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Your Guide to Sliding Glass Doors

Modern home interior with sliding glass doors leading to a small porch.
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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 but it might also help to talk to a door specialist in your area.

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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 We can connect you with a local dealer in your area who can help you find the perfect sliding doors for your home.

Please note, this article may contain links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate, earns from qualifying purchases.



Nick St. Denis

Nick St. Denis currently serves as the director of research for Key Media & Research and is formerly the editor of USGlass magazine. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the State University of New York where he studied journalism and is currently working on earning his Master’s Degree in survey research. Nick has a passion for sports including football, hockey, and golf. He enjoys playing ice hockey in a local men’s league and cheers on the New York Islanders when not on the ice himself. He was actually a sports reporter for a New York newspaper and also worked at a country club in Virginia. Most notably, Nick is husband to his wife Tammy, and father to his son Carter. Find out more about Nick on Linkedin.

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20 Responses

  1. Thank you for the information on sliding glass doors. I hadn’t even thought to consider the type of glass to use when choosing a door! It does make sense that different types of glass would be more beneficial to different circumstances. I will keep this in mind when I go shopping for a new patio door!

  2. My husband and I have been considering getting a sliding glass door for our home. We love the way we get a lot of natural light from it and we would really love to have one. That is great that the doors can be designed with many different glass types! It would be nice to have glass with a good coating on it! Thank you for the information!

  3. Thanks for the interesting read on the guide to sliding glass doors! It’s nice that you mentioned that gliding doors can be configured to open form its left or right. It’s amusing to learn that sliding doors have narrower frames that allow more natural daylight to pass compared to the swinging French doors. Additionally, it can give the space a bigger look. It seems like having a sliding patio door would suit our new home best. I’d try contacting an installer or contractor for a little bit more of advice before deciding.

  4. I’m looking to buy curtains for a very standard sliding glass door in an apartment, what size would the door be? It is nothing fancy so I know its just a standard size, thanks

    1. Standard patio door sizes are usually 6’8″ tall but can range in width- either 5, 6, or 8 feet. The best option would be to measure the door with a measuring tape. However, if a measuring tape is not handy it’s fairly easy to estimate these widths. You can lay down, parallel next to the door, and use your height to gauge the width of the opening. Although somewhat strange looking, this method works!

  5. It sure was nice to know that sliding doors have narrower frames that allow more sunlight to enter as compared to other types of doors. If so, then I will suggest the use of this kind of door to my brother as he plans on starting his own business. He wants to make use of natural light as much as possible, and I think sliding storefront doors will make that happen. Thank you for sharing.

  6. My husband and I are remodeling our front room, and we’re considering sliding glass doors to replace the old ones. Your article had some great tips for choosing doors like this, and I really liked how you said that while these doors used to be pretty pricey, they are now more affordable for the average consumer. We really want to let more natural light into our home, so we’ll keep this in mind when choosing the glass door best for our needs.

  7. I wanted to thank you for helping me learn more about sliding glass doors. It’s good to know that reflective glass could be used to help reflect sunlight away. I wonder if this could be ideal for doors that aren’t covered and are often exposed to a lot of sunlight.

  8. I have very old double pane heavy patio sliding doors. One of the outside panes shattered. The inside glass pane is still ok. Do i have to replace the broken glass pane or is just the inside door pane ok

    1. Hi Terry,

      The double pane unit acts as insulation- without the second pane of glass there is likely a loss in energy efficiency. Since you noted that it’s a very old slider, this sounds like the perfect time to upgrade to a new door!

  9. It’s helpful to remember that since sliding doors don’t need space to open like French doors, furniture doesn’t need to be arranged around them. My wife and I want to remodel our master bedroom to have a patio we can walk out onto. Getting sliding instead of swinging glass doors could give us more space to do that.

  10. Please tell me if new Pella sliding glass doors in the crate have been broken down to be smaller for carrying home on my own. I don’t know if the frame breaks down and the two doors are placed on top of one another then the frame tucked into the 2×4 packing crate…or if the packing crate is even bigger than the installed door, in order to protect it.

    1. Hi MG,
      You’ll want to reach out to Pella directly for the most up to date information on their product packaging.

  11. I’ve been on many sites and none seem to answer my question. If I’m standing outside of my house, and I’m having a sliding patio door installed, I need to open my sliding door from left to right with the left side stationary (when I’m standing outside looking at it), is this referred to as a left handed door a right handed door. I don’t understand why I can’t get a simple answer?

    1. Excellent question, Lori! Common/accepted practice is to always view an opening from the outside. Sliding doors are then always referred to as XO or OX or OXO or OXXO and so forth with the O always being the fixed/stationary panels and X always representing the sliding panels(s). If necessary, an arrow is put on the X panels showing which way they are to go. So obviously a two-panel door will only be able to move from the panel marked X whereas a three or more panel door will have to include an arrow designation for which way it should slide.

  12. Your article helped me a lot, is there any more related content? Thanks!

  13. I want to enclose my back patio with sliding doors. It would be nice for it to hold some heat, but the reason I want to do it is for it to be more like a greenhouse. My question is for the sun to grow plants inside does the double pane uv insulation effect it? I’m not sure if I’m explaining what I mean. Would less insulated be better for growing plants? As opposed to the low-e, or argon gas insulated.

    1. Hi Jase,
      The answer will depend on your climate and the needs of the plants you wish to grow. If you’re in a warm climate, and your plants need warm temperatures, you won’t need to worry much about using insulating glass since you’ll want outside heat to pass inwards.
      On the other hand, if you’re in an area that experiences four seasons and you want to grow plants year-round, you may want to opt for insulating glass. This will help to hold heat in during the colder months.
      Your best bet is likely to find a horticulturist in your area who can help you decide what temperatures you need based on your plant selection. Then, a glass company in your area can help you decide on the best glass to use to achieve this, given your local climate.

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