Patio Doors – Do You Prefer To See Frames Or The View Beyond The Glass?

There are various types of patio doors. French doors, traditional wooden centre-opening doors with glazed panels, are inexpensive and functional and will remain popular, probably forever. Attempts to improve insulating properties and reduce maintenance by manufacturing PVC versions has not replaced the traditional timber-framed French door because, let’s face it, wooden ones look good and PVC ones don’t. Even tired old traditional French doors have a shabby chic that many of us are drawn to in pictures of sunny Provence.

Unrestricted in the width span of an opening, bi folding doors are more versatile than French doors. Their frames may be PVC, timber or aluminum (thermally broken for good insulation). Of these, aluminum frames will be the slimmest, partly because it is a strong medium but also because of the ease of inserting the double glazed unit into it. Wooden frames, as well as being sympathetic to nature’s elements, need to be of a certain thickness each side of the double glazing to maintain sufficient force without splitting. PVC door frames at the cheaper end of the door market are particularly wide in order to add strength to the door. This is overcome in better PVC products by reinforcing the inside of the frames with metal.

Because French doors and bi-folding doors are free to swing at one side, consideration must be given to the strain on hinges if the door is heavy, therefore there is a restriction on each door width, probably a maximum of about one metre. Sliding doors remain completely within the top and bottom runners and, therefore, are not subject to the same constraints. It may be possible to install a pair of sliding doors, each one possibly four, five or perhaps up to six feet across, with narrow frames. The view when closed is far better than with bi-folding doors but, in the better weather when you may require maximum access between the house and garden, half of the access is blocked by the doors.

Newly launched in 2010, an innovative design that has taken the best elements of each style and discarded the unnecessary bits. At first sight, whether closed or open, frameless glass doors appear to be sleek versions of bi-folding doors but they have been designed without side frames by removing the need for hinges. The difference is in the mechanics of opening and closing the frameless doors.

The first door opens in the same way as any normal door and remains at right-angles to the door opening. Subsequent doors are then able to slide on discrete top and bottom guides and pivot to stack against the previous door.

As it is necessary to use an effective seal to ensure the double glazing complies with British building regulations, the view through closed frameless glass doors is not entirely without interruption, as the gasket is opaque, approximately 19mm wide.

No other door style can provide all these features:

  • up to 8m of fully retractable doors, plus
  • low percentage of interrupted view, plus
  • high thermal insulation values.

If you want to see the view rather than the door frame AND you want total access between the home and garden, a frameless glass door would seem to be the patio door style that you are looking for.