Archeologists say that so far, the oldest sliding doors were found in Pompeii, Italy. The city that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. They also found folding doors in Pompeii. After World War II, sliding patio doors became a popular style in suburban homes.

Styles of patio doors

There are three main styles for patio doors; sliding, swinging and folding.

Sliding Patio Doors

Sliding patio doors are very popular. They are also called gliding or bypass patio doors. They usually have 2 doors with one stationary (or inactive) and another door that is used as the primary (active) door. You will have a large area of glass doors within a frame giving you a great view and lots of light. It is good for a contemporary look in your home. The sliding design doesn’t take any space up as it opens and closes. So furniture doesn’t need to be moved inside or outside while opening the doors. Sliding doors are easy to adjust if there is some settling of the house. They are usually less expensive than swinging or folding patio doors.

Swinging Patio Doors

Swinging patio doors are usually a pair of doors with the active door hinged at the center (called center hung or center hinged) and the inactive door stationary (sidelight). Swinging patio doors can be called French doors or center hinged doors.

French Patio Doors are 2 doors hinged at the side jambs. You have a very wide opening when both doors are open. There is usually a main active door and an inactive or a passive door. There is an astragal mounted to one of the doors that covers the gap between the doors on the molding.

Swinging doors are great for moving in furniture, for parties and for air movement with screen doors. It provides a traditional or classic look for you décor. The threshold is usually lower than sliding patio doors. Swinging patio doors can open inside or outside. Out-swinging doors will have special locking hinges with non-removable pins.

Folding Patio Doors

Folding patio doors open in an accordion style, sliding along a track with each door hinged to the next one. You can get 2, 3 or 4 doors in the folding patio door style. There are 3 or 4 sections that are all connected or 2 panels go one way and 2 the other direction. You can also purchase one active door that opens with a jamb hinge and 2 panels that fold against the opposite jamb. Folding patio doors create a wide opening for bringing in large items (such as furniture & appliances), good for parties and air flow. This type of door is more expensive with more parts and labor to install.

Materials for Patio Doors

There are many types of materials available for patio doors; wood, wood clad, fiberglass, vinyl, steel, aluminum and composite.

Wood Patio Doors

Wood is a popular for a traditional look and gives a lot of glass options. They go especially well with old fashioned wooden sash windows. The wood patio doors can take a bump and it is easy to fix scratches. It is also energy efficient. Wood patio doors do require maintenance because they can expand and contract with weather. Make sure to look at warranties of wood patio doors. Jeld-Wen has a treatment called Auralast that they put on their wood doors and they give a 20 year warranty against wood rot.

Wood Clad Patio Doors

Wood clad patio doors have a layer of aluminum, fiberglass or other materials over the wood door to protect the wood. It can be clad inside and out or just clad outside with wood on the inside that can be stained to match your décor.

Fiberglass Patio Doors

Fiberglass patio doors come in a wide range of colors and textures. You can get the look of wood if you prefer. It will stand up to a wide range of temperature and moisture. Fiberglass patio doors have an inner foam core for lightweight and energy efficiency. It is low maintenance, can be painted or stained in the future for a facelift. However, it can crack with a hard impact.

Steel Patio Doors

Steel patio doors are very durable and many are low cost. There are a variety of finishes from some steel patio door companies. They resist dents and warping. Scratches can be repaired with a primer and paint. Make sure to use a paint that is for steel. Steel patio doors are treated to prevent rust. This type of door is good for a wide range of climates. They have a foam core for energy efficiency.

Vinyl Patio Doors

Vinyl patio doors are inexpensive, energy efficient, stands up to moisture and are low maintenance. They don’t fade, peel or rot. However, some vinyl patio doors can crack in wide changes in temperatures. Vinyl patio doors are great for moderate climates. Make sure to look at the warranty before buying this type of door.

Aluminum Patio Doors

Aluminum patio doors are durable, lightweight, and corrosion resistant, come in a wide range of colors and textures. They have an aluminum skin over a wood or a composite material. They can dent and can be damaged by salt water and some chemicals. Aluminum patio doors are good for most climates.

Composite Patio Doors

Composite patio doors use a variety of materials including fiberglass and specialized manufacturer’s formulas. Most are very durable, low maintenance and strong. They stand up to a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions.