Your Guide to Sliding Glass Doors

By Nick St. Denis


Sliding glass doors are a great way to open up your home to the outside while giving up as little floor space as possible.

Are you considering adding a sliding glass door system to your home instead of a traditional swinging French door? Here’s everything you need to know.

Positive Traits

Sliding patio doors, also known as “sliders,” have a few key characteristics (and perhaps they could be considered benefits) that set them apart from traditional swinging French doors. They are sometimes referred to as “gliding” doors and typically consist of two parts—a fixed panel and a sliding panel. They can also be configured to open from the left or right.

  • A sliding door will usually come with a sliding screen door to allow for natural ventilation and to keep bugs out.
  • Sliding glass doors typically have narrower frames than swinging French doors. This allows for more natural daylight to enter the home, and it can make a space look bigger.
  • Manufacturers of patio sliders argue that they provide better insulation and less air penetration than French doors, resulting in an improvement in energy efficiency. This may be true in certain cases, though energy efficiency can vary from product-to-product depending on the composition of a particular door from a particular manufacturer.
  • One clear benefit sliding doors provide over French doors, however, is that they don’t have as much of an impact on where you station your furniture in the room. Because sliders remain parallel to the wall and are in a flat plane, they don’t need space in front or behind the opening, whereas French doors require enough room to open the door in or out.

Various Configurations

Sliding patio doors often come in certain stock sizes—typically from six- to nine-feet high. This is due to the standard sizes of glass door manufacturers use. Some companies do offer more custom sizes to accommodate specific openings in your home, or to achieve a particular look.

There are many well-known and reliable sliding door manufacturers on the market. While they all have some unique offerings (and more so as the price point gets higher), most offer a wide range of options for both hardware and finishes.

The doors can be made of wood, wood veneer, vinyl, metal or other various materials. They come in a wide variety of finishes and colors, with most manufacturers offering standard “stock” choices as well as custom options. Handles and other hardware can come in an array of shapes, sizes and materials.

Glass Types

Like all other doors, windows and skylights in your home, sliding glass doors can be designed with many different glass types.

Tempered glass, also called safety glass, is often used in sliding glass doors, as it breaks into small pieces when impacted instead of leaving more dangerous, large pieces of glass stuck in the door.

Reflective glass is also commonly used to reduce heat gain into the living space, as the coating on the glass helps reflect sunlight away. Energy efficiency is important, and a popular type of reflective glass is low-emissivity (or low-E) glass.

The glass in these doors are also often made up of two pieces of glass sealed together with an airspace—usually filled with gas—in between. These are most commonly referred to as “insulating glass units,” but “double pane” and “dual pane” are also used.

These systems can serve as good insulators, but they will perform differently than a standard opaque wall packed with insulation. Because of this, consumers should consider the climate of their home in choosing single-, double- or even triple-glazing in their doors, which are available in some extreme climates.

Going Big

One of the biggest recent trends in home design has been “bringing the outside in,” which requires more views and openings with more glass. Developments in the door and window industry have accommodated this, as sliding glass doors can now go up to 12 feet or more in height.

While these larger systems do much with a larger price tag, many products actually are more affordable than they were a few years ago, making it less of a luxury item and more geared toward the average consumer.

Practicality is key concern with larger glass doors. Can they be opened and closed easily? Manufacturers have had to come up with new developments in hardware and tracking systems to make heavy doors move more easily.

Consider all Options

As we’ve covered here, sliding glass doors can come in a variety of forms to fit the particular needs of your home. Be sure to take all options into consideration, and your new door could be the highlight of your living space—connecting you with the outside while maintaining a comfortable and functional environment inside.

If you’re considering purchasing a sliding glass door, looking to inquire about your options or just want to learn more about what’s available, check out the windows & doors section of Glass.com. We can connect you with a local dealer in your area who can help you find the perfect sliding doors for your home.

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