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Patio doors: French v. sliding doors?

Which patio door is right for your home? It all depends on your style, space, and needs. We'll help you think through these factors, so you can land on exactly the right door.
A sliding patio door lets this couple and their dog move seamlessly from the bedroom to playtime on the patio

Sliding (or gliding) patio doors are classic, but they’re not the only option. French-style doors (hinged) can offer many of the same benefits — bringing in ample sunlight, for example. In addition, they have some unique benefits that distinguish them, which we’ll get to in just a minute.

To pick between these two types of patio doors, let’s start working through the questions below.

1. What style is your home?

Generally, sliding doors fit a modern style well and hinged doors a traditional style.

Of course, rules are meant to be broken, and designer John Melby, of Melby Design, agrees. “I think there are arguments you can make for either option to be with any style,” he said. If you’re struggling to figure out which type of door best matches your home’s architecture, he suggests looking at details like the following:

  • Trim around the windows and doors: Thicker trim with more detailing is more traditional, while thinner trim or no trim (called a drywall return) is more modern.
  • Window proportions: Different proportions match different architectural styles. For example, windows on Victorian homes tend to be tall, while windows on modern homes tend to be wide.
  • Massing (aka your home’s shape and size): Again, certain shapes and sizes are associated with distinct styles. For example, modern homes are often blocky and horizontal, while Victorians tend to be more asymmetrical and vertical.

All these details will give you insight into whether a more modern or traditional door best suits your home.

A series of hinged outswing doors with black frames and colonial grilles are accented by the circle-shaped E-Series windows above
Melby is bringing to life a modern take on traditional European design in this home currently under construction. “There was no question in this situation that we needed to go hinged (French door),” he said. While these A-Series hinged outswing doors are definitely traditional in style, the black color gives them an updated look.

2. How big is your space? How do you use it? How often do you use it?

In a small space, you might appreciate the way a sliding door saves space by opening flush with the wall. In a larger space, the double opening of a hinged door lets in lots of fresh air, while also easing flow between indoors and out.

Liz Marie Galvan’s farmhouse viewed from the back where a new addition featuring a primary suite with sunroom faces the swimming pool
The generous proportions of Galvan’s sprawling farmhouse could easily accommodate inswing hinged doors. With their double opening, the doors make it easy to accommodate all the back-and-forth traffic between the house and pool area. Her doors also add to her home’s overall aesthetic. Galvan selected A-Series inswing hinged patio doors with colonial grilles to match her 400 Series double-hung windows with colonial grilles.

3. What are your needs?

Both sliding and hinged doors are available at various price points. So, whether you’re looking for a good-quality patio door at a good price, or a custom door with a lot of special upgrades, there’s a door for you.

  • On the cost-effective end, consider a gliding door from the 100 Series for a more modern look, or a hinged door from the 200 Series for something more classic.
  • If you’re looking for the most customizable patio door, your best bet is the E-Series for either a sliding or a hinged door. With so many colors and stain options, you can make it look pretty much any way you want.
  • If you live on the coast or want the best possible performance, count on the A-Series, which also has sliding and hinged options. These doors are not only highly energy efficient, with triple-pane glass options, but they’re also rigorously tested to withstand hurricane-force winds and prolonged exposure to sea air. You won’t lose anything on looks either, since they’ve been designed in collaboration with architects.
Open hinged patio doors connect a bedroom with the pool outside
Design and style blogger Will Taylor chose E-Series inswing hinged patio doors to open up this airy bedroom to fresh breezes, sunlight, and pool views.

Did you know? You can have an insect screen with either a sliding or hinged patio door. Sliding, hinged and retractable insect screen options are available for both hinged and sliding doors. (Exact options will depend on the door chosen.)

How to create a look with your patio door

Once you know which patio door you want, you’ll get into the fun details, like deciding on color, grilles, and more. To get you started, here are some pointers on creating two distinct looks with a patio door:

  • If you're trying to match a modern home, consider a sliding door with a thin frame, like the 200 Series Narroline® or the E-Series with contemporary panels. Thin frames are a hallmark of modern windows and doors. They put the focus on the view outside, especially when you pick black frames. Skip the grilles and look for hardware that features sleek lines, right angles, and minimal profiles. Selecting hardware that blends in with the frame — black on black always looks sharp — is another way to keep the focus on the view.
  • If you’re trying to match a traditional home, consider any of our hinged patio doors. The frames on these doors are wider — particularly the bottom rail (horizontal piece of the frame underneath the glass). A high bottom rail paired with a colonial grille pattern creates the classic French-door look. Select a white or stained wood frame, and look for hardware with traditional flourishes like ridges, curves, and textured detailing.

Of course, you can mix and match details like color, grilles, frame width, and hardware to create your own unique look. That’s what Cass Smith, the DIYer and blogger behind Cass Makes Home, did when she replaced the sliding doors leading to her deck with a new A-Series hinged patio door. Check out the photos below to see what we mean.

Cass Smith’s old patio door was a glider with white colonial grilles. Her new patio door is black with blinds-between-the-glass and contemporary hardware
Before (left), Smith had a white sliding patio door with colonial grilles. After (right), her new hinged patio doors pair traditional French-door styling (high bottom rail) with sleek hardware for a modern touch. Smith’s door also features blinds-between-the-glass for easy privacy.

Now that you have a better idea about the patio door you might want, explore ways you can scale your door to fit your space.