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The Top 4 Myths About Sliding Patio Doors

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Myths About Sliding Doors

I can recall the sliding door in my grandparent’s home quite vividly- It was big, heavy, and got stuck in the track when trying to slide it open or closed. The lock had to be jiggled just right to set. And the frame itself was big, blocky and ugly, with hazy glass to boot. If you’ve encountered a sliding door like this, it may have left the lasting impression as something you don’t want in your home. Fortunately, today’s sliding doors are much more advanced. They’re sleek and easy to operate. Even if you’ve never encountered a shabby sliding door yourself, you may have heard not-so-great myths surrounding them. We’re here to address these myths by telling you what’s true and what isn’t.

From heavy and ugly, to sleek and smooth, patio doors have come a long way.

Myth 1: Sliding Doors Leak Water When It Rains

Yes, but no.

Just about any opening in your home, be it a window, door, or sliding door, can leak given enough wind and rain. Sliding doors are tested to withstand certain levels of protection from the environment and undergo a certification process. Problems can be encountered when elements like precipitation and wind speeds exceed these levels. So it is important to speak with a professional to determine which sliding doors are suitable based on the typical weather in your area.

Even sliding doors with tracks mounted flush with the floor are very resistant to leakage. These systems typically utilize a lift-slide door which, when closed, seals flat against the floor. To create the seal, it is important that all components are properly matched with each other. And the installation is just as important as the hardware itself. So be sure to get in touch with a professional company in your area who can both supply parts from a quality manufacturer and provide a smooth install.

Few doors are completely water tight, but patio doors must meet certain standards.

Myth 2: Big Panels are Hard to Slide

This may have been true in the past, but advancements in hardware and engineering have created unique solutions. Older-style sliding doors typically just slide the bottom gasket of the door through the track, which can be difficult, especially as size and weight increases. Newer styles like lift-slide doors are top hung which actually lifts the panels off the floor. They typically use high-performance hardware like precision rollers to create smooth and effortless operation. If you don’t believe us, take a trip into your local door showroom to try one out.

In the world of windows and doors, these systems are considered “performance” sliding doors. And one thing to keep in mind with any performance product is that it will need maintenance to remain in top shape. Cleaning and maintaining the sliding door tracks on a regular basis will help ensure your sliding door opens and closes without any issues for years to come.


Myth 3: Sliding Doors are Ugly

Again, this is a myth that can be attributed the sliding doors of yesteryear. Today’s sliding doors have sleek, narrow sightlines. Frames around the glass are getting smaller and smaller, which allows for increased view. And it is, the frame that offers a multitude of options. Materials range from aluminum to steel, vinyl, fiberglass and even wood. When it comes to color and finish, the sky is the limit. The same goes for hardware such as the handle and lock. Anodized finishes can provide a pop of color or brushed metals like nickel or bronze can give a modern look.


Myth 4: Sliding Doors are Air Tight

While busting the myths above has hopefully boosted your image of the sliding door, busting this myth may let the air out of your sails…or house. Sliding doors are not air tight and will let some air in and out of a home. The good news is, they’re not alone. It’s impossible to make any door completely air tight. So although sliding doors aren’t as air tight as their folding door counterparts, they must still adhere to minimum standards set forth by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA).

Additionally, sliding doors are becoming more and more energy efficient as technology improves. If you live in a climate with extreme temperatures, it will be important to choose a sliding door that features a thermally-broken or thermally-isolated frame, and double or even triple glaze. The sealing system itself is extremely important as well to limit the movement of air from outside to inside, especially in areas that experience lots of wind. Multitrack sliders are not recommended for cold climates as snow and ice could impede operation. It will be best to speak with a specialist in your area to determine what patio door options are the best for cold weather conditions and your unique local climate.

No door is air tight. Be sure to pick the right door for your climate.

Why Choose a Sliding Patio Door?

Still not convinced that a sliding patio door is right for your home? Sliding patio doors come in many configurations so let’s take a look at some of the options so you can make a well-informed decision. The most common is a 2-panel door, where one panel is stationary and the other panel slides open past the 1st panel. These typically come in 5, 6, or 8-foot widths. Moving up from here are 3-panel sliding doors where the center panel slides open to either the left or right and the 2 outside panels are stationary. To really bring in the outdoors though, 4-panel doors offer a fantastic view. The 2 center panels slide away from each other, over top of the 2 outside panels.

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And if even that doesn’t quite cut it for you, movable patio door systems offer the ultimate open-air feel to create an extended living space. Instead of the doors sliding past each other, which creates an immovable glass barrier at some point, the doors are hinged. This allows them to swing and stack together, then swing out of the way. The unobstructed pass-through can extend just about as far as your budget allows. Some buildings even feature folding door systems that wrap around a corner, leaving an opening along 2 walls. If this is more along your lines of style, you can find more information in our previous blog about movable patio door systems.

