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 door frame, 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.

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.