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What You Need To Know about French Patio Doors

Updated on April 24, 2012

All patio doors open up rooms and extend interior living spaces. Rooms that tend to be dark and small suddenly become roomy, bright and airy. But French patio doors are so beautiful and classy they add a special note of elegance to a home and quickly become the focal point of any room.

But what should you be looking for in a quality French patio door? Let’s take a look at some of the key elements you should be focusing on before you make that decision to knock out a wall.

Look for Quality Construction

You will want a solid, durable frame that looks like it will last a century. Traditionally, French patio doors were hewn from wood, but even if you do not care for an old world look, traditional craftsmanship can still marry modern ingenuity.

Today, quality manufacturers are making doors that are real wood on the interior side, featuring the classic woodworking technique of mortise-and-tenon joints, while the exterior is made of strong composite materials with finishes that withstand the weather, are maintenance-free and never lose their looks. With an array of glass, grid, grille and hardware styles to choose from, you can then achieve your preferred look, whether it’s colonial or contemporary.

Look for a well-designed threshold, one that will keep water away from the door and outside the house, where it belongs. You will also want to see good weatherstripping
so that your new doors close snugly, keeping out drafts and outside noise.

True French doors are hinged, so you can actually choose between outswing or inswing styles. Regardless, ask if the hinges are adjustable, because the doors will settle over time and you will appreciate that feature at some point in the future. The beauty of French doors depends on their symmetry, so there would be nothing worse than off-kilter French doors.

That said, did you know that you can have gliding Frenchwood patio doors? If you don’t really have the space for doors that swing out or swing in, you can still have a quality Frenchwood patio door in a sliding model.

Look for Security

There’s a lot of concern about the safety of French patio doors, but if you choose French doors with a multi-point locking system, you are buying a safe exterior French door.

A multi-point locking system means just that — the door is not relying on one single lock. Usually this involves a deadbolt and two other locks strategically placed near the top and at the bottom of the door controlled by the main deadbolt. This makes it harder for someone to jimmy the door or kick it in. Tempered glass would be another safety feature to consider, because tempered safety glass is four times stronger than regular glass.

Energy-Efficient Glass

With all that glass, the potential for energy loss through patio doors is quite high, but not if you choose the glass wisely. You’ll want to keep the heat out in the summer and the warm air in during the winter, so look for the best energy-efficient glass on the market. That will definitely mean Low-E glass at the very least.

Look for the Energy Star label and check the data on the NFRC label. You’ll be looking for two very important numbers; the U-factor and the SHGC, or Solar Heat Gain Co-efficient.

High-performance glass has a U-factor of 0.30 or lower, that’s because the lower the U-factor, the greater resistance to heat flow and the better its insulating properties.

SHGC is expressed as a number between 0 and 1. The lower a window's solar heat gain coefficient, the less solar heat it transmits.

Quality manufacturers have some extraordinary glass performance options these days that not only meet but exceed the government’s accepted standards. You can get truly high-performance glass to suit your climate — glass that achieves the highest efficiency ratings in cooler climates and is exceptional for warmer climates where solar heat gain can lead to excessive air conditioning costs.

High-performance glass helps to block out UV rays as well, which are harmful to drapes, fabrics and other furnishings. With the best glass options on the market today you can block out up to 95% of those harmful rays, yet still enjoy beautiful natural daylight streaming through your patio doors.

A little too sunny? You can also choose glass with a tinted coating that reduces the amount of visible light and sunlight, so that you won’t have to close the drapes or roll down the blinds, effectively hiding your beautiful doors from sight.

Installation, Warranty and a Final Word About Price

Quality French patio doors are worth the time it takes to do your research well, so find out as much as you can about the doors and the installation process before you buy.

A reputable company will be happy to walk you through the process and answer all your questions, including questions about the warranty. They will not hesitate to show you testimonials, let you speak to their past customers and even view an installation site. A good company will allow you the time you need to make an informed decision and ultimately the right choice so that you will be thrilled with your beautiful French doors for many years to come.

On a final note, never let the lowest price be the deciding factor. The decision to install French patio doors is an investment in your house; because they not only enhance your home they increase its value. Make your decision based on the quality of construction and performance of the doors themselves and on the reputations of the manufacturer and the dealer who is going to be installing them.

Gerry Rogers is the founder and president of Mr. Rogers Windows. He has been selling and installing home improvement products for over 25 years. Mr. Rogers backs your patio door choice with his Worry-Free, Lifetime Performance Guarantee.


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