A wonderful way to create a visual and physical connection between your home’s inside and outside spaces is to install patio doors, with two popular options including sliding glass doors and French doors. In this article, we’ll look at the benefits each has to offer as well as their differences, and, just other windows in your home, when and how to repair the glass.
Sliding Glass Doors
Sliding glass doors include many customizable features. The narrow frame is usually made from aluminum-clad wood, vinyl or fiberglass. These doors slide open on a track and can easily be combined with a sliding screen. Sliding glass doors are available in numerous configurations, from two to four panels and even a telescoping option.
The narrow frame and single panes allow lots of natural light in and offer a clear, unobstructed view of the outside. Sliding glass doors don’t take up floor space and are endlessly customizable with myriad size, color, glass and finish options.
Most homeowners opt for accompanying screens, which allow fresh air in (resulting in lower utility bills in temperate climates and seasons) while keeping insects out. Sliding glass doors require very little maintenance, and they work well in both smaller and modern homes.
Sliding glass doors often require more customization to match traditional styles, which can increase their initial cost for historic homes. Locking systems can be cumbersome and unsightly, and privacy can be an issue without blinds, shades or drapes.
French doors are a common selection for traditional and historic homes. They feature a wide door frame and come in a variety of configurations, but are most popular as two side-by-side doors that swing open from the center, either inward to the house (inswing) or outward to your yard or patio (outswing). The hinges are customizable as well: Either one or both doors may be made to be active.
French doors are typically made of strong materials like wood or fiberglass. Usually, French doors arrive ready for a simple installation: prehung on a wood frame, complete with sill and weatherstripping. Including a hinged screen, doors will take up additional space, but retractable screens are an option to complement French doors if desired.
Side-by-side French doors that open from the center provide a wide opening to your home — a considerable benefit when moving large or awkward furniture or hosting gatherings with a lot of in-and-out foot traffic. With so many options, it is easy to find the right configuration and style for your space.
French doors are simple to operate, provide great ventilation and let in lots of natural light. They have a classic, timeless aesthetic that can work in any home.
Swinging doors always take up floor space. The wide frame and pane grids on a French door can obstruct the view of the outside. If you don’t have accompanying screens, leaving French doors open exposes the interior of your home to insects and the elements.
French doors require some regular maintenance and cleaning of the tracks, weatherstripping, hinges and panes. You may want to consider also installing drapes, blinds or shades for privacy.
While sliding glass doors and French doors are essentially equal in style, customization options, versatility and security, there are some differences worth noting.
- Cost: Sliding glass doors generally are more affordable than French doors, but customization of either can cause the prices to vary widely.
- Energy efficiency: Sliding glass doors are slightly more energy-efficient than French doors, as they have a tight overlapping seal, and keeping them open while using screens in comfortable temperatures lowers utility costs. That said, options do exist for energy-efficient French doors, such as frames made of higher insulating materials and low-emissivity, dual-pane glass.
- Space: French doors take up more floor space than sliding doors, which allows for less flexibility with furniture arrangements. However, the wide opening provided by two center-opening French doors is invaluable for moving large furniture or high-foot-traffic gatherings.
- Functionality: While both sliding glass doors and French doors are easy and convenient to operate, there is no concern that a strong gust of wind will blow a sliding glass door shut. Outswinging French doors may be difficult to open if blocked by deep snow, and inswinging doors carry a risk of snow or rain moisture ending up inside the house.
When and How to Repair the Glass
Just like normal windows, the glass on patio doors can become foggy, cracked, chipped, scratched or break entirely. If the glass has an issue needing repair, usually this really means it needs to be replaced altogether.
- French doors: The hinges must be tested and adjusted over time, and wood frames need to be monitored for rot and warping. Due to the precise nature of the individual glass panes and door frame’s fitting, repairs can be more complicated and homeowners usually hire a professional.
- Sliding glass doors: Upkeep is simple, usually only requiring regular cleaning and almost all repairs can be made with regular tools. Eventually, rollers may need replacing and the track may need lubrication. The cost of replacing parts and glass for sliding glass doors is inexpensive; however, because of the large size of the glass, it is recommended to hire a professional.
The process to replace glass on sliding glass doors and French doors is nearly identical. In both, you carefully remove the broken glass and clean the area before removing the trim or molding.
- French doors: Measure the pane precisely and cut a new piece of glass to fit, or order a new piece of glass. Install the new glass to the pane with caulk and carefully replace the trim; then, caulk lightly around the outside of the trim and apply putty to any holes. Finally, paint the trim to match.
- Sliding glass doors: Order a new piece of glass cut to fit the area. After receiving it, replace the trim and caulk the new glass into place. Clean away any excess caulk and clean the new glass.