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Choosing Doors for Your Home: French Doors vs. Sliding Doors

June 10, 2022
French Doors by pool

Selecting glass doors for your deck, patio, or other entryways? You may find yourself deliberating between two especially popular choices: French doors and sliding doors.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at eight comparison points between both types of glass doors.

The good news? Both French doors and sliding doors are wonderful options with the potential to enhance the look, feel, and functionality of your home.

1. Design

The defining difference between French doors and sliding doors is their functionality.

Often found in pairs but also sold on their own, French doors feature side hinges that allow them to swing open either inward or outward. Each door consists of a frame placed around one large glass panel or two smaller glass panels.

Sliding glass doors consist of multiple panels—two is the most common configuration—within a single frame. In some designs, one door remains fixed while the other is on  rollers that allow it to slide open and shut along a track running parallel to the fixed panel. Other designs feature two or more moving panels. 

Design also encompasses form. When integrated into a space, sliding doors and French doors can have a very different “feel.” Sliding doors are beloved for their minimalist lines and modern look while traditional French doors have a classic and timeless aesthetic.

2. Ease of operation

Sliding glass doors are heralded for their convenience and ease of operation. When properly installed, they glide smoothly along the track with little to no effort required. Sliding doors may also be preferable in areas prone to extreme weather. They’re unlikely to blow shut during gusty weather, and their ability to function won’t be compromised by rain.

However, sliding doors may require a slight step up due to the track. As such, they may present certain mobility challenges, although some ADA-compliant options are available.

All this being said, the degree to which homeowners reap these benefits depends on the quality of their sliding doors. Sliding doors do sometimes get stuck or derailed from their tracks, which can make dealing with them more frustrating than fancy-free. This is why it’s important to buy high-quality doors from a reputable manufacturer.

3. Access and ventilation

If you’re looking to maximize access, French doors may be a better fit. Selecting a configuration with two active doors allows you to utilize their entire width. This also means you’ll be able to adjust and/or maximize airflow while also creating space for more people or moving large items in and out of your home.

Conversely, sliding glass doors may not open the full width of the opening depending on whether the design includes a fixed panel and/or if a pocket configuration is ordered. If the opening is limited, the amount of ventilation you can welcome into the room is limited, as well. 

4. Space

Because French doors occupy floor space when they swing open, they can interfere with everything from furniture placement to views. This means there may be limitations regarding their location. Love the look of French doors but working with limited floor space? One solution may be opting for a single operable hinged door. (Note that this comes with a tradeoff of access and ventilation.)

On the other hand, sliding doors occupy no additional space when they are completely open.

5. Security

While French doors and sliding glass doors rely on different locking mechanisms, both are known for their high security. For both types of patio door, impact-rated models take security to an even higher level.

6. Views and natural light

Sliding doors feature an unobstructed expanse of glass, which facilitates a completely transparent viewing space. If you’re looking to showcase the beauty of your home’s natural surroundings while also allowing for plenty of natural light, they’re a desirable option.

With French doors, transparent viewing space is limited by the wide panels surrounding the glass. However, there are possible benefits, too, as French-style doors can be used to “frame” the view. Furthermore, elegant French doors can also become  elements of design in and of themselves.

7. Energy efficiency

Type of glass, frame material, and other factors determine the energy efficiency of doors and windows. Therefore, there’s no hard and fast answer to whether French doors or sliding glass doors are more energy efficient. 

If you’re looking to minimize heat loss and maximize energy efficiency, features like impact glass, glazing, and insulating frame materials like vinyl and fiberglass can boost the energy efficiency of both French doors and sliding glass doors. 

8. Affordability

Because French doors and sliding doors are available in a variety of sizes, styles, materials, and designs,  their costs may vary significantly.. If you’re working with a limited budget, pricing out both options can help you determine the most affordable glass patio doors for your property.

The overall takeaway? While some benefits associated with French doors or sliding doors may be more desirable to you than others, there is no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to which option is better. Rather, it comes down to personal preference and your individual goals for your living environment.

As the leading brand of impact-resistant products in the United States, PGT takes great pride in helping homeowners enjoy all the aesthetic and functional benefits of high-performance sliding doors, French doors, and impact windows.

Learn more about how PGT impact-resistant windows and doors can help you increase the beauty, comfort, security, and affordability of your home here.