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1948 - 2013. Serving Toronto homes for the past 65
Doors installed at locations other than front of house are referred to as patio doors. Main object is to allow most light in, undisturbed view outside and easy access to back yard. With that, this door style presents unique challenges:
Like any other product and more so, selecting patio doors is a
compromise. Either you wish to have above attributes with a good and
long serving product, and compromise on the price; or forgo some of
the futures and select a low priced product.
Regrettably one can not have both.
Most common patio doors are sliders. In general, sliders carry a lower ticket price and are more energy efficient than hinged - garden doors. Nevertheless, many home owners replace the builder's slider with a garden door - either for ease of use, style, opening area or functionality. Having said that, a high end sliding door may cost as much a comparable garden door.
Patio doors, in both sliding or hinged configuration may offer the following attributes. Note that not all doors are available with all options.
Sliding doors are offered in solid vinyl,
vinyl/wood, wood, aluminum and fiberglass. Aluminum is now used
almost exclusively for high-rise residential, where other material offer better performance
and nicer, less industrial looks at
Pricewise, vinyl is at the bottom, followed by fiberglass, hybrid fiberglass / wood and all wood. As wood has its own niche as a top end product, most home owners select vinyl or fiberglass.
Vinyl and fiberglass sliding doors are thermally efficient, take little space, require no maintenance except for the occasional cleaning, are easy to operate and show a large glass area.
Unlike windows, sliding doors are made in fixed sizes. In the retrofit trade we remove one door and replace it with another of the same size. Notwithstanding that, custom sizes can be offered at a premium. Custom size doors are few and far between, but caution should be practiced for DIY projects. Fixed sidelites and transoms can be added.
Common width doors are:
|5'||XO / OX|
|6'||XO / OX|
|7' 6"||XOX, OOX, XOO|
|8'||XO / OX|
|9'||XOX, OOX, XOO|
Door operating side simulation:
To compensate for non-standard width or height, a custom door can be made. Alternatively, an integral transom or sidelites can make up the difference. Sidelites can be mounted on either side of the door or on both, and can be supplied with any size or configuration.
Sliding doors are complex products, and as such require a high degree of specialization. While one can start making vinyl windows with a small investment of $10,000, or pre-hung entrance doors in a garage with a drill and a miter saw, sliding doors are made in real factories. Yet, some doors are better than others, as will be demonstrated later. Most, if not all manufacturers will not sell to the public, and any such claim - 'buy direct' should be taken with a grain of salt.
We divide the sliding doors into two chief categories:
New construction vinyl doors - where doors are made with price first in mind. Such doors are offered with minimum passable specifications and are void of any frills. Commonly an all-vinyl structure.
High end door or retrofit door vinyl doors - where the doors are made to the high standards, performs better, are easier to operate, are serviceable and last much longer. The price is higher than the new construction product, but the value is superior.
Builders fiberglass doors - all fiberglass doors, lower profile, entry level hardware, bare of options.
High end fiberglass doors - offered in many configurations, looks, profiles, options and hardware.
Low-end doors are aggressively offered at the market place for fire sale prices, so home owners may unknowingly replace one bad product with another poor product.
A comforting fact is that while the quality gap is wide, the price difference is narrow.
The reasons for using vinyl is simple. Vinyl is an excellent material to work with, has superior thermal characteristics and lends itself well for all fenestration needs. However, it lacks in two areas - mediocre mechanical strength and it does not take screws well.
Mechanical lack of strength is a non-issue when making windows, as sections are relatively short. Critical areas are reinforced with steel stiffeners, so the combination of both address any structural concern.
Sliding doors are a tougher challenge. height of a door is 80", and frames are made up to 16'.
Sashes - where windows corner welding is structural enough to sustain the product, patio door welded corners are the weakest part. In a good door, the styles and rails are reinforced with steel sections, which is fine. But, in a welded sash the reinforcement can not to interfere with the corner welding, meaning the steel are cut short and the welder corners are guiltless of any strength. Further, low end doors are stop glazed, which in most entry level doors carry little mechanical strength.
A good door will have a mechanical sash, where reinforcements in styles and rails extend to the full vinyl section length, mad are screwed together. This makes the panes much stronger, and will not ever deform. The same steel reinforce net also saucily holds the glass within it.
Frame - In low-end vinyl sliding doors, the frames made of vinyl profiles, screwed together - vinyl to vinyl, which never ends up well. When made like this, the frame does not have the strength to sustain itself, and needs to be supported by the surrounding walls. Not only it is difficult to install, such doors may go off-kilter and compromise the insulation value as well as be difficult to operate. The sill is made of hollow vinyl as well, so may deform under extensive use.
As opposed to that, most high end doors are made a solid wood frame capped with vinyl, so no wood is exposed. The frame is screwed together wood to wood, so that the door is self-supporting and rigid. The sill is supported by solid wood, and will not move or deform.
There is also an in-between product, where internal wood jamb extension is attached to an all vinyl frame. It is used in tight applications.
Sill - better door offer serviceable track, meaning that if damaged track can be easily replaced without removing the whole door or worse - removing the whole sill section.
Weather stripping and interlock - the weakest part of a door or a window is where the sashes meet. In a good sliding door the interlock will be wide, positively lock and supported with two runes of weather strips.
Hardware - what makes the noticeable difference. Cheap sliding doors use matching hardware, visible and under the hood.
Handle and locks - cheaper door offer basic handle, and any decent style would be extra. Locking mechanism should be either reversed - locking striker moving up, against attempts to jimmy the operating panel. A foot lock is commonly included in better doors.
Fiberglass door with prairie style SDL
A window that was poorly installed may still function, sort of. A regular window can be forced to shut.
Patio doors however need to be installed to perfection, otherwise it will not perform. It will leak air and water, will not open, and when opened will not close. We can not overemphasize the importance of proper installation.
|High end||Entry level|
|Other jab sizes||Available||Special order|
|Narrow 5' and 6'||Available||Special order|
|Custom size||Special order||Special order|
Right - heavy walls and reinforced style compared to a low-end door style.
Right - heavy walls and reinforced rail compared to a low-end door rail.
|Sash wall thickness|
|External (mm)||.075” (1.9)||.055” (1.4)|
|Internal (mm)||.060” (1.5)||.030” (0.8)|
|Rollers mount||Ball berings||Friction pons|
Above - double roller, below - single roller.
Kick lock. Note two locking positions - tight and ventilation.
|External key lock||Optional||Optional|
|Anti lift block||Standard||NA|
|Inside wood grain||Available|
|Insulated kick plate||Available||NA|
Wood buck sill on top. Note the serviceable track and front aluminum nosing. On right all-vinyl door (not to scale).
Complete door track and sash assembly.
|Interlock WS||Double sided||Double sided|
|Ease of operation||E3|
Specifications are subject to change without notice
Specifications are subject to change without notice