Exterior French Patio Doors – styles & designs for your home
French patio doors or sliding glass patio doors – which one should you install in your house?
Much like everything else when it comes to home improvements, you need to consider a few things well beforehand when you are about to embark upon installing a new set of patio doors for your home.
Whether you are looking specifically at fitting French patio doors, or a sliding style of patio door, it’s going to be very useful to understand the key design difference between these two different types of patio doors and what sets them apart from each other.
When someone mentions the term “patio doors”, it’s probably fair to say that most people would conjure up a picture in their head of a sliding set of doors – not unexpected, as the sliding design is very popular.
However, French doors have been around for hundreds of years and offer a lot in terms of appearance and function. This is why they have also retained a high degree of popularity in homes all over the UK.
In this article, we will be looking into French patio doors specifically, what advantages they offer over sliding doors, what to look for when buying them, and also look at the costs involved with installing French patio doors.
What are French Patio Doors?
In terms of function, French patio doors are traditionally a side hinged set of double doors which open inwards or outwards depending on your preferences.
For the typical installation, when you open the doors, you will have full access to the complete width of the frame opening into which the doors are installed.
There are slightly different French patio door designs that have a centre mullion, or post. It’s not very practical to have a centre mullion for a main entry / exit external door, as it’s going to get in the way.
I would have thought that the only reason to have a centre post, is if you want to fit the doors so that one can open in and the other can open out instead of having both the doors open in the same direction. It’s more often seen in a French window.
The design is such, that you can open one door at a time or both together. You have the choice as to which door you make as the primary (the one that opens first) or the secondary.
In terms of appearance, there is the classic use of small glass panes, set in a grid of 2×5 or 3×5, 2×6 or 3×6 or full length plain glass from top to bottom.
In our opinion, a French patio door is all about classic styling and should stay with its roots and feature the mullioned dividers and small glass panels.
The very fact that this design uses 2 adjacent swing doors does give the French patio door a drawback when it comes to using them in a wider opening.
A standard sized single swing door panel in the UK is around 760mm to 838mm (2ft 6ins to 2ft 9ins), so, even allowing for the outer frame (and maybe an extender or two) if your opening is over 2000mm then you are going to be looking at making up the space with side panels.
Sliding patio doors Vs French patio doors
Both of these designs have their advocates and detractors and their own particular pros & cons. Here’s what we think are the four main differences.
Appearance has to be a significant influencer on your decision. If you prefer a lot of clear space, then a sliding patio door design could be for you.
French patio doors have slightly thicker frames as a result of the door design, and combined with the classic mullioned style, you could argue that you are losing natural light.
The counter argument for classic French patio doors is that they have an elegance and sense of style, whereas full glass sliding doors are “bland & featureless”. You could also use full height clear glazed French doors without the mullions in order to gain more natural light.
After form, in this case, comes function. A typical patio door for the average family house will consist of 2 panels and at this size and configuration French patio doors have a distinct advantage.
With a sliding patio door of 2 panels, you will only have half the width to go in or out because the doors are fixed within the frame.
French patio doors allow the full width to be used as they swing out of the way.
Even with a 3 panel sliding door, you will be limited to around 60% clear opening for the same reason.
An equivalent width set of French doors (even with side panels) can match that percentage.
Sliding doors have a small advantage when it comes to interfering with actual living space, they don’t take up any when they are opened because they just slide within the frame.
On the other hand, French doors can open in or out, so if you have a smaller room, you can just have the doors open outwards.
The safety of your family and security for your personal possessions are high priorities and, whilst addressed by both designs, French doors do have advantages over sliding doors in this area.
Unless you are going for a real high spec top of the range sliding door, there is always the thought in your mind that a burglar could lever the door off the tracks and get into your home. You can’t do that to a French door because it is hinged – even where the hinge butts on a swing door are visible to the outside, you can’t remove the pins.
With a big glass panel on a sliding door, theoretically an intruder could smash it and walk through the resulting gap. The mullions in a classic French door design inhibit this action.
