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Sliding vs French Patio Doors: How to Decide

Whether you’re replacing an exterior door to the backyard, or you’ve just made an addition to your home by expanding the kitchen or dining room, chances are you’ll need to consider whether you want to get a sliding door or a french door.

While each option has its pros and cons, there is a systematic way to go about finding which one would work best for you home, just by analyzing a few of the relevant factors.

sliding vs french patio doors

Factor #1: Appearance and Style

French doors give off a more classical vibe, especially the ones that are broken down into sections with mullions.  French doors are basically a pair of doors that open outward, most often of glass—much like a combination of a door and a window.

The French started to apply these principles of design, and low and behold the French door was born.  Just by the way they look, you can almost picture them parting as a dandy in a white flowing wig steps forward to take a leisurely stroll in his well-manicured garden of hedge mazes, gravel paths, and trees and shrubs immaculately trimmed into animal shapes.

So in considering if French doors are for you, you might want to take a look at your home and see if it falls into the classical category. If your home is a Colonial, Georgian, Victorian, Mediterranean, or (drumroll please) French style home then French doors will look great. Of course, if you do have a French-style chateau-like home, your property is the quintessential venue for French doors.

On the Other Hand…Slide to the Left

Sliding doors have been used all over the world. The earliest sliding was perhaps used in the days of the Romans, which was a long, long time ago—but not in a galaxy far away. However, there are a few regions of the world where you could say that sliding doors were a little more common, like Asia.

Sliding doors are actually a hallmark of Asian architecture, especially in Japan. They offer a certain versatility in partitioning a room or opening it up to more light and space. Unlike a traditional hinged western door, they don’t need to open into a room, saving space and facilitating an almost seamless flow into and from the rooms of the home.

Of course, here in the United States, the most common place you’ll see sliding doors outside of the home is at large stores like the supermarket. You probably don’t even connect those automatic portals of commerce to the idea of a door to your patio, but the idea is similar.

These sliding glass automatic doors were invented in the 1950s, and have become pretty standard fare for large venues, especially due to the fact that their parting creates a wide entryway for people and carts, and also don’t need to be opened with the hands.

Of course, the look of these places is usually on the more modern, contemporary, or utilitarian side. If your the look of your home falls into any of those categories, you’ll probably find that sliding glass doors are a better look. Also, if your home or garden features some Asian elements, a sliding door would be a nice touch that can blend the inner and outer spheres of your residence.

sliding patio door

Factor #2: Light and Ventilation

When it comes to admitting light, French doors and sliding glass doors can pretty much go toe-to-toe (whatever that means). After all, they’re both mostly glass, although a mullioned French door will break up the view a little more than the single large pane of glass that’s most common on a sliding door.

But when it comes to ventilation, Sliding doors may have a slight edge, assuming, of course, they come with a sliding screen. While French doors (being double doors as they are) usually don’t have a second screen door on the outside, so when they’re open, they’re open—allowing bugs to come in, pets to get out, and disgruntled citizens searching for bread to enter the chateau.

On the other hand, a sliding glass door can be opened, and the space covered with a screen that can block critters and pets from coming and going (although people still pose a problem). So if you’re one of those types that like to keep the doors open for fresh air, to enjoy the noise of birds chirping or police sirens (depending on your neighborhood) you might want to go with sliding glass doors.

Factor #3: Maintenance and Upkeep

Of course, every part of your home requires periodic maintenance (ain’t that a metaphor for life if I’ve ever heard one), but when it comes to doors, traditional hinged units can be a whole lot less cantankerous than their sliding cousins.

For one thing, over time, the sliding component to the door will eventually get off track or start getting stuck, which can be a hassle to fix.  After all, you’ll probably end up sliding it thousands of times over the course or the year, and anything that gets used that much tends to wear down.

Even before that happens, you’ll have to periodically clean the parts so they operate well, which can also be a hassle. The screen can get bent out of shape from unsuspecting cats, dogs, and people running into it, and that doesn’t look so good either.

For these reasons, a French door can be a little easier when it comes to maintenance. There are some issues to consider, however, such as periodically maintaining or replacing the hinges, and the trim around the glass. If it’s wood, it will need to be sanded and painted every once in awhile, but of course, you can always get a vinyl unit that doesn’t require as much maintenance.

french patio door open

Factor #4: Space: the Final Frontier

Another factor to consider is the interior space of the room. French doors that open inward will creep into the room and bump against furniture, or block the path around it…so if your room is already crowded, you might want to either declutter your home or get sliding doors.

By contrast, sliding doors don’t take up space, so if space is important to you, you’ll find them to be more convenient.

Other Factors

There are other things to consider, such as safety and insulation. Some argue that sliding doors are safer because of their one solid unit instead of two units that meet in the middle. In a similar vein, some have proposed that sliding doors have better insulating properties, because the only crack is around the edges, whereas French doors obviously have a crack between the doors.

It can be hard to prove either case, but your best bet is to talk to an expert who is familiar with the pros and cons of each and can recommend the best door for your home.

Final Decision

Sliding vs French patio doors…regardless of the style you choose, your new patio door will offer the best in security, looks, and dependability.  Enjoy the years of energy efficiency, beauty, and durability with sliding and French patio doors. Now at Feldco, we are delighted to serve customers across the Midwest who are looking to replace their old patio doors for brand new ones.

We’ve served over 350,000 homeowners across the Midwest and our diligence and hard work to provide great products, local services, and superior installation to customers is still our #1 priority. Speak to a product specialist and get a free quote today.

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