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Patio Doors: What You Need to Know

By Gates Dearen
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Your patio door is more than just a door; it’s your entry to backyard living and entertaining, and connects your indoor space with your outdoor space. Does your patio door enhance or inhibit your enjoyment of your home? A good patio door lets you view your yard (or, alternately, offers privacy, if you prefer), keeps outdoor air out and indoor air in, makes your home more secure, is attractive from outside and inside, and allows ease of use and maintenance. If your door falls short in any of these areas, it may be time for a replacement. We’ll go through each of these topics in more detail below.

The View
English: Dublin - Merrion Square landscaping
When it comes to how much you can, or can’t see into or out of your patio door, you have several options. We’ll start with the one that offers the most privacy. Obscure glass lets light in while providing less visibility than clear glass, and might be a good choice if you are choosing a door for a bathroom or bedroom, areas where you may prefer less than a full view out or, especially, in. Clear glass is nice for other rooms in the house where you would generally prefer to have a good view of your yard. For either option, it’s important to assess your need for tempered safety glass, which is less likely to break, and if it does, it shatters into granular chunks which will minimize the risk of injury. You have choices not only with the type of glass, but also with the frame of your door. Several color options allow you to incorporate your patio door’s look into the design scheme of your home.

The Air Out There
English: upvc patio doors
A door with a beautiful view.
As with any door, it’s important that your patio door is well-engineered to be energy efficient. If it’s not, you’re throwing away money on cooling and heating costs. There are a few ways to check for “leakiness”. The easiest is the candle test. This test works best on a windy day. Turn off your air conditioner and any fans so they won’t interfere with your results. With your door tightly closed, hold a lit candle near the doorframe. If the flame moves or flickers, chances are you have a leak. How much the flame moves or flickers will tell you how serious the leak is. If you can feel the air coming through or around the door, or if you feel a change in temperature near the door, then you don’t need to do any kind of test; your door is leaking!

Home safety may initially bring to mind thoughts of keeping human intruders out. On this front, new sliding patio doors offer several lock options, such as two-point locks (standard on most doors), four-point locks, and on some models, shoot bolts and exterior key locks. It’s fairly well known that older sliding doors are easy to “pop” or “jump”, but the new models’ improved locks and roller systems make them much more secure. It isn’t just human intruders that should concern homeowners when it comes to patio door security. Especially here in Florida, we’re susceptible to “weather intruders”, particularly rain. If you can hear wind whooshing through (or if your home failed the “candle test” above), your home is susceptible to wind and water damage. For more detailed discussions of this topic, check out our previous articles, “How Do You Check for a Leaky House?” and “Can Storm Windows and Doors Protect Your Home from Natural Disasters?” This is definitely a situation where you want to know you’re protected ahead of time; finding out during a storm that your patio door leaks is bad news!

Looking Good
In addition to the glass and frame options for patio doors, discussed above, there are a few other ways you can add style and distinction to your patio door(s). Various types of grilles (flat or contoured) and grids (closer set or wider set) within the glass allow you to customize your look. Because they are inside the glass, they are maintenance free. These options give you a lot of variety in choosing what works best with your home’s interior and exterior design.

Easy Living
Does your patio door fight back when you try to open it? Old sliders and rollers can’t compete with the newer systems of today’s sliding patio doors. Think about how nice it would be if you had an easy-to-use handle, and your door glided open with virtually no effort. Newer patio doors have large “D style” handles on both the inside and the outside, much better than the old-style straight-bar types. By the way, if you try to replace your straight-bar door handle, don’t be surprised to find that it’s obsolete! This can be a big problem if your old handle breaks, as it compromises the security of your door. Without the right handle, the door will not close or lock properly.

In addition to ease of use, energy efficiency has improved tremendously over the years. Chances are good that if your current patio door hasn’t been replaced for a while, it’s not as energy efficient as a new door. When choosing a new patio door, it’s important to ask about energy-saving options. Low-e glass is one such option. Low-E glass is made with a thin, invisible metallic coating that blocks heat flow, a proven energy saver. Low-E glass reduces air conditioning costs by reducing solar transmissions in the summer. In the winter, it reduces heat loss to the outside and allows solar energy to pass inside. Another option is tinted glass, which also helps to cut down on the amount of heat that comes through with the sunlight.

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If you enjoy outdoor living or entertaining, or even if you just like to look outside and appreciate the view, a good patio door can make all the difference in your ability to do just that. In fact, if you replace your patio door, you may find yourself admiring the view of the door itself, along with the beauty of nature.

In this article, we have discussed some important qualities of patio doors and have explained each one.
Among the features we highlighted were privacy vs. full view glass, keeping the weather out, security, attractive appearance, and ease of use and maintenance.

If you would like to receive an official factory authorized 30% discount coupon for your next window replacement purchase, print out this article with the coupon on it  and bring it with you when visiting HomeRite.

Gates Dearen is the co-owner of HomeRite Windows and Doors in Jacksonville, Florida. Owners Dearen and Richard Walden have been serving the building products industry in Florida for over 25 years. They know the products, the industry, the market and what adds great value to a home. Their approach is a somewhat different than others. They strive to match the homeowner with the right windows and doors for their home and budget. They know that home improvements projects can be a hassle. They strive to make the process pleasant with first-rate, energy efficient products; affordable prices; and expert, award-wining installers that employ the best practices and who respect your home as if it were their own. 

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  1. Nice read about patio doors. Thanks for the helpful info.

  2. It's good to see they have beefed up security on sliding glass doors. they used to be a burglar's best friend.

  3. Well done - informative and concise. We have the triple slider between our living room and the pool - no blinds to maximize the view. Its good to know who I can talk to when its time to replace.

  4. These upgraded patio doors look so beautiful, and with better security, who knew?

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