Sliding vs French Patio Doors

Sliding vs French Patio Doors

Deciding between sliding patio doors and french patio doors

Sliding and french doors are two of the most popular choices for residential patio doors. Homeowners have lots of options when it comes down to these two styles both in terms of customization and manufacturers. Keep reading to learn more about your options.

What’s a sliding patio door?

Exterior of house with picture window and sliding patio door. Exterior also has patio furniture and outdoor rug.

Sliding patio doors are commonly known as sliding glass doors because they often feature large glass centers. Manufacturers also call them gliding doors. Sliding doors typically consist of two or more panels with at least one operable panel which slides along a track. Oversized panels can be used to allow more natural light to enter a space and create a higher-end look. Some manufacturers also offer configurations with four panels and two operable panels that slide open from the center.

Historians can trace sliding doors back to the first century CE, they were doors hung from the ceiling that could move easily. It's also speculated that they are actually inspired by Shōji and Fusuma panel doors in traditional Japanese architecture. They were widely manufactured after World War II and were used in single and multi-family homes as well as commercial buildings.

Sliding patio doors typically feature narrow lines and expansive glass making them well suited for homes with contemporary architectural elements.

PROS

CONS

  • Take up very little space
  • More light creates the illusion of a bigger space
  • Offer large, unimpeded views
  • Can become dislodged
  • Have to keep tracks clean and clear
  • Only opens halfway

Sliding Patio Door Brands

Andersen®

Andersen has been in business for over 115 years and is one of the most trusted and recommended brands of windows and doors among homeowners. 

Centor®

In the 1950's Centor's goal was to produce the finest sliding door track available. Today, Centor is the only company in the world that offers a fully integrated sliding door system. 

Milgard®

Milgard is one of the best window and door manufacturer in North America. They continue to push themselves to become the best and first choice for homeowners. They offer several options for sliding doors.

 

Weiland®

Weiland builds sliding, folding, pivot, and swinging doors for luxury homes. They were acquired by Andersen in 2013 but Weiland has been building high-quality doors since the 1980s and continues to be a leader in specialty door manufacturing.

What’s a french patio door?

Exterior of house with two hung windows and french patio doors.

A french door is a hinged door featuring glass panes for most of its length. French doors are sometimes referred to as French windows and the style dates back to the French Renaissance. As architecture and design advanced double doors began to replace small window openings to balconies. Usually, you’ll find french doors in pairs although some manufacturers offer single french doors.

In addition to the single french door, other variations include single or double french doors with sidelites and transoms and sliding french doors. Milgard is an example of one window and door manufacturer that offers a french-style sliding door. Most patio doors feature large glass centers, what really differentiates the style of the french door, is the thickness of the lower rail. The lower rail is generally wider than the top and sides which gives the door a distinct look. It’s this distinction that really defines french doors in modern design.

French patio doors have a classic look and work especially well in homes with more traditional architectural elements.

PROS

CONS

  • Double doors are both operable
  • Wide opening is perfect for lots of traffic or moving oversized furniture
  • Threshold is typically lower and easier to step over
  • Require floor space
  • Wind can blow doors shut
  • Harder to adjust when the foundation shifts

French Patio Door Brands

Andersen®

Andersen is the largest window and door manufacturer in North America. They are known for their strong history of commitment to business partners, employees, community, and environmental stewardship.

Milgard®

Milgard is one of the largest and most trusted names in windows and doors in North America. With over 50 years in the industry, Milgard is known for its commitment to service, quality, and innovation.

Differences and similarities between sliding and french patio doors

Sliding doors and french doors are common options for homeowners who want patio doors. Depending on which manufacturer you choose and what configurations work with your home both offer single or multiple operable panels.

 

French

Sliding

Styles

Traditional

Contemporary

Ventilation

Double doors offer a wider opening

Conducive to screens

Space

Requires floor space

Requires “wall” space

View

Wider frames and grids and obstruct views

Narrow frames offer expansive glass

Maintenance

Hinges may need to be adjusted

The track requires regular cleaning


Fabrication

Materials

Patio door frames are available in wood, aluminum, stainless steel, steel, fiberglass, and vinyl materials. Each material offers its own set of benefits.

  • Steel doors offer the most strength;
  • Vinyl doors are the most common and offer good energy efficiency;
  • Aluminum doors are typically the most affordable metal option but the frames aren’t as strong as those made from steel;
  • Stainless steel doors offer strength than aluminum and are more resistant to rust than galvanized steel;
  • Fiberglass doors offer strength and energy efficiency but like steel and wood doors, they’re on the higher end of the cost spectrum;
  • Wood doors offer distinct beauty, strength, and energy efficiency but are high-maintenance.

Glazing

Most patio doors feature large pieces of glass which let in lots of natural light. Glass used in windows and doors is called glazing. Glazing units in patio doors are usually double pane, Low-E, and tempered. This type of glass provides insulation and some noise reduction, is treated for UV reflection, and is tempered to minimize the risk of injury in case the glass breaks.

Configurations

Examples of Sliding Patio Door Configurations

Illustration of sliding door configurations

 

Contemporary home interior with picture window and sliding glass doors.

Home exterior with double sliding glass doors. 

Examples of French Door (Double Door) Configurations

Illustration of examples of french door configurations

Home interior with inswing french patio doors.

Exterior of house with black french doors.

Buying sliding or french doors?

At this point, you might still be asking yourself, “What kind of door should I get? Sliding or french (hinged)?”

Think about the space where you want the door installed and think about how sliding and hinged doors operate. Which one makes more sense?

Remember, sliding doors take up less space but require at least two panels. And while you get a lot of natural light, only one of the panels is operable. With a french or hinged door, you’ll need room for the door to swing open. On the plus side, you can find doors with in-swing or out-swing options so if you need usable floor space on the inside of your home choose an out-swing door, or vice versa.

Once you’ve decided which operating style works best for your home think about aesthetics. You’ll get lots of natural light with both styles but typically the sliding door offers more glass surface. French style doors have a taller bottom rail giving them a distinct look that lots of people love.

Explore some of the brands mentioned in this article by visiting our Doors selections or explore others online. Check out our related posts to learn more about patio doors. 

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