We spend a lot of time going in and out through our patio doors, what’s the best patio door for busy family homes like ours?
We get this question a lot, especially once the weather begins to warm up. Active families need doors that look good and will be durable enough for frequent use.
There are lots of options for homeowners looking for new or replacement patio doors. Selecting the right door for your home usually requires finding the right balance between what you like and what you need. For homes with busy families, we recommend sliding doors.
Sliding patio doors
Andersen 400 Series Frenchwood Gliding Patio Doors
Milgard Essence French-Style Sliding Patio Doors
Why sliding doors?
Whether you’ve got children or teens running in and out of the back yard or you enjoy entertaining groups of friends or family sliding doors make a great option for active houses.
Sliding doors tend to be very light and operate on a track so they are easy to open and close. Good quality doors typically cause little to no hassle for the user.
Plus, sliding doors are very popular which means you’ve got tons of options from a variety of manufacturers. Regardless of your budget, you’ll be able to find a sliding door that will work for your home.
How do they function?
Sliding patio doors consist of two or more panels. In a standard sliding door system there are two panels, one is operable and the other is stationary. Which means you get a lot of glass surface but only half, or one panel, moves to open and close while the other remains in a fixed position. The moving panel is sometimes called the active panel or operable panel.
Sliding doors operate by gliding along a horizontal rail, to help ease movement and to keep the door in place rollers or bearings are attached to the bottom of the door. One of the major architectural benefits of sliding glass doors is that they fit into tighter spaces and they won’t interfere with the floor space of your room or patio.
By comparison french doors (hinged doors) function by swinging in or out from the frame, so when the door is open the door hangs over floor space either inside or outside of your home. With sliding doors, that’s not a concern.
Example of hinged patio doors (sometimes called french doors)
Parts of a sliding door
Sliding glass doors have several parts. As you consider your options, some parts you’ll want to pay extra attention to are the latch and the type of glass used on your door.
Doors with multi-point locking systems provide an extra sense of security. Most doors are equipped with reach out locking hardware that pulls the door panel snugly into the jamb for security and a weathertight seal. Multi-point locking systems do the same but instead of having one locking point there are multiple points where the panel is locked to the frame. Some manufacturers offer additional locking hardware like exterior keyed locks and interior auxiliary foot locks.
Glass is just as important in doors as it is in windows. Windows and doors are part of your home’s envelope. The envelope of your home is every building part that protects the interior from exterior elements: roof, subfloor, exterior doors, windows, and exterior walls. The envelope also insulates your home to keep you comfortable inside and to help you save on heating and cooling costs.
It’s important that your doors are properly installed and that you choose an energy efficient glass package for your door. Your glass options will vary by the manufacturer in regards to tints, the number of panes, and the types of patterns. Most manufacturers offer Low-E (low emissivity) glass, double pane Low-E glass with Argon works well in most parts of the U.S. Low-E glass is glass with a coating that reduces the amount of heat transfer through the glass.
What are sliding doors made of?
Sliding doors are available in a variety of materials such as aluminum, fiberglass, steel, vinyl, and wood. Doors are also available in composite materials and in combinations like those that have exterior cladding. For example, you may buy a door with a wood interior and a steel exterior or a steel door with an energy-efficient core of foam insulation.
Aluminum sliding doors
Solid aluminum doors are lightweight and durable. They have an anodized finish which helps prevent corrosion and resists rust. In our area, most aluminum doors don’t meet energy code criteria but aluminum doors with thermal-break technology and a well-insulated glass package could be an option depending on the energy code in your area.
Fiberglass sliding doors
Fiberglass sliding doors are made from man-made material designed for durability. Fiberglass can be painted or stained and it won’t peel, swell, or warp. It is also resistant to dents, requires little maintenance, and is energy efficient.
Steel sliding doors
Steel doors are known for their strength, it’s also a popular material for front entry doors. Steel door panels are typically made of heavy-gauge galvanized steel with foam cores, meaning the inside of the door panel is filled with foam for insulation. Steel is strong and low-maintenance but it can dent and is susceptible to rust if the outer coating is scratched.
Vinyl sliding doors
Vinyl is a highly energy efficient building material commonly used in windows and doors. The PVC, or plastic, material is relatively inexpensive and manufacturers usually offer economy, standard, and deluxe quality options.
Who are the best sliding door makers?
You’ve got lots of great options to choose from, sliding door manufacturers that we regularly recommend with our clients include Andersen, Milgard, NT, and Centor.
Andersen and Milgard offer the most options and are among the biggest brands in exterior building products in the U.S.
NT is a manufacturer we work with regularly, they also offer a great quality vinyl door that’s easy to operate and offers energy efficiency.
Centor is a manufacturer of luxury exterior doors. We love their fully integrated sliding patio door which can be made with a hideaway shade and screen. Centor also manufactures sliding door parts that are used by other building product manufacturers.
Andersen Gliding (Sliding) Doors
Andersen 100 Series Gliding Door - Fibrex (vinyl composite)
Andersen 200 Series Narroline Gliding Doors - Wood interior, vinyl exterior
Andersen 200 Series PermaShield Gliding Doors - Wood core with vinyl surface (interior and exterior)
Andersen 400 Series Frenchwood Gliding Doors - Wood interior, vinyl exterior
Andersen E-Series Gliding Doors - Wood interior, aluminum exterior
Andersen E-Series French Gliding Doors - wood interior, aluminum exterior
Andersen A-Series Gliding Doors - Wood interior, fiberglass exterior
Milgard Sliding Doors
Milgard Style Line Sliding Door - Vinyl
Milgard Aluminum Sliding Door - Thermally improved aluminum
Milgard Tuscany French-Style Sliding Door - Vinyl
Milgard Tuscany Sliding Door - Vinyl
Milgard Ultra French-Style Sliding Door - Fiberglass
Milgard Essence French-Style Sliding Door - Wood interior, fiberglass exterior
NT Sliding Doors
NT Sliding Patio Door - Vinyl
Centor Integrated Sliding Door - Wood interior, aluminum exterior
Are sliding doors expensive?
Sliding patio doors are typically considered the lowest cost door option. So no, we wouldn’t say sliding doors are expensive. There is a difference in price between different materials and brands. For example, a high-quality vinyl door will always be less expensive than a high-quality wood door with or without cladding.
As you begin your search for new patio doors, get a few bids so that you can compare the cost between different companies, especially if they offer the same product. Be careful with your online research as well, sometimes customers on message boards mention products by brands but don’t specify what the specific product is which can lead to confusion.
A couple of final things to watch out for as you compare bids is the type of warranties offered and what’s included in the installation process (removal of existing door, trash removal, permits, etc).
Good luck with your patio door search! Check out our related resources for more information.
If you’re located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and are interested in purchasing new patio doors for your home, contact us to schedule a free in-home consultation.