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



Daniel Snow

Daniel Snow serves as the Vice President of Operations for and is also a contributing editor. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from George Mason University and has a background in the real estate industry. After high school, Daniel even worked at a family-owned glass shop for a short period of time and is an Auto Glass Safety Council certified installer. In his free time, Daniel enjoys being outdoors, especially around the water where he can be found surfing, fishing, and boating. He has a passion for bringing old vehicles back to life and loves working with his hands to restore cars, boats, and motorcycles. Find out more about Daniel on Linkedin.

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32 Responses

  1. I love the look of glass doors like this. The natural light is so nice. It’s good to know that even the large paneled doors are easy to open.

  2. I have both French and Sliding on my patio. Everyone uses the French Door when possible because the sliding door is, well, a sliding door. Problems with sliding doors:

    1. Sliding doors by design allow less than half the opening to be used. So if you want a 60 inch opening to the patio, you need a very large door. My 72 French door opens wider than my 132 sliding, even though the sliding is considerably larger.

    2. Older bottom-mount sliders have a track that collects dirt and dust making the unit harder to operate than a French door, which swings on hinges. I won’t mention the screens which come off track all the time.

    3. Sliding doors are typically larger than 30 or 36 wide, making them heavy, especially dual paned. The heaviness has to be accounted for in the design, but typically isn’t. So opening my 66 inch double paned slider panel is physical exercise.

    4. The locking mechanism is custom — you can’t easily rekey the house when you have a slider, because it will have an oddball lock.

    These are why French Doors are seen as a superior option, and are priced higher. You overcome these problems, and people will want sliding doors. You don’t, they will be seen as cheap.

  3. Help! I live in a 2nd floor condo in Fl. Recently spent $9K for 8’ hurricane rated sliding door. When it rains hard the track will get several inches of water in it! The business that I purchased it from said that is normal. Seriously????

    1. Hi Lynn,
      Thanks for the question and we’re sorry to hear you’re experiencing issues with your new sliding door! It is true that sliding door tracks car harbor water after a hard rain, but several inches sounds like a lot. Sliding doors are normally manufactured with “weep holes” in the track which allow water to drain out. If there are no weep holes, or the track is installed incorrectly, this might cause the issue. Another possibility is that there is water dripping down from above- make sure you have proper roof drainage in place. If the door manufacturer is separate from the installation company, you may want to try contacting them as well.

  4. We have a gap at the top of our 3 panel sliding glass door large enough to push a pencil through to the outside. There are two gaps where the vertical frame that separates the glass connects to the top track. We have been told that this is normal and that nothing can be done for it except a “bug patch” which is a small square of felt that is stuck on like a sticker to the top frame. The first time I opened the door it fell off. Is this seriously the way these doors are supposed to be or are ours improperly installed?

    1. Hi Debbie,

      This is not normal. It is likely that the doors are either improperly sized or improperly installed. Your new sliding door should not be falling off the track.

  5. Is it possible to replace the patio doors and keep the frame? I hate my heavy patio doors with broken seals.

    1. Hi Michele,

      It is not uncommon for seals to break or leak over time. Most times, a glass shop will be able to replace just the glass unit inside of the door frame, without having to replace the entire door. However, if you’re asking about replacing the door and keeping the original track, this might not be as simple. Speak with the company that originally installed the door. Or find a door dealer that sells the same brand. They’ll be able to tell you whether or not it’s possible.

  6. Do you happen to know which companies have small glass frames (3″ or less) ? I have some very nice looking sliding doors but the frame size is too large and takes away from the view.

    1. Hi Olessia,

      You’ll want to get with your local window and door dealer to look at the options available. They’ll be able to make recommendations and make have some examples available to view in their showroom.

  7. I found this very interesting but one of the comments surprised me. I am going to install roughly 144″ by 80″ patio doors and am agonizing between a three-panel and a four-panel configuration. To me it seems primarily an issue of aesthetics, and the larger panel, with less framing (3-panel configuration) is what I’m considering. However one person mentioned sliding panels not offering full egress and that would be a problem. Also, I wonder if there any construction (strength, reliability, functionality) issues that would make someone opt for the 4-panel configuration. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi Bert,

      3 panels might save you space when the doors are open since it will be only 3 panels stacked side by side rather than 4 panels. There should not be any construction issues either way if done correctly. However, you’ll want to work with a local and reputable door dealer locally since they will have all the specs.

  8. I agree 3 might save you space. I was told this from conservation construction of houston. They are a local company in my area. They had some nice lines of patio doors, but construction issues have been a bit hard to handle. Honestly, I wish I had done the work myself.

  9. Is it possible to move fixed outside door & install towards center to permanently install pet door panel on that side rather than usual install? Hoping to allow sliding interior door with lock to function as normal with working pet door door.

    1. Hi Luna,
      Thanks for the question! I believe I know what you’re asking, but without visually being able to see the door in question, we cannot give you a definitive answer. Your best option will be to contact a local glazing contractor who can view the project in person.

