Differences Between Patio Doors, French Doors, and Double Doors

When most people think of patio doors, what comes to mind are the sliding glass doors on metal tracks that became popular during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. For others, a patio door might mean double exterior doors, like French doors with shutters or Roman shades. But, there are many different kinds of patio doors beyond sliding glass and French entryways. The type of patio door that will work best for you depends on your home style, interior and exterior decor, and the overall architecture of the structure where they will be installed. Here are some of the most popular patio door types—you may not have seen or heard of some of these fun, modern, rustic, and other attention-grabbing options!

French Doors for Rear Exterior Use

Many homes are built with French doors as the primary entrance to the back yard, patio, porch, land, or other rear enclosure. French doors are best described as two matching doors that mirror one another. When in use, French doors typically have one door with a handle, lock, and other moving hardware for everyday use. Conversely, the other door stays closed, has no moving hardware, and is kept in place by latch at the base of the door that links to the doorframe, keeping it securely in place. The latch on the non-moving door can be lifted, allowing both doors to open for the purposes of moving in appliances or furniture, or for letting in the breeze on a pleasant spring evening.

The hallmark of most French patio doors is their use of multiple glass panes, usually at least four to eight panes, called lites. Some French exterior doors may just have one, large lite, while others can have as many as 12 lites each. The glass used in quality French exterior entryways is hurricane-grade, impact-rated glass capable of withstanding anything nature—or a thief—can throw at it.

French exterior entryways come in a variety of sizes, but are not individually larger than one, single exterior door in most cases. For the door opening to be larger than the average single door, both doors within a French doorframe would need to be open. Available in a variety of wood types, including mahogany, cedar, pine, knotty alder, and both red and white oak, French exterior doors can enhance the visual appeal of almost any home style, from rustic to ultra-modern. French doors are also available in metal and fiberglass, which can be ideal for warding off burglars and keeping out external noise.

Double Exterior Doors

Double exterior doors go beyond what you might think of as French doors; while they are similarly designed, typically, both doors have moving hardware for daily use. Additionally, double exterior doors used for entry to the patio or back yard are more often made of solid wood, whereas French doors usually have one to eight (or more) panes of glass. Double doors are also known to be larger individually than French exterior doors and louvre doors for exteriors. Often crafted from oak, mahogany, knotty alder, or other wood types, many homeowners prefer larger, solidly crafted double doors over other types of dual-door entries for access to the patio, pool, or deck. Modernly styled double doors are sometimes made with a single, large lite, or pane of glass, which is usually sandblasted or otherwise made less transparent than plain, clear glass. Some glass double doors are made with textured glass, but the highest quality double door models will be fire and impact rated for emergencies and inclement weather, including hurricanes.

Folding Glass Door Systems

Available in double, triple, quadruple, and even larger sizes, folding glass door systems are made for those who truly want to enjoy the view of their exterior. Perfect for larger, modernly architected homes, folding glass door systems turn a rear-facing wall into a massive window. For homeowners with exceptional views of nature, mountains, or other aesthetically pleasing landscapes, large glass installations are a great choice; they can also make the interior of the home look and feel larger.

Some people steer clear of these exceedingly large multi-door systems for fear that they pose a safety risk, but this fear is based largely in rumor and myth. When properly installed, folding glass door systems are no more dangerous than any other type of exterior door. With that said, these large entryways must be installed by a licensed, insured, and bonded contractor. This ensures the safety of the people around it, as these door systems do require specific hardware and other building materials, like reinforced rebar and concrete posts for correct and secure installation.

The best quality folding door systems are made with at least double, if not triple-paned glass to conserve energy, since these systems are so large and allow in so much light. The glass is almost always hurricane-resistant, which means more than what it sounds like: hurricane-impact-rated glass is strong enough to take a direct blow from a chair, a ladder, or even a hammer. So, not only is it safer where weather is concerned, it’s also a great way to stop potential break-ins to the home.

Double and Single Arched Entryways for Exteriors

If your home is rustically styled, you may want to consider arched patio doors. Whether you’re replacing an old door to fit into an arched entryway, or you’re remodeling and prefer an arched door over a square top, there are many excellent options to choose from. The best arched patio doors are both fire and impact rated, and look beautiful with the right kind of architecture and decor.

Available as individual and in double door styles, an arched exterior door for the rear-facing entry of your home can really make both the interior and exterior design pop. Choose a solid wood arched door, or a double arched entryway made almost entirely of glass. Whatever style works for your home, there is an option in arched exterior doors for you.

Custom-Made and Hand-Crafted Patio Doors

Whether you prefer sliding doors, French doors, double doors, or you have your eye on a folding glass door system, any of these options can be custom-made to your specifications. If you have a peculiarly shaped or very large rough opening for your patio entrance, you may want to consider having a door custom-made for your home.

Additionally, when you opt for a custom-made door, you get to choose any embellishments and the type of hardware it will have. You’ll also choose which type of wood it will be made of, whether it will have any glass, and how many lites, if so. ETO Custom Doors are easily designed in four simple steps.

Get in touch with ETO Doors today for help choosing your patio door or any other exterior door, or to design a custom patio door by dialing 1-888-DOOR-ETO. We’ll help you choose a patio door style that matches your home and your budget!

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