To be fair, you can’t really “barge in” a closed sliding door, but theoretically, you could do so, if you applied sufficient force to an inward opening set of French doors. However, to mitigate this problem, French doors use multi-point locks with shoot bolts on the centre doors that engage at the top and bottom of the frames.
The other alternative is to have your doors open outwards and then the doors simply can’t be “kicked-in”
It’s also much easier to notice when a French door is open, how many times have you seen a video of someone walking into a closed glass sliding door?
If you are searching for energy efficient doors to lower your cooling and heating bills, then both sliding or French patio are a great buy.
However, French doors have a much tighter seal than sliding patio doors as when the locks are engaged it pulls the door into the frame, a sliding door is reliant solely upon weather sealing strips.
Sliding doors are mostly glass, and glass doors tend to transfer more heat than the frame itself, so having more frame than glass, as with a classic French door design, inherently reduces the incidence of heat transfer.Get Quotes
What are French patio doors made from?
You have four main choices when it comes to construction material and those are
- UPVC: A very durable material that is a good insulator, Cost effective as a material, it lasts a very long time and can be made in a range of colours and wood effect finishes.
- Timber: Softwood French doors are really more suited for internal than external use. Hardwood doors are very good to look at and if you look after them, they can last a very long time indeed. Engineered wood is a good option, as it is less prone to warping or twisting and is not so susceptible to contraction or expansion when it dries out or gets saturated with water. Obviously you can paint them or stain them to the shade or colour of your choice.
- Aluminium / Aluminium Clad: Aluminium exterior doors are at the top end of the range, in terms of styling and price. They look great, last a very long time and are strong. There are literally hundreds of colours available, including timber grain effect. Aluminium clad timber doors have an engineered timber internal body with an externally applied aluminium skin.
- Composite: A combination of GRP (Glass reinforced polymers) UPVC edging and timber cores, composite doors occupy the high end price bracket alongside aluminium. However, the finished surfaces of composite French patio doors are amazing. Great looking doors that are also super strong and secure. The lifespan is reckoned to be over 25 years on average, so you will get value for money.
How Much Do French Patio Doors Cost?
The cost of French patio doors depends on the opening size you have. Typically, supply only French patio doors without side panels will have similar pricing to sliding glass patio doors – within £100 to £150.
The cost will fluctuate if you upgrade locking mechanisms, glazing energy ratings, colours or hardware such as door furniture.
How Much do Fitted French Patio Doors Cost?
|Door size in millimeters||Basic Specification||Average Fitted Price Guide|
|2 doors 900 x 2100||white, upvc double glazed – C rated||£800 to £900|
|2 doors 1000 x 2100||white, upvc double glazed – C rated||£1,000 to £1,200|
|2 doors 1200 x 2100||rosewood, upvc double glazed – B rated||£1,200 to £1,400|
How Much do Supply Only French Patio Doors cost?
|Door Size||MATERIAL||example cost|
|1100 to 1200mm wide||White uPVC||Starting from around £450|
|1800 to 1900mm wide||White uPVC||Starting from around £600|
|2900 to 3000mm+ s 2ide panel||White uPVC||Starting from around £950|
What you are likely to get included in the specification of the supply on UPVC French patio door set is:
- Multi-point locks with deadbolt & cylinder lock.
- 55 to 77mm threshold with steel reinforced 70mm frame.
- Adjustable hinges (3 per door).
- 28mm double glazed units with toughened safety glass.
- Internal glazing beads.
- Guaranteed for 10 years & building regulations compliant.
As with most projects of this nature, your personal preferences are going to dictate which is the best solution for you.
Having said that, those preferences need to be reflected as much as possible in the door design and function.
In our opinion, based on the above, UPVC French doors can be arguably be more secure, have more individuality in terms of appearance and be potentially more energy efficient that sliding patio doors.
Certainly for medium sized openings they “tick all the boxes” for appearance, security, longevity, functionality and price.
However, it’s your choice that matters.