Open up your home to the outside using a beautiful, functional patio door. Review your options for types, materials, and extra amenities for your patio doors.

By Kelly Roberson
June 08, 2015

Types of Patio Doors Patio doors are sold in three main design types. These types can be installed in various combinations -- singles, doubles, or other multiples -- with or without fixed windows in order to fit the patio door opening. The main patio door types include:

  • Folding patio doors. Widths vary on folding patio doors, but what's consistent is how the doors open: They are hinged to fold up like an accordion and have at least three panels. While these doors do not need a full clearance like a traditional door, they do need space to slide and fold open. Because folding patio doors do require space to open, they might limit where furniture can be placed both inside the house and outdoors, too. Folding doors are sometimes used to create a wide-open connection with an outdoor living space -- for example, a big deck with lots of living zones, such as a dining table and relaxing chairs and a sofa.
  • Sliding patio doors. A very common patio door type, sliding patio doors move open by sliding on a track; the door will typically slide open parallel to a fixed window. Sliding doors don't require any clearance to the front or back to open, as folding and swinging doors do, but they do require the full width of the door to open fully on the track. This limits the opening to the outdoors, but sliding doors can be opened partially to limit or increase air flow. Sliding doors are easily adaptable to a range of house styles. In addition, furniture inside or outside can be placed without worry of blocking the patio doors.
  • Swinging patio doors. Similar to a traditional front or back door, a swinging patio door will open out onto the patio or into the house. As with folding patio doors, swinging patio doors need space to open, so they also limit where furniture or other items can be placed.
Integrate a Patio with the Landscape

Patio Door Materials Most patio doors are made from one of six materials: aluminum, fiberglass, wood, steel, vinyl, or clad wood. Each varies in cost and can perform differently based on climate stressors and temperature changes. In addition, the type of material as well as the glass used, such as low-E, influences how efficient the door is at helping your home maintain a constant desirable temperature.

Aluminum is very lightweight and costs less than wood or fiberglass. It is generally not susceptible to most climate extremes and does not need painting.

Fiberglass can be manufactured to resemble wood but will not warp or swell like wood and also does not need painting.

Wood patio doors can be made from a range of wood types, each of which has its own characteristics and some of which are heavier duty than others. Wood is generally more expensive than a choice like aluminum.

Steel patio doors are very strong and resistant to weather-related stressors, such as rust, with little maintenance.

Vinyl, which does not need painting, is also durable and stands up to weather and temperature stressors.

Doors can also be clad in metal over wood for even more durability.


Additional Patio Door Amenities There are other important factors to a patio door choice. Many patio doors are integrated with stationary glass panels, either in a symmetrical or asymmetrical pattern. Panels can book-end the door, or multiple panels can be placed just to one side. Doors can also be separated by a stationary panel. Color options exist, too, to best accent a home exterior color scheme or materials.

In much the same way as the doors can be designed to complement your home, the glass plays a role in enhancing the existing architectural style. Glass can be mullioned or an unbroken expanse. Patio doors can also have secondary screens, which help to ward off bugs. Some patio doors have internal blinds or grills that can help to control the light.

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