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A Basic Guide to Patio Doors

A Short Guide to Patio Doors

Patio doors offer so much more than an additional entrance to your home. They also provide a transition into your backyard and a glimpse of the oasis that awaits outside. With so many options at your fingertips, however, choosing the perfect patio door can prove challenging. This guide is designed to help you learn about available materials, styles, and specifications, and understand how to buy patio doors for your home.

Gather Patio Door Measurements

Image via Flickr by MrGluSniffer

Image via Flickr by MrGluSniffer

Before considering patio door materials and styles, start the design process by measuring the area where you’ll install the new patio door. Not only will this important step help you narrow down your options, but it will also assist in determining the style of door best suited for your home.

If your home already has a patio door that you intend to replace, begin by noting both horizontal and vertical measurements for the doorframe. Be sure to measure the top, bottom, left, and right of the doorframe to confirm that numbers are identical for both measurements.

If you’ll be installing a patio door for the first time, mark out the size you’ll need and make a note of the vertical and horizontal measurements. Be sure to add about two inches to each side to account for the doorframe. Keep in mind that it’s generally better to err on the side of a large estimate, since it’s easier to fill in empty space around a doorframe than it is to cut out an additional section of your home’s exterior wall.

Choose Patio Door Materials

Whether you prefer a natural material or a synthetic one, patio doors are available in several different materials. No matter which material you choose, most incorporate either a single large panel of glass or multiple smaller glass panels to create a pleasant visual transition between the patio and the home. Consider the pros and cons of the following door materials:

  • Wood: One of the most traditional door materials, wood adds a sense of history and a touch of refinement to any patio entrance. As a natural material that ages over time, wood requires periodic upkeep, including regular staining or painting. Additional maintenance might be necessary if the door receives constant, direct sunlight or if your home is located in a humid climate. Though wood patio doors can show damage from scuffs and scratches, these blemishes are easy to hide or repair. Wood doors tend to be some of the most expensive patio doors, but they typically last for a long time.
  • Aluminum: Patio doors with aluminum frames might not have the traditional feel of wood, but they offer lightness and sturdiness in exchange. These doors also tend to be affordable and energy-efficient. Though aluminum doors generally require little maintenance, problems can arise if scratches or damage causes corrosion or compromises the doors’ integrity. As long as their outer layers remain intact, however, aluminum doors can last for years.
  • Steel: Like aluminum doors, steel patio doors are sturdy and relatively easy to maintain. Though they’re susceptible to rust if damaged or if paint peels away to reveal the bare surface, steel doors last for many years with periodic maintenance. They also tend to be more affordable than wood doors and offer better insulation, which can contribute to the household’s energy efficiency.
  • Vinyl: Typically the least expensive patio door material, vinyl is lightweight and can be designed to look like aluminum, wood, or other natural materials. Since vinyl doesn’t flake or rot, it also tends to be long-lasting. It can warp or crack when exposed to drastic temperature changes, though, so it’s often a better choice for homes in more temperate climates.
  • Fiberglass: Like vinyl, fiberglass is a synthetic material that can be designed to look just like wood and other natural materials. Unlike wood, however, fiberglass doesn’t require maintenance, and it offers better energy efficiency. Fiberglass can weather extreme temperature changes, and these patio doors will often last for many years.

Select Patio Door Style

Image via Flickr by tracie7779

Image via Flickr by tracie7779

Along with deciding on a material, you’ll also need to select a patio door style. Consider personal preference, available space, and desired privacy levels when choosing a particular style. The three most common patio door styles include the following:

  • Swinging Doors: Also known simply as patio doors, swinging doors include a pair with at least one hinged door. The second door may either be hinged or fixed, and the doors can swing out to the patio or into your home. Swinging doors often incorporate glass panels and can be made with wood, metal, vinyl, or fiberglass frames.
  • Sliding Doors: Like swinging doors, sliding doors typically include two panels, one fixed and one that slides on tracks. Sliding doors are generally made with large glass panels that allow you to maximize the amount of natural light in your home as well as enjoy the view of the patio from indoors.
  • French Doors: Some patio doors are actually French doors, which operate in pairs with hinges on opposite sides. Most French doors include several smaller glass panels divided into a grid. These doors are designed so that both can be opened at once, creating a wide transition between the patio and your home.

Assess Patio Door Specifications

Most patio doors boast a number of specifications that make them desirable for different types of home environments. If you’re concerned about excessive sunlight or energy loss, take the following into consideration:

  • R-Value: This reflects the door’s thermal resistance, with higher numbers indicating better insulation potential.
  • U-Factor: This indicates the heat that the window transfers, with lower numbers reflecting improved insulation.
  • UV Coating: Patio doors with ultraviolet (UV) coating prevent these damaging rays from entering through the glass panels.

No matter the build of your home or the style of your backyard, you can select the optimal door for your patio. Use this patio door guide to learn about the options available to you, and choose the best door for your home and your family’s needs.

Do you have a question about patio doors? Ask us in the comments section below.

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