Sunshine Contracting answers a lot of questions about patio doors since we have deep and detailed experience with them, as well as many other types of doors, windows and aspects of exterior-remodeling. We’re glad to share information to help you pick the perfect patio door.
The patio door does as much for the back of the house as the main door does for the front of a house. A great front door adds character, enhances curb appeal and creates a grand entrance.
The patio door sets a tone for the back of the house and serves multiple purposes, too, such as:
- Serving as an entrance and an exit.
- Flooding a room with natural light.
- Providing a view of the outdoors.
- Adding to the style of a house.
- Adding energy efficiency.
- Creating a focal point.
Patio door styles vary enough that everyone can find one to fit their style and character. The selection helps people create a welcoming entrance and that just-right visual impact.
Things to Consider When Buying a Patio Door
The prompt to buy a new patio door differs from household to household. The door might be part of a remodeling job or a general upgrade to appearance and quality.
The door might also just be ready to be replaced. It might stick or be otherwise dysfunctional. It might have suffered a bad break, like the ones caused by a speedy sports ball or an accident with a heavy lawn chair. The effects of time take their toll with dings, scratches and fading. From minor to major issues, people have a host of other reasons why they just decide it’s time for a new patio door.
When you’re ready to buy a new patio door, though, how can you narrow down your options? Take a look at the following tips to help:
Tip #1: Examine Your Wants and Style
Once you’ve decided to shop for a new door, the first thing to do is ask yourself questions about your ultimate vision of the finished project:
- What is the main objective of the patio-door project? The most common reasons are to create better functionality, improve aesthetics or repair damage. Others goals might be to maximize natural light or to improve energy efficiency.
- What are the rough measurements of the space you want the door to fill?
- How much space is or can there be on either side of the door space?
- Do you want the door, or any portion of it, to be screened?
- What do you envision for color, finish, glass pattern and hardware?
- What style of door best fits your surrounding indoor and outdoor décor?
- How much will you use the door? For example, all seasons or two, constant traffic or occasional?
- What are the extreme temperatures for your region?
- What is your budget for the door project?
- Do you have a deadline for your door-project completion?
If you allow a professional to install the door, these are some of the questions they might ask you before starting the project. If you decide to go it alone, it will serve you well to see what’s needed before you start, so you don’t waste time finding a perfectly wrong door.
You might have an existing décor or theme the patio door must fit, or you might want to use the patio door to create a new look. There will be patio doors to fit a range of needs, and it is constructive to think a little about what kind of style your space has or what you want it to gain.
Tip #2: Review Types of Patio Doors
Basic patio door configurations are typically categorized a few ways. It will help to know a little about how patio doors are structured and some of the purposes the different types serve:
- Sliding Patio Door
A sliding patio door sits flush with the wall, and two door-sized panes of glass sit beside each other on a track underneath the door. One pane will slide in front of the other to create the open-door space. You might also hear these called a bypass or gliding door. Some of them have an additional, fixed panel of glass on either side of the door to broaden the view.
They are ideal anywhere space is a concern, for example, if there is not room for the swing of a traditional door. Sliding doors are often a good fit in condominiums, weekend cabins or tight configurations such as a small balcony.
- Hinged Patio Door
A hinged patio door typically opens to the inside of the home to preserve patio-living space, but they can be oriented to swing either way. The choice of swing direction usually depends on whether there is more room for it inside or outside. People often ask if a hinged door performs well in heavy wind. The answer is yes, it will, because the wind pressure serves to seal the door more tightly against the jamb.
You might also hear a hinged door called a traditional door. By both names, the hinged door has a few subclasses such as French-style or bi-parting door.
- Bi-Parting Patio Door
A bi-parting patio door is technically hinged. It’s intended to complement, and even an expand, a patio area with two, additional, usually identical, operating glass door panels placed on either side of the patio door. A bi-parting door expands the egress area and the view.
- Folding Patio Door
A folding patio door can be a good choice when there is a big opening to cover. It normally folds like an accordion and may be made of vinyl, wood or a polyester-blend fabric.
Both folding and sliding doors are popular choices for separating areas within the home or buildings. For example, you might want the ability to close the doors to an office or family room on occasion.
- French Doors
French doors are often in a class by themselves and function well as a patio door. They’re a hinged door and an elegant choice for doors leading to the outside, as well as any separating interior rooms.
Tip #3: Look Through the Glass
Glass choices for a patio door include several major points of consideration:
- Do you want clear glass or something for privacy such as decorative or frosted?
- What kind of pattern do you want the patio-door window panes to make? You might prefer one big pane of glass, something with small panes or a symmetrical pattern or shape.
- How energy-efficient do you want the door to be?
- What are the extreme temperatures of your region?
- Does the patio door need to absorb, deflect or transmit sunlight?
- Do you live in a coastal area or another region where you need glass that resists high impacts?
