Patio doors are intended to be the gateways to fun and relaxation, providing access to your yard or an outdoor living area. If they’ve seen better days, however, and no longer operate as intended, they can be an annoyance at best and a hazard at worst. Replacing your old patio doors will not only improve your home’s functionality, but also its energy efficiency, security, and beauty. But unlike front entry doors, which are always hinged, patio doors come in several varieties, including sliding, garden, and folding. Which kind is right for your home will depend on several factors.
Since patio door types are referred to in many different ways, any discussion must begin with a quick review of terminology. Hinged patio doors are called a few different names depending on their style. Those with large, undivided glass panes are usually called garden doors, and like all hinged doors, they can swing inward or outward. French doors have panes divided by grids, giving them a more traditional look.
Sliding doors, also called gliding doors, are divided into several types. The most common are traditional sliding doors with one large glass pane per panel. French sliding doors have panes with grids. Telescopic sliding doors have three or more doors that run on parallel tracks, allowing them all to be retracted against the wall.
Folding doors are also called accordion doors. They fold against one another, and like telescopic doors, can be retracted to a wall. Bi-folds have two panels, tri-folds three, etc.
Pricing for doors will vary depending on material, glass, and hardware choices, but in general, hinged French doors are between 10% and 20% more expensive than basic sliding doors. They also require more expertise to install since they must be properly hung and balanced. The cost for folding doors is comparable to sliding doors, but larger doors with more panels will cost more.
All types of patio doors are available with features such as tinting, insulation-filled frames, and double-panes for enhanced thermal performance. Because of their configuration, sliding doors are less prone to air infiltration than hinged French doors, making them more energy-efficient, but it’s unlikely you’ll notice any significant difference in your monthly utility bill between the two options.
When selecting a patio door, it’s important to consider what it’s providing access to. If your lawn comes right up to your house, a sliding door or French doors that open inward will be the better option, since it won’t sweep out over the grass. If you have a tiled patio, outward opening French doors are also an option. If your patio doors open to a fully enclosed space such as a screened-in porch or sunroom, folding doors offer the opportunity to open up the entire wall, creating a nearly seamless transition from the rest of your house into your outdoor living area.
Sliding, hinged, and folding doors are all available with impact-resistant glass as well as multi-point, tamper-resistant locking systems. The weakest point with French doors is where they meet. Sliding patio doors avoid this potential vulnerability, but anti-lift devices such as lockable inside drop bolts can be unsightly.
One of the biggest pluses with sliding doors is that they require very little space to operate. This is an important for cramped quarters. French doors require room to sweep in or out. Folding doors require enough space along the wall to allow the panels to stack against one another. One consideration often overlooked is raised thresholds, which are also called rebates. French and sliding doors have them. Folding doors have no-threshold options that eliminate a possible tripping hazard, but they are not as energy efficient as those with thresholds. For this reason, they’re recommended for interior use such as a house-to-sunroom transition.
When it comes to unobstructed views, folding and telescoping doors are the way to go. These doors allow you to open up the entire wall for maximum exposure. The flip side of this coin is that when folding doors are closed, there’s more framing than with sliding doors, so they allow in less light. Because of their grids, traditional French doors have the most restrictive views, but “restrictive” is a relative term considering the amount of glass all patio doors feature.
If you’re ready for new patio doors, the company to turn to in the Tampa Bay area is The Window Depot. We offer and install a wide variety of sliding, French, and folding doors in a plethora of styles. Reach out to us today to learn more or drop by our Palm Harbor showroom to see samples of the doors we carry.