If you’ve been shopping for patio doors during the past few years, you’ve probably seen the big, beautiful products with sliding and folding glass panels that offer breathtaking views.
Unfortunately, they also often have price tags to match.
But what about the smaller patio doors— you know, the ones you’re much more likely to actually invest in?
They’re certainly big business. Research from the Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) found that sliding patio doors represent about 11.4 percent of all entry doors in the U.S. market in 2013. Additionally, an April 2014 study commissioned by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), another trade group that represents the door and window industry, showed that the market for residential patio doors of all kinds grew 15 percent from 2011 to 2013. It’s expected to keep growing into 2016 and beyond.
So what are the trends in these popular products?
Patio Doors for Indoor-Outdoor Living
In February 2014, a Realtor.com “House Crush” poll revealed that 54 percent of women and 46 percent of men think outdoor living spaces make them “fall in real estate love.” That trend is here to stay, says Mark Montgomery, the vice president of marketing for Ply Gem Windows, a manufacturer of patio doors.
Because so many people love outdoor living, there’s now a patio doors to fit every budget, he says. If you and your family want to be able to move easily from inside to outdoors, a sliding patio door is an attractive way to do that. A sliding door is also an option if you want an entranceway that is energy efficient, strong, secure and attractive. Replacing a worn, outdated, inefficient patio door with a new, on-trend sliding patio door makes for a more comfortable living space. It also increases the value of your home, Montgomery says.
Montgomery adds that sliding doors are an especially great option if you live in a smaller home and are looking to upgrade. Because many of those residences lack the space for a swinging patio door or bifold doors, a sliding door can offer a more spacious feel at an affordable price.
Affordability and Performance Work Together
Beyond indoor-outdoor living, perhaps the biggest trend in mid-range patio doors is a greater emphasis on quality, both in thermal efficiency and overall performance. That’s important. These are often your home’s busiest entryway, and they’re often located in the main living space.
Greg Koch is the director of national sales for Deceuninck North America, which supplies many manufacturers with designs and materials for sliding doors. He says these products are becoming feature-rich. In fact, there are almost as many options on the low-end doors as there are on high-end products. Sizes are larger, and they’re also available in a wider range of colors. That’s because the manufacturing process for vinyl, the dominant framing material for sliding doors, now allows for more colors than white. That was the main choice for years because it reflects heat and was less likely to warp than those older dark hues.
Koch also says modern patio doors perform much better in terms of energy efficiency, security and resistance to adverse weather such as hurricanes.
Mark Davis, the executive director of the Earthwise Group, a national network of locally owned, independent manufacturers that designs and builds custom windows and doors, says less-expensive patio doors can provide views, performance and energy efficiency that are almost the equal of higher-end sliding doors. The standard vinyl patio door has evolved into a reliable, durable and energy-efficient product. He says that’s great news if you’re in the market for a product that will improve the livability and curb appeal of your home.Get an Estimate
For Patio Doors, Simpler is Better
Ease of use is another critical consideration if you’re in the market for a sliding patio door, says Laura Weil, the sales manager for Euro Vinyl Windows in Woodbridge, Ontario.
For example, her company initially manufactured tilt & turn doors. That style is more popular in Europe than North America. However, relatively few homeowners in the U.S. and Canada are familiar with how those products operate. So if you want to keep things simple, stick with the basic sliding patio door and you’ll avoid the “this is how you open my door” tutorial during your next neighborhood get-together, Weil says.
Sliding products are much more user-friendly than they were in the past, says Koch. Where once you used to have a fixed sash and an operable sash, now there are larger units with operable panels that can fill much larger openings. As far as exterior profiles, design features are being integrated into the frames themselves in response to consumer demand.
These Aren’t Your Father’s Screen Doors
A typical mid-range sliding patio door has come a long way from the one you might remember on your dad’s 1960s-era suburban ranch house.
So have the sliding screen doors that are often paired with these products, says Darrell Bedford of Wizard Industries, a manufacturer of screen doors. Basic wood frames and wire mesh have been replaced by aluminum frames and specialty meshes such as solar weaves. There are even screens that can keep pets inside the house. Many are so strong that they can provide a level of protection from home invaders as well.
Retractable screens are another popular request. Bedford says his company gets lots of questions about those from homeowners who have large lift and slide systems. Most of those require retractable screens.
Bedford also says spend extra to get high-quality screen doors. Look for those that have polyurethane wheels and extruded aluminum.