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1948 - 2012.  Serving Toronto homes for the past 64 years.
 

Sliding patio doors

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:

  • Large, and still easy to operate: an operating panel for a 5' door, double glazed, weighs app 100 lbs. A triple glazed, if used, is 50% more. An 8' double glazed panel is about 160 lbs. Yet, the door has to operate by young children and frail little old ladies. The door's sill needs to last carrying such weights.
  • Glazing - where a small size window can survive shabby glazing, a large sealed unit can not. Glazing needs to be both mechanically stronger and better sealed. For mechanical strength a good patio door will use best in class spacer - stainless steel or compatible. A double seal process is paramount for withstanding glass' pump action.  
  • Due to the doors large sizes, structural integrity has to be considered as well. A typical house window is about 12 SQFT. The smallest patio door is 33 sqft, almost three times bigger, and a sizes of 70 sqft and over are not uncommon. Patio doors also bigger than entrance door, where a typical size is 20 SQFT for a single door or twice for a double. Same applies to screens and hardware. 
  • Wide glass area, and keep the cold and heat out: Doors are equipped with thermal glass sealed unit, low emissivity coat and warm edge spacer. This will minimize cold and heat conduction and radiation so area next to door will not be too cold or too hot.
  • Long perimeter and meeting rail, and still prevent air leak: operating panels are protected with double or triple weather stripping layer. Bottom rail is covered with well adjusted and efficient sweep. Drainage system vents in to the track, not into the house. In sliding doors - wide meeting rail positive interlock combined with additional two line of weather stripping.
  • Product life should not be taken for granted. a small window or regular sized door can be installed les than perfect and yet operate relatively well. Large and heavy product as patio doors need to be properly installed, not almost so. Badly adjusted door will become an eyesore, will  badly insulate and might be a safety hazard. Door the is frequently used it may require service from time to time, so it's pedigree is important - whether  the manufacturer or seller will be around long after the installation to provide parts and service. 
  • Stock sizes - most fenestration products are custom made or easy to customize. Patio doors, be it sliding or hinged, are made to standard sizes. In most cases it is not an issue, but the few instances requiring custom sizes or options can be costly.
  • Not the least of which, safety has to be addressed as well. Old and low-end sliding doors can be easily compromised by removing the fixed pane or jimmying the operating pane. Most new doors are protected against it. Double locks  solidly secure operating pane, and foot lock provide a secondary defense line. Tempered glass makes it difficult to break.

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.  

Styles

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. 

Dressing

Patio doors, in both sliding or hinged configuration may offer the following attributes. Note that not all doors are available with all options.

Patio door

Vinyl sliding patio door

Materials

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 similar cost.
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.

Sizes and configuration

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:

Nominal width Configuration  
5' XO / OX  
6' XO / OX  
7' 6" XOX, OOX, XOO  
8' XO / OX  
9' XOX, OOX, XOO  
10' OXXO  
12' OXXO, OXO  
16' OXXO  

Notes:

  • Door size indicated is nominal. Actual width may differ by door style and other criteria. Please contact us for exact measurements per particular opening.
  • Operating side is as viewed from outside.
  • Heights - standard is 79.50". Some sizes available at 6', 8'-10" and 8'.
  • X - operating pane. O - fixed pane.

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. 

Door with an integral transom

Door with two integral sidelites

Patio door w kickplate

Patio door with insulated kickplate

Manufacturers

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. 

Door grades

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.

Patio door with grids

Sliding patio door with colonial grids and matching transom

Build

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.

  • Good doors feature two double ball-bearing, metal roller sets. This way the panel's weight is well distributed and movement is smooth. Cheaper doors use two single rollers, operate on a friction pin, with nylon rollers. When door is not used for long time, say winter, the plastic rollers may flatten and when operated again door will jerk.
  • In hinged doors a rigid hinge system keeps the door from sagging or getting off square, so it always closes with a slight touch.  
  • 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.

 

Low profile fiberglass door - inside view

Low profile fiberglass door - outside view

French rail fiberglass door

Fiberglass door with square SDL

Fiberglass door with horizontal SDL

Fiberglass door with prairie style SDL

 

Fiberglass door handles: high end - left, standard - right.

Vinyl sliding door

Vinyl sliding door OXXO

Installation

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.

Vinyl door comparison

  High end Entry level
Frame size    
Standard jamb 6.00” 4.00"
Other jab sizes Available Special order
Narrow 5' and 6' Available Special order
Height    
80" Standard Standard
71” Available Special order

82"

Available Special order
96" Available Special order
Custom size Special order Special order
   
Structure    
Style reinforced Steel NA
     
Style  
Right - heavy walls and reinforced style compared to a low-end door style.
 
Rail reinforced Steel NA
     
Rail  
Right - heavy walls and reinforced rail compared to a low-end door rail.
 
Lock reinforced Aluminum NA
Sash wall thickness    
External (mm) .075” (1.9) .055” (1.4)
Internal (mm) .060” (1.5) .030” (0.8)
Material uPVC PVC
   
Hardware    
Handle Metal Wood
Rollers Tandem Single
Rollers mount Ball berings Friction pons
     
Rollers

 

Above - double roller, below - single roller.
 
Self lubricating Yes NA
Suspension Adjustable Fixed
Active bumpers Double  
Reversed lock Standard Standard
Kick lock Standard Optional
     
Kicklock  
Kick lock. Note two locking positions - tight and ventilation.
   
Inside latch Standard Standard
Multipoint lock Optional Optional
Brass handle Optional Optional
External key lock Optional Optional
Anti lift block Standard NA
   
Finishes    
White in/out Standard
Tan in/out Available
External colours Available  
Internal colours Available  
Inside wood grain Available  
External capping Standard  
   
Glazing    
Safety glass Standard Standard
IG 1.00” .75"
Spacer Stainless steel Aluminum
SuperSpacer Available Optional
Low E/A Standard Optional
Marine seal Integrated NA
Tint Available NA
Miniblinds Available NA
Grids Available Optional
Insulated kick plate Available NA
   
Assembly    
Reversible Yes Yes
Sidelites Available NA
Transoms Available NA
Sash Mecahnical Welded
Glazing Coupled Stops
   
Sill    
Sill Substrate Wood Vinyl
     
Sills  
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.
 

Slope

 
Drainage Integral  
Serviceable track Standard  
Aluminum nosing Standard  
Sill extensions Available  
Screen track Integral  
   
Screen    
Frame Extruded Rolled
Self levelling Yes No
Locking Yes Yes
Rollers Adjustable Fixed
Mesh Fibreglass Fibreglass
Retractable screen Available Available
   
Weather proofing    
Weather stripping Continuous  
Pile/fin Two One
Bulb One One
Weeping Integral NA
Interlock Positive, 1.00” .75"
Interlock WS Double sided Double sided
   
Installation options    
Nailing fin Available Optional
Brickmould Available Optional
Internal WJE Available Optional
   
Typical Ratings    
Air tightness A3  
Water resistance B3  
Wind load C3  
Forced entry F3  
Ease of operation E3
Screen F3  

Specifications are subject to change without notice

MADE TO MEASURE
Products can be custom made

Quick links

Sliding doors
Ratings
Build
Specifications

Garden doors
Ratings
Specifications
Configuration

Related resources

Entrance doors