It is easy to become overwhelmed when you try to figure out how to pick a patio door, especially when it comes to the energy efficiency and performance credentials of glass. There are many types, and then those types can receive glazes to achieve project-specific objectives such as letting the sunlight in or keeping it out.
There are two major authorities on glass. One is the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), which operates a voluntary program of certification for glass manufacturers. If a company participates in the program, NFRC tests it for performance and then puts its label on those that perform as specified.
You will also see many ENERGY STAR® glass products available. That program qualifies glass products based solely on their U-factor and solar-heat-gain-coefficient ratings.
The U-factor represents how much non-solar heat flow glass allows. The lower the U-factor number, the better its energy efficiency. It is worth being aware that the U-factor can refer to only the glass’ glazing, except where the product has an NFRC-certified U-factor. NFRC certifies the entire door including glass, frame and spacers.
Few people probably want to do their heat-gain, heat-loss coefficient calculations. They mostly want to know that it’s a measure of three main factors:
- Direct heat conduction.
- Radiant heat, usually from the sun, that moves in and out of a home.
- Air leakage through and around the door.
Two more measurable characteristics of glass quality are its visible transmittance and light-to-solar gain.
VT is a fraction of the visible sunlight spectrum transmitted through the glazing of glass, and it’s weighted according to human-eye sensitivity. The scale runs from 0 to 10, and higher numbers represent greater light transmittance.
LSG is a ratio that represents the relative efficiency of glass and glazing to transmit daylight but block heat gains. LSG numbers are not always provided.
Tip #4: Consider Door Materials
Along with the glass comes a choice of patio door options including the door frame material. Some choices may be driven by project necessity, but mostly the frame material can be fitted to your preferences. Options include:
- A tough synthetic material that can be made to look like just about any kind of wood and endures the years and weather better than wood and even some metals.
- Solid wood. A popular choice because of its distinctive feel and traditional look, such as oak and mahogany. While nothing beats the look of real wood, it needs to be stained and sealed for protection against the elements. Even with protection, though, wood is susceptible to the effects of weather over time such as fading and warping. It is possible to have a real-wood door faced with aluminum for lasting durability.
- Probably the toughest of door materials. It can come in various gauges, so you have a choice of just how strong you want the door to be. The thicker the steel of the door, the less likely it will be dented damaged or broken. Steel doors can also be crafted to resemble wood.
- A popular choice since it is a sturdy metal yet less expensive than wood or steel. Frequent complaints about aluminum are how it dents easily and is susceptible to corrosion if not cleaned of water stains regularly.
- Vinyl is an inexpensive material and offers the advantage of low maintenance since it doesn’t need to be painted or stained. Vinyl comes in an array of colors, is fairly tough and stands up well to the elements.
Tip #5: Get Down to Details
Once you think through your needs and preferences and get to know the major patio door types and materials, the minds-eye picture of your perfect door will begin to form. Once the type, structure, glass details and materials are nailed down, you can think about color, texture, hardware and locking mechanism.
Patio doors, by nature of their style and material selection, come in a veritable rainbow of colors. You can also choose to paint or stain them yourself in a décor-matching color or to order them pre-painted or pre-stained in the color of your choice.
Each door material has a different texture, which is another fine point of patio-door design you will want to consider. For example, do you want a smooth surface or one with grain to it?
Hardware choice affects the look of a patio door, too. Depending on the door and extent of its hardware, you are likely to have a selection of finishes and materials. Some pieces might be made of aluminum and have a finish that’s designed to look like satin or brushed nickel. Others could be made of heavy brass and mottled for an aged look.
Lock type is another decision to make, but rarely does the preferred lock dictate anything else on the door. Even with an alarm system, most people want a locking device. A patio door might lock in the handle with a button or lever. It might also have a deadbolt at the top or bottom, or it may have a variety of other locking mechanisms.
Privacy is an important thing to consider. Often you invest in a nice patio portal, and the last thing you want is to cover it with curtains, drapes, blinds or other window coverings. If you want the ability to darken the room or close it off from the outside, it might be worth the investment to get a patio door with, for example, built-in blinds or a reflective glaze that allows a view from the inside out but not the outside in.
Professional Partners Await
Sunshine Contracting offers the deep, detailed knowledge needed for any patio-door project, and we also carry an extensive selection of doors and provide professional installation of them. We’re exterior-remodeling experts with more than 20 years of experience to benefit your projects.
Some companies permit a subcontractor to install their doors, but we do not. We use permanent, full-time, in-house installers who are certified and highly trained in their trade(s). We also back our work with a 10-year labor and workmanship warranty.
When it comes to patio doors, you have a wide variety of styles, types, designs, colors and glass types to choose from with us. We appreciate clients’ questions and quests to find the perfect patio door. We also appreciate people’s feedback about our work, especially when they use words like:
- Terrific workmanship
Feel free to get in touch anytime so we can lend a hand as you select and install a patio door that is perfect for you.