To slide or to swing?
It sounds like a question you’d ask before hitting the dance floor. In this case, however, we’re talking about patio doors. The choice between sliding doors and swinging (or French) doors is an important one. Both have the utility to provide years of satisfaction, but it helps to understand the pros and cons of each to make a decision that is best for your home.
Sliding doors are as the name suggests – a glass door that literally slides on a track. Typically, they come in what one might describe as “modern” styles andmay be better suited for some styles of homes than others. One significant advantage is that, because they slide instead of swing, they don’t require any space when they open. So the Feng Sui-conscious decorator may appreciate that. If space is at a premium, this feature can be important.
When access is a priority, sliding doors may have some drawbacks. The track upon which the door slides is raised up a bit and could impede an older person or someone with disabilities. Sliding doors usually have fixed openings possibly making the movement of furniture, or a wheelchair, an issue.
While not always the case, sliding doors run a bit less expensive than the swinging variety. Typically, they don’t have as much decorative flourishes and hardware, which can add to the cost.
Homeowners who appreciate an elegant look and feel may opt for French doors. They swing open like regular doors and have a decorative styling – they can be spruced up with hardware, shades or blinds — that can complement the rest of the home. Also, while one side is “fixed” and the other swings open, both sides can be released and swung open to allow maximum movement of people or things in and out of the house… a nice advantage on those rare perfect weather days.
Remember, however, that potential space issue as the swinging French door will require clearance in the area into which it opens. Nothing looks more ill-planned than a French door that can’t be opened completely due to clutter or obstructions.
Safety and Security
Homeowners who lean in the more practical camp will appreciate two features that are common in both swinging and French doors. Let’s tackle safety first. It used to be that patio doors had a bad, and many would say well-earned, reputation for offering the point of least resistance for burglars. New multiple-locking systems found in either style have dramatically improved their security. Keep in mind that a determined villain may still find his way into a home, so if home invasion is a concern, the homeowner may want to investigate the many security systems on the market.
The other practical concern is fuel efficiency. Since both door types are made primarily of glass, it is appropriate to wonder if interior areas will be less comfortable during extreme cold or heat. Well, today’s patio doors are made with the same technology found in fuel-efficient windows. Are they as good as solid walls? No. But they will be no worse than a home that has large, expansive windows to let the outdoors in.
We’re not going to tell you which type of patio door is best for you. That’s your call. Suffice it to say, however, that the door that makes the best design and practical sense for your home will likely be the right choice.