By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
Continuing with our theme of doors this month, today we will look at patio doors. These are doors that lead to the exterior and are the kind you would use when you want to capitalize on light and views. When done right, patio doors create a strong connection between your home and your yard.
Patio doors range from a single 2-foot-wide door to a combination of units totaling 50 feet or more. The standard height is 6 feet, 8 inches tall, but custom sizes are available. There are two basic types of patio doors — swinging and sliding. Swinging doors usually swing into the room, but outward-swinging doors are available if interior floor space is limited.
Retractable walls are a relatively recent and dramatic evolution in the traditional patio door. This wall at a Park City lodge, designed by Clive Bridgwater, opens up to a large patio and dramatic mountain views.
The term “French doors” is often used in connection with patio doors. French doors are of the swinging variety and are stile and rail construction with glass panels to allow the light and view to pass through. French doors can be made of wood, vinyl, wood with vinyl or aluminum cladding, metal or fiberglass. The window mullions may be applied between the panes of glass or on the surface of the glass to give the look of a grid pattern. Grids come in different style options, and blinds or shades can be installed.
Sliding doors are the other prominent option for patio doors. You may have unpleasant memories of awful aluminum sliding doors with screens that never stayed in their track. Fortunately, great improvements have been made both in the looks and operation of this type of door. Sliding doors require a minimum of two doors. One slides and doubles up with the other so the entire opening is not available as it would be with swinging doors. You have the same options for grids and material choices on sliding doors as you do on swinging doors. Just make sure the roller assemblies are well-constructed so they will work well for years to come.
The concept of sliding doors has now been taken to a new level that allows opening up entire walls to the out-of-doors. While used more often in warmer climates such as southern Utah or California, these wall systems can also be used in cooler climates. An indoor pool, for instance, would become more pleasing to use in the summer if an entire wall could disappear. Opening up rooms to large decks or patios can also be desirable in the warmer months.
These retractable walls are made up of glass panels that “disappear” in two different ways: Some are hinged and fold like an accordion and some telescope by gliding past one another. Of course, any time you want to open up a large expanse of wall, a structural engineer must be involved in the process from the beginning.
On a final note, patio doors and glass walls in any incarnation can be pricey. But if your budget allows, patio doors and glass walls can add incredible beauty and function of your home and yard. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.