Q: I need to decide whether to install a French Door or a Sliding Glass Door. What advice can you share comparing these two types of entry doors? Our old sliding glass door lets in cold air during the winter and makes the room feel hot during the summer. What type of door should I replace it with?
A: Patio doors play an important role in improving your home. The overriding question is can we seamlessly connect indoor and outdoor spaces without comprising energy efficiency, security, and beauty. In chatting with homeowners, the one abundantly clear commonality is an innate drive to continuously evaluate and tirelessly work towards improving their homes. For 99% of us, it’s the largest financial investment we’ve ever made or will ever make. It’s the first thing friends and family see when they come for the holidays and it’s the only thing they remember.
Our homes give us an enormous sense of comfort, security, and pride. It is critical to make the right decision in choosing the right products and services and there are thousands of options out there. If you’re new to the home improvement industry, and even if you’re not, a decision such as this can feel like a wildly overwhelming choice. Fear not!! We are dedicated to educating everyone out there. Our goal is to provide you with the information and resources you need to make the best decision for you and your family.
Although patio doors are available in a number of styles, there are primarily two styles: sliding and French doors. But which one to choose? Let’s take a look.
Traditional sliding door designs have two-panel sections, one fixed-stationary and one mobile to slide open and shut. The actual sliding door is a moveable rectangular framed sheet of glass that is mounted on sliding rollers that slide along a fixed track parallel to the fixed neighboring glass partition.
A French Door consists of a frame around one or more transparent panels that may be installed in matching pairs or in a series. French doors typically use weather stripping at the floor level where the doors meet to prevent water ingress.
Before I go into the advantages and disadvantages of sliding vs French doors, I would like to point out a few important factors. First, be sure and check the materials used in the products you’re selecting. Wood may be prettier to some but has a very short life expectancy. Metal will last a long time but is a much stronger conductor of heat and cold. It is also against code in most residential applications. Over the years, manufacturers have researched and designed a number of features, some of which I’m going to mention have led to great improvements in multiple structural design flaws. That being said, when shopping for products for your home, make sure to take a good look at the manufacturer and always use a reputable installer. You can buy the best doors in the world and still end up in a real tough spot if they aren’t installed properly.
Product-wise, at Coastal Windows & Exteriors we use Soft-Lite as our exclusive window and sliding glass door manufacturer. Soft-Lite is the only door that is recommended through the National Crime Prevention Council and has won Energy Star Partner of the Year three years running. They take great care to provide homeowners with superior grade products offering unparalleled security and energy efficiency.
Comparison of French Doors and Sliding Glass Doors
What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a sliding glass door?
- Ease of Operation – They are extremely user-friendly and easy to operate because the entire weight of the sliding panel is supported by the track and requires no more than a gentle nudge to move.
- Space-Saving – Because the doors slide along a parallel track, rather than open or close on a hinge, sliding doors require almost no space to be fully opened. This makes them an ideal option for homes with smaller spaces near entrances or homes where space is a commodity.
- Security – The security design is aimed at preventing both the fixed and operable doors from being lifted off their rails.
- Energy Efficiency – You should look for a door with Triple-Fin Weather-Stripping with antimicrobial protection that fights the growth of mold and bacteria. Also, you want to find a door that has all its frames, rails, and stiles with injected R-5 Comfort Foam which acts as the door’s thermal insulator around its exterior.
- Sliding doors also provide a more unobstructed view of the outdoors.
- Locking systems – Anti-lift blocks can be fixed to the top of the rails or a portable security bar can be fitted from the inside to prevent sliding action when the door is closed. We find both these options cumbersome and inevitably sacrifice beauty so we decided to go with Soft-Lite as they offer a patented 2 point locking system. This design prevents any break-ins as it locks the door into the jamb. Our door also has a TowBolt or ThumbBolt which are effective vent-stops from preventing the door from opening more than 3” while still allowing some added ventilation.
What Are The Advantages/Disadvantages of a French Door?
- Ease of Access – The French Doors make up in ease of access what they lack in space-saving. While French Doors require far more clearance to fully open, they can also open the entire width of the opening while sliding doors can only open to the left or the right as much as their frames will allow.
- Ventilation – Because French doors enable the homeowner to open both doors fully, they allow excellent ventilation. With both door panels operable, you can open either door to let in as much or as little breeze as you’d like.
- Space Issue/Blocks Views –
- While French doors boast more ease of access and ventilation, some of them require wood used for load-bearing in the direct center of the opening, inhibiting view and ability to move things in or out of the house.
- They also have wider panels on all sides thus having less glass viewing space.
- French doors swing into the room where they are installed so furniture cannot be placed next to them. French Doors can be quite inconvenient in smaller spaces where the swing diameter will interfere with furniture or ingress/egress. We hear homeowners complain a lot about this issue with French Doors as they have to move furniture to open their door! Not only is this annoying but they can’t open the door wide enough to allow for fresh air. Some homeowners prefer a sliding patio door as it does not require any living space to accommodate opening and closing.
- Mechanical Issues –
- The hinges on the French doors tend to have problems over time and will eventually require service while the sliding rollers have a much longer lifespan. With French doors, there is a lot of weight on those hinges. They often times need adjustment. Because of this the French door can eventually become difficult to open and close – basically becomes a challenge to operate – because of the weight of the door.
- Another reason for Sliders over French is the ease of adjustment when the opening becomes out of square due to the house settling. Since we work in many older homes we see this a lot as well.
- French doors cannot be made of vinyl due to the fact that the door swings. Vinyl cannot support the weight of the glass and will eventually sag. Wood is typically the material used and can be a maintenance concern for many homeowners.
- Poor Energy Efficiency Ratings- The area where French doors join together at the center is susceptible to air and water leakage. Sliding doors overlap which is a more efficient design and creates a tighter seal whereas French doors come together with no overlap and an increased chance for air infiltration. Also as winds blow against a French door, it tends to bow thus causing additional air leakage.
- More expensive- French doors are generally more expensive than sliding patio doors as well.
Seem Like A Lot To Take In? Let’s Recap
- Sliding doors provide better security and offer ease of use and space-saving opportunities.
- Sliding glass doors use a glass pack and insulated frames to offer better energy efficiency than the traditional French doors.
- French doors allow more ventilation but can have space, mechanical, energy-efficiency issues.
- Today there are plenty of alternatives to French doors. There are French-style patio doors that mimic the look of a French door but don’t have drawbacks.
At the end of the day, you need to choose what’s best for you and your family, but personally, I believe that sliding doors offer customers more than the French door style.
Technology has gotten to the point where a sliding glass panel can be far more efficient without the need to fundamentally sacrifice security and beauty.
I hope everyone reading this found it interesting and informative. If you have any thoughts or questions about doors or anything else in your home, please call or email us at 978-304-0495 and/or email@example.com We all take a lot of pride in our homes and love to help others improve theirs!