As we emerge from the cold, dark winter, Ontario homeowners are anticipating a special time of year – when our backyards become an oasis. The path from the inside of your house to your outside inevitably leads to a door. And that entrance/exit says a lot, revealing your style and precisely how you want to view that inviting outdoor world when the hot weather hits.
Backyard doors typically come in two varieties: French doors or sliding doors. The beautiful thing is that there is no wrong choice. Either option can make a stunning gateway to your backyard paradise.
“It’s simply a matter of preference and the size of the budget on hand,” says Wellington Windows owner John Geraghty. “Do you want an open space with maximum light and visibility, or do you lean towards a more classic look? It all depends on the individual person’s taste.
“We can find the perfect door whatever their preference.”
French doors give your entrance a tasteful, classic look. They are available in several different styles, with the specific look ultimately determined by the material used, be it steel, fiberglass, or wood.
Steel is the most common material for French doors. It makes for a smooth finish, while also offering the homeowner affordability. Steel French doors are characterized by a generous frame, with a standard size of glass that is thicker than most options. They are easy to paint and therefore provide a ton of flexibility for those wanting to add a personal touch.
Fiberglass, because it’s a more rigid material, allows the door to hold a much bigger yet thinner glass panel. Fiberglass French doors have a smooth, painted finish, or a wood-like finish that can be stained.
Wood is another rigid material option. It does enable the possibility of using a thinner frame than steel, while still providing exceptional insulation. It is the most expensive choice of the three and does require periodic maintenance, including additional staining and painting as the years go on.
French doors, whatever the choice of material, provide a touch of class.
“When you open any type of French door, you have access to the full gap for an indoor/outdoor space,” adds Geraghty, noting the doors typically swing into the home. “So if you’re entertaining outside, you have the entire opening to move in and out of.”
- Classic look
- Flexibility in colour and finish
- Little maintenance (aside from the wood option)
- Good insulation
While there is value to be had with French doors, going with wood is costly. So consider your budget carefully.
Sliding doors, also referred to as “patio doors,” give the consumer an incredible number of options when trying to choose the perfect gateway to their outdoor space. Your standard sliding door comes in three different materials – vinyl, fiberglass, and aluminum.
Vinyl is by far the most cost-effective option. But a lower price tag doesn’t mean you sacrifice quality or convenience. A vinyl sliding door, a popular choice for many Wellington Windows clients, doesn’t require maintenance and can be painted in any colour.
Fiberglass and aluminum options, because of the strength of those materials, enable the doors to have a thinner frame. That means they can hold the maximum amount of glass, giving the homeowner an open, clear view of the outside. Fiberglass and aluminum are the best choices to hold oversized panels (8’-tall sliding doors).
These rigid materials also provide the option of a standard symmetrical look or something asymmetrical, like two-thirds of the opening being covered in a single piece and one-third of the space comprising the actual sliding door.
When considering large panels, it’s important to know that certain sliding mechanisms aren’t designed to hold significant weight.
“We’ll recommend moving to a lift-and-slide mechanism,” says Geraghty. “The frames of the sliding panels sit down on the bottom, not on the rollers. When you turn the handle, it lifts it up onto the rollers and then allows the panels to slide.
“This increases the ease of use and the longevity of the doors. It also opens up a huge amount of your house.”
Any sliding door made of either vinyl, fiberglass, or aluminum can be configured to have a centre opening. That consists of a four-panel system, with the two pieces of glass in the middle opening outwards, mimicking the look of French doors.
Another option in the sliding category is a bifold door, available in any of the three materials.
“They operate on a self-draining sill that recesses down into the floor,” says Geraghty. “These panels allow for the maximum opening because they can be moved from one side to the other.
“They can also be configured to have a Frend door in them, so you can have the best of both worlds.”
- Great visibility and light
- Affordability (aside from the bifold option)
- Flexibility in colour and finish
- Little maintenance
- Easy to use
- Ideal for smaller areas because no clearance space is needed to open doors
When considering lift-and-slide or bifold doors, these options can span a nearly unlimited space. Geraghty has installed one for a client that stretches to 22 feet in length.
Aluminum and Fiberglass $$$
Lift-and slide $$$ and up
Bifold $$$$$$ and up