although I couldn't find information to confirm they work with patio doors).
Both sliders and French doors offer attractive choices when you're looking at home renovation ideas to gain more sunlight, and access to outdoor living space. Some older homes, such as a Craftsman with lots of wood details, might be more suited to French doors. They complement the architectural style, where sliders might look too modern and out of place. Conversely, a mid-century modern home might look unusual with anything except sliders.
Whatever your choice, go with a well-known manufacturer that has a solid warranty. Look for low-maintenance materials and options such as low-e glass, which helps conserve energy, and sturdy construction.