    1. Hi Dennis,
      Thanks for the question! There are a few reasons that a door could leak air. Your best option would be to use to find a pro in your area who can evaluate the leak in person to determine the root of the cause and recommend the best way to fix the issue.

  10. We are replacing 40 year old sliding doors on our 11th floor Florida condo. We are not required to have hurricane glass even though we are on the beach because of our height. We are trying to decide between a 3 panel stackable model or a single sliding panel in the middle of two fixed panels. Our main concern is whether there would be more noise with the high winds with the stackable versus fixed. Also, there is a slight aesthetic concern since the track for the stackable is 9 inches versus 6 inch track for the single sliding model. Right now our doors whistle horribly when it’s windy, we would hate to spend all that money replacing with the stackable ones and have a similar problem.

  11. Just moved into a new home. Sliding door keeps getting water init. We were able to see one weep hole was blocked when we opened it up water gushed out. Just wondering where was the water is the trac underneath hold water. Also just noticed this tonight. This is on the top of my sliding glass door. I know it’s cheap builder grade and I will probably replace . I am not able to copy and paste picture. But left upper corner there is a 3 inch section covered with material that would stop sliding door from closing all the way and there is 1 inch slit. Not sure if that means door is upside down. Thank you for your help as I am concerned where this water has been going and if this door is installed wrong. Thank you so much for your help.

    1. Hi Debbie,
      This is certainly a concern as the leak could eventually lead to water damage in surrounding wood, drywall, carpet and other materials. You’ll want to get this fixed before that happens and more extensive repairs are needed. If the door doesn’t shut all the way, and therefore doesn’t form a seal, it could be the cause of your problems. We recommend having a local professional window and door installation company coming out to look at the unit. They might be able to find a cost-effective fix for you until you’re ready to replace the door.

  12. We are replacing our sliding patio doors and was wondering if the spaces in the vinyl frame should be spray filled or is an air cavity enough to be energy efficient?

    1. Hi Ken,
      Thanks for the question. The more insulating features you can add, the better. Whether or not it is necessary and worth the cost will depend on the climate that you live in and the level of energy efficiency you are looking to achieve.

  13. We just had a house built and they did not install the correct sliding glass doors, as a result we don’t have screens. They are fixing this by adding 1 additional track to accommodate 2 screens that interlock. We have a 3 panel door, so shouldn’t each screen be on its own separate track so they stack?

    1. Hi Kelly,
      Without seeing the design in person, or at least a picture, it’s difficult for us to give a definitive answer. However, If we are understanding your comment correctly, yes, the interlocking screens should be on two separate tracks.

  14. We have a 3-panel sliding door. When we open the door, the first two panels often stick together, making it harder to slide open. We’ve cleaned the track but that didn’t help. Any ideas?

    1. Keith,
      Thanks for reaching out to us with your question. Cleaning the track was an excellent first step. In addition to cleaning the track semi-annually, you should also lube the track using a silicone lubricant spray. Silicone lubricants are generally considered safe to use with vinyl door frames and rubber seals. Silicone lubricants are also less prone to attracting dirt in comparison to petroleum-based lubricants.
      If lubricating the doors doesn’t help, you may want to reach out to a professional to see if an adjustment is needed or if specific parts have worn out.

  15. Hi,

    Water seeps through my slider door at the bottom corner of one side of the track when water is in the track from consistence heavy rain. Can caulking in the inside of the track in this area fix the issue or you can’t caulk inside a track? I have an aluminum impact door. Also can cleaning the track remove the caulk if I caulk this area? This appears to be the only issue with the slider but I don’t know if you can caulk inside of a track. Thank you

    1. Thanks for the question, Candice. First, clean the track thoroughly. A toothbrush and gentle degreaser spray usually works nicely. Follow up with a silicone spray to re-lubricate the rollers. Attempt to identify any drain holes in the track and ensure these are clean and not clogged in any way. Clogged drain holes are typically the most common cause of water leaking back in.
      Next, you can use a cup to pour a small amount of water in the area where you believe the leak is occurring – If the leak still occurs after cleaning, this will help you pinpoint exactly where the frame’s seal is broken. If the leaking area is exposed from the outside (not butting against a wall, etc.), neatly caulk the leaking area from the outside. If it’s not possible to caulk from the outside, you can likely very carefully caulk the area from the inside as long as it’s not along the track where the door slides, and does not come in contact with the rollers on the bottom of the door. For example, caulking a corner of edge of the door’s frame is probably fine. Just be careful to keep the caulk neat and use as little as possible.

  16. Learning how many different ways sliding patio doors have been improved to have better aesthetics was really helpful. We’re planning to do some remodeling around here, and integrating our outdoor space with the living room was one thing we wanted to try doing. I can see models like these working out for us, so I’ll go and look for any sliding patio door providers that can give us a hand with installing some.

  17. Thanks for the tip about how sliding doors are also great for patios. I’m interested in hiring a patio builder soon because I’m thinking about moving to a new home soon. I want to get a patio built there in the future so that it could look a lot better in the long run.

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