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What Makes French Patio Doors Different from Standard Patio Doors

You’ve finally decided you’ve fought your last battle with that sticky, difficult-to-open patio door. You’ve smashed your nose against the glass for the last time. It needs to be replaced NOW! Simple enough to do, right? After all, you live in the San Francisco North Bay Area. Several replacement window contractors are serving Marin and Sonoma Counties. But when talking with the different window consultants, they kept showing you options – sliding patio doors, sliding French doors, hinged patio doors, hinged French doors – so many options! Do you want to replace what you have, or do you want to upgrade – maybe add a bit of style to the place?

Arrrrgh! You’re going to live with these doors for the next 20+years. How do you make the RIGHT choice?

At Save Energy Company, we help you decide what’s best for you and your home by providing straightforward, knowledgeable and experience-based answers to your questions.

What’s the difference between patio doors & French patio doors?

The difference has to do with the size of the frame at the bottom of the door. A standard door has a slim bottom rail. The French patio door has a taller bottom rail, generally 6 – 8 inches in height.  Not as glamorous a difference as the name suggests, right? That’s why marketing guys get paid the big bucks to make things seem more glamorous than they are… That said, standard doors offer a more contemporary, open and streamlined look. French-style doors lend a more classic look.

french patio doors
This is an example of a French-style sliding patio door. Notice how high the bottom rails are.


As indicated earlier, both standard and French patio doors come in sliding or hinged styles. Hinged doors swing either out or in to open.

Hinged patio & French patio doors have one very strong characteristic: they are dramatic. There’s something special about grabbing a handle in each hand and thrusting the doors open with a flourish. It’s all very Hollywood.

patio doors
This is a standard or contemporary sliding patio door. Notice the bottom rails are not as high. They are slightly larger than rest of the frame.


Here are two things to consider when deciding between hinged doors or sliders:

  1. Is there room to swing the doors open on both the outside and inside?
  2. Is the landing on the outside of the doors big enough to make opening the doors from outside easy, convenient?

A third consideration is typically the tie-breaker – what will you be carrying through the door most often? If you carry bulky items like a laundry basket through the doorway, you’ll probably find a slider to be your best option. They typically open wider and can be easily opened with one hand. (Forgot about that, right? Patio doors aren’t made to be difficult to open. They’re made to glide open with one finger!)

Sliding patio doors also give a home a more modern look – even if they are sliding French patio doors.

In the end, choosing the patio door style that’s best for you comes down to aesthetics and functionality. What looks best with your style of home? Which will be easier, more convenient to use, day in, day out?

When you finally decide which is best for you and your home, your Save Energy Company replacement window consultant will guide you through the offerings from their top-quality, nationally-recognized manufacturers, Simonton, Milgard and Marvin.  Of course, then you’ll have to decide what type of frame construction you want – vinyl, fiberglass or wood?  There are key differences and benefits to understand and consider here, too, but that’s a topic for another day. What you won’t have to decide any longer is which story you tell about how you hurt your nose….