French Doors
Sliding Doors
French vs. Sliding Glass Patio Doors – Differences, Costs & More

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French patio doors are mostly made of glass and look similar to windows. A classic model has two side-by-side panels that swing in or out from hinges on the sides of the frame. Traditional sliding glass doors have two panels with one that slides along rollers to cover the other. The design and function of both can be customized to suit your space and style.

What is a Patio Door vs. Sliding Door?

It is a misconception that the term patio door indicates only a glass sliding door. It refers to all styles that open to yard space. French, garden, atrium, gliding, sliding, folding and accordion are all types of patio doors.

What is a Slider Door?

A sliding door, often referred to as a patio door, has two or more side-by-side panels mounted on sliding rollers along a track. One panel is fixed and the other is moveable, sliding to cover the fixed panel when open. Standard sizes range from 4 to 9 feet tall by 5 to 10 feet wide.

Accordion (Folding)

Partially folded accordion door between kitchen and patio

Accordion, or folding doors, can turn a wall into a window that opens to the outside. Multiple panels of glass fold against one another, and can even wrap around corners. These are used to maximize stunning views of the outdoors and make the inside feel expansive. Hire a door installation pro with the highest quality materials to insure safety and durability.

Sliding Doors That Look Like French

Sliding glass doors come in a wide variety of style and color options. You can design it to look French with the wider frame and gridded panes.

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What is a French Door

A French door is made mostly of glass. It is sometimes called a French window as it often has grids holding multiple panes.

The classic French patio style that is most often compared to a sliding patio style features the following:

  • two side-by-side panels that swing outward or inward from hinges on the side
  • multiple panes, though they may have only one pane.
  • one panel with the lock and handle
  • another panel with a latch at its base
  • a typical height of 6 to 10 feet and width of 3 to 8 feet.

It is a misconception to assume that a French patio door means only two, side-by-side, swinging panels. This is a garden door in a French style. A French patio door can be used in garden, single, or sliding models.

Garden Doors Versus French Doors

A garden patio door, also known as a hinged or swinging door, is a term for a double patio door with swinging capabilities. French is just one style of garden model.

These offer options about where to install the hinges.

  1. Side hinges, both panels inswing or outswing
  2. Side hinges, one panel inswing or outswing
  3. Center hinges, one panel inswing or outswing

What is an Atrium Door?

An atrium door is a type of garden door and that is center-hinged. One side is fixed and the other swings inward or outward from a centered hinge. Compared to double doors, this saves wall and living space, offers better potential for energy efficiency, and can cost less.

Single and Double Doors

One French panel freshens up a single frame. These are most commonly used as double doors, making them comparable in size and functionality to the sliding patio style.

Sliding French Doors

A sliding French model combines the wider frame and paneled grid of the French door with the gliding, space-saving function of the sliding variety.

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Sliding Glass Door or French Door: Which is Best?

Sliding glass and French are the most popular patio door styles. Below, we compare the traditional swinging, double-paneled French to the single-paned, double-paneled sliding.

French Sliding
Styles Traditional aesthetic with a range of design Wide variety of materials, colors and styles
Cost Are 10-20% more expensive Are more affordable, starting at $300
Installation Between $600-$5,800 Between $500-$4,500
DIY & Replacement Are complicated with hinges and precise fitting Are simpler with one fixed unit
Security Must secure gap between the panels to avoid weak spots Require anti-lift devices and drop bolts
Energy Efficiency Higher probability of air infiltration Overlap to create tighter seal
Ventilation Can open wide Conducive to screens
Space Interfere with wall and floor space Save floor and wall space
View of Outside Wide frames and grids can obstruct view Single, wide units offer clear views
Repair & Maintenance Weigh upon hinges and must be adjusted Require regular cleaning and roller replacement
Resale value & ROI Dependent on location and project More popular, but dependent on location and project

Styles

French
Pros

  • Classic design for traditional or older homes.
  • Made of wood or fiberglass.
  • Combine wood with aluminum for added stability.
  • Can customize the number, arrangement and texture of the glass panes.
  • Works with a broad doorframe.
  • Can open both panels for added space and a larger entrance.
  • Can be used as single, double, center-hinged or sliding.

Cons

  • Require more customization to match a historic, older home.

Sliding
Pros

  • Can cover a long wall space with two or more wide panels, offering an unobstructed view of the outside creating the illusion of a bigger inside area.
  • Come in a variety of materials, colors and styles.
  • Sleek in modern, smaller homes

Cons

  • Require more customization to match a historic, older home.
  • Not great for long frames because paneled windowpanes restrict width.

Style & Versatility: Tie!

Cost

The cost of an exterior door will always vary by size, material, hardware, glass and finish resulting in a typical range from $400 to $5,000. Sliding begins at a more affordable rate. The price for both will increase as you add custom features.

French

These tend to be 10-20% more expensive, beginning at $500 and running up to $4,000.

Sliding

A standard, six-foot pair of sliding glass panels begins around $300 and runs up to $2,600.

Affordability: Sliding

Cheaper to Install with a Pro

Patio door installations cost between $1,200 and $10,000 with homeowners paying an average of $2,500.

The biggest factors affecting the price of installing a door are custom materials, the condition of the frame and opening, and whether they swing or slide.

French
  • Range between $600-$5,800.
  • Require more expertise and higher quality materials to fit the weaker spots where the panels meet.

Sliding
  • Range between $500-$4,500.
  • Can be installed as one fixed unit.

Installation: Sliding

DIY Installation & Replacement

Installing either French or sliding patio doors means working with an existing opening in your home or creating a new one. Hiring a door installation pro is essential as there are important structural issues to consider.

French

These are complicated and more expensive to install and replace. The hinges and panels must be fitted precisely to the frame to resist leakage and air infiltration where the two panels meet.

Sliding

The cost to replace a sliding door is more affordable. These are simpler to install as it often come as one fixed unit to be fitted into the opening.

Simpler DIY: Sliding

Security

French
Pros

  • Special grade glass is made to withstand wind, rain and debris making the panes difficult to break.
  • Three and five-point locking systems secure the panels to each other and to the frame.

Cons

  • Where the panels meet will always be a weaker area.
  • Opening restrictors are needed so the panels don’t whip open with the wind.

Sliding
Pros

  • Durable glass and multi-point locking systems with security hooks ensures safety.
  • Come as one durable unit.

Cons

  • Anti-lift devices and lockable drop bolts on the sliding leaf can be unsightly.

Security: Tie!

Energy Efficiency & Insulation

All models can be energy efficient when tinted, insulated, and made with quality materials.

French
  • Higher probability for air infiltration and water leakage where the panels meet,
  • Can bow to wind over time,
  • Less conducive to screens, contributing to higher heating and cooling costs.

Sliding
  • Overlap between the two panels creates a tighter seal.
  • Accept screens, driving down utility costs with natural ventilation.
  • Screen installation costs between $50 and $100.

Energy Efficiency: Sliding

Ventilation

French
Pros

  • Widest possible opening maximizes airflow.

Cons

  • Inconvenient to keep panels open without a screen.
  • Must install center-hinged panels to accommodate a screen.

Sliding
Pros

  • Accommodate screens making it practical to keep the panels open in nice weather.
  • Can be customized to be very wide, offering a large opening even when one is being covered.

Cons

  • When open, one panel will always cover the other, reducing airflow capabilities.

Ventilation: Sliding

Space Saving

One of the biggest differences is the functional space these require. Consider the layout of your room and patio when deciding between the two.

French
Pros

  • Swing radius adds dimension to large homes with spacious rooms.

Cons

  • Swing radius and wide frame take up valuable floor and wall space when open, affecting where furniture can be placed in the room or on the patio.
  • Could take up most of a wall in small homes.

Sliding
Pros

  • Great for saving wall and living space in small homes.
  • Big views and lots of light create the illusion of space while leaving a small footprint.

Cons

  • Require a track and sill on the floor that can be inconvenient to step over.

Space Saving: Sliding

View of Outside

French
Pros

  • Widest possible opening to the outside when both panels are open.
  • Without screens, they provide less obstruction.

Cons

  • Grid like pane frames cover the view.
  • Since these don’t accommodate screens, they are often closed.

Sliding
Pros

  • Wide panes of plain glass provide a clear view.
  • Can turn an entire wall into a window when customized with three or more panels.

Cons

  • Only half of the width can be open at once.

Best View: Sliding

Repair & Maintenance

French
Pros

  • Easy to operate.

Cons

  • Weight on hinges will require complicated adjustments as the home shifts over time. Door repair costs run around $220.
  • Susceptible to wind and water damage.

Sliding
Pros

  • Simple to operate.
  • Most maintenance involves only regular cleaning and a screwdriver.
  • Sliding rollers have a long lifespan and are easier to adjust and replace than hinges when house settles.

Cons

  • Track will get dirty, especially during wet weather. Needs continual cleaning with a vacuum or wet cloth to keep it working properly.
  • Track may need to be lubricated if the doors start to drag.

Simple Maintenance: Sliding

Resale Value & ROI

Earning back your investment on any project is always a gamble depending on the real estate market in your area and homebuyers’ personal preferences. Be sure to talk to a trustworthy local door pro and real estate agent as there may be a more logical project to focus on for resale value. The sensibility of either option is also dependent on your local climate.

Choice for ROI: Sliding
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FAQs

Do French Doors Open In or Out?

French doors can open inward or outward. Install hinges to create the best swing for your floor plan. Remember that custom builders can design the best door for your home.

What is a Side by Side vs French Door for Refrigerators

A side-by-side refrigerator has two vertical panels. These swing open to reveal the fridge on one side and the freezer on the other.

A French door refrigerator is divided horizontally to separate the refrigerator from the freezer. Two panels on the top half swing open from the center to reveal the fridge, and drawers on the bottom half pull out to reveal the freezer. Refrigerator installation costs are similar for either model.

Can you Replace a Sliding Glass Door with a French Door?

You can replace sliding glass with French doors by removing the trim and existing panels, measuring the space, and inserting a pair of French doors that fit before insulating and re-trimming.


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