What are the best patio doors types?
Choosing the best patio doors types depends on many factors and hinged, sliding, stacking or folding doors all provide a different user experience. In this article, we explain what are the best patio doors for all manner of scenarios.
Whether you choose aluminium, steel, PVCu, timber or even a hybrid patio door, every product today promises the latest in design, with reassuring security, energy efficiency and reliability.
- The patio door term explained
- Factors affecting your choice of the best patio doors
- Choosing the best patio doors based on how you use them
- How location affects your choice of patio doors
- The best patio doors based on design and styling
- Security, energy-efficiency and weather sealing
- How price also affects patio door choices
- Sliding patio door product reviews
The patio door term explained
First of all, it’s worth explaining that the term ‘patio doors’ refers to all opening types of doors. The reason being their primary function of allowing access to the patio, the garden and the facility to stay open on warmer days opening up the home. So whether your home needs or has a single door for garden access, sliding doors, folding doors, French doors or more than one type, all of these can comfortably be referred to as patio doors.
Consequently, for the purposes of explaining who makes the best patio doors, we’re covering not just aluminium, but all types of patio doors in the most common materials.
Factors affecting your choice of the best patio doors
The type of patio door replacement, your budget, your property type and the different materials available all play a part in choosing the best type of patio door. Then there are all the different ways we use patio doors, whether it’s to create a focal feature, a particular look or a specific user requirement. And not every patio door type meets every need. Consequently, it’s worth starting out with what your new patio doors are for.
- Are patio doors required as a replacement for existing doors?
- Do you need patio doors for a new extension?
- Do you need your doors to work in a particular way?
- Are you trying to achieve a particular look?
Of course, additional considerations include size, budget, planning constraints and even colour. The useful information, product suggestions and advice can also extend to other materials and not just aluminium.
Above all, do remember that when choosing any new window or door is that there’s no bad or substandard product. Regulations, certifications, set quality standards all mean today’s products are fit for their purpose. The two things that let patio doors down are bad manufacturing and installation. Therefore, the other key requirement in finding the best patio doors is the right company making and supplying the product.
Choosing the best patio doors based on how you use them
Patio doors are not just for garden access. Property types, houses of flats, location and even the number of doors in the home all play a part in choosing the right door. Therefore, if how you use your doors matters in your buying decision, we’ve tried to cover most scenarios
For when your patio doors are frequent access doors
There are many properties and especially those built around the 1980s and 1990s where developments had open green space at the front of the properties with garages and car parking at the back. Consequently, the design of these homes, especially semi-detached or terraced, means often using the back of the house for access into the property instead of walking round to the front door.
Some bifolding and sliding doors don’t come with key access from the outside. This is especially the case on bifolding doors in an even number of panels all folding in one direction. So do bear this in mind when choosing this product and ask this specific question about external key access.
Therefore, the best type of patio door when frequently used as a main entrance into the property remains a single door or set of French doors. It’s also possible to achieve this with a set of bifolds having a traffic door but do expect to service your doors from time to time as the doors may drop or go out of adjustment from very frequent use.
What are the best patio doors if you live in a terraced house or any property with only one set of doors out to the garden? Here you need to consider your options carefully to get the best user experience from your patio doors.
If you like the idea of bifolding doors, always configure these with a traffic door. A traffic door is one leaf, hinged and working like a regular door. It lets you open the door for ventilation, taking out the washing, letting out a pet, without having to fold all the panels back. You can find out more about all the best brands of folding sliding doors.
Sliding doors are also a good idea as you can slide the door anywhere along the track and they’re space-saving, although a heavier option than a bifold. Of course, the classically styled French doors with or without side panels remain a popular choice too.
Doors giving both sliding and folding features
The standout patio doors giving the benefits of a bifolding door, a sliding door, and the convenience of a single back door whilst also taking up far less space has to be the slide and turn or slide and stack design.
What’s great about slide and turn doors is how they work in both smaller, medium and large openings. They allow more functional ventilation compared to other patio doors and let you place furniture right up against the panels, freeing up a lot of space. Not everyone will like the way you have to move all the panels one by one. But when it comes to one of the most functional patio doors, it’s one of the best.
We also recommend looking at slide and turn doors if you really can’t decide between a bifold or a sliding door. These may provide the best of both worlds so check them out or get in touch for more information.
Best patio doors for accessibility
It’s important to remember homeowners with special needs or disabilities. Thankfully doors in commercial buildings are required by law to provide access for all.
Providing a flush threshold to sliding or bifolding doors is one way of making doors more accessible for wheelchair users. Even better for bifolds is going with a product having a dedicated ramp or wheelchair friendly threshold. Solarlux, Schuco, aïr800, Alumina bifolds are just some of the best patio doors making their products easier to use. The benefit of this ramp threshold is not needing the extra work required when sinking the track low.
For French doors, all materials come with a low threshold option so these too are better patio doors for accessibility.
How location affects your choice of patio doors
The location of your doors is another consideration affecting which type of door is best. So we’ve put together some of the most common locations for sliding doors and which products or types are best.
Why sliding doors are best for balconies
When space is at a premium such as small patios or balconies, sliding patio doors remain the best solution for space-saving. As these doors slide on a track you won’t lose any space outside.
The compromise with any sliding door is not having access to the full door opening. The solutions here are a double or triple track slider, letting each panel move and letting you choose which door to open. Another solution is going for bifolding doors with smaller panels.
The trade-off is more panels but less space taken up outside. Or, if the internal space allows, opening inwards bifolds are an excellent solution too. Slide and turn doors with independent moving panels also provide an excellent solution here.
The right doors for internal use
Whether used as room dividers, to separate a conservatory or divide a hallway. Patio doors are also used inside the home and especially now with steel-look and Crittall® inspired glazing very popular.
You’ve got quite a lot of choices here for interior patio doors with single glazed slide and turn doors, top hung sliding doors, steel interior doors and full frameless systems. Aluminium and steel, therefore, provide the best patio doors for internal use but timber doors also work well too. Many of these products either come with a recessed track/threshold or even better, none at all.
Solarlux SL20, Sunflex interior systems, Aluco steel-inspired glazing, specialist products by interior glass companies like Cantifix, IQ Glass, Frameless Glass Curtains and many other providers all provide fantastic solutions for interior patio doors. And if you don’t need full insulation or security, the single glazed versions work and look better.
Patio doors for North, South East and West Elevations
Any door product in any material if of course suitable for any elevation, so our advice here relates to the glass and getting the best patio door comfort. Facing North or getting little sun during the day? Go for products with the best energy efficiency and hybrid materials here work best combined with either triple glazing or double glazed units with a low U-Value. As you’re not getting much sun retaining as much heat as possible is quite important. If building a new extension with a North elevation, consider larger windows and doors on this elevation.
Whilst South facing is desirable, the trade-off is too much sun and heat. Consider solar control glass or glass with built-in blinds in your patio doors. Again triple glazing or low U-Value with high g-value glass helps in the winter for heat loss and works better keeping the room cooler on warmer days.
For patio doors on East and West elevations, the advice is similar to South facing although you won’t get as much direct sunlight. The larger the windows the more solar gain so consider solar control glass or shading solutions.
The best patio doors based on design and styling
When you have a particular look in mind today’s generation of patio doors meet virtually all requirements. Here are some of the most common design requirements and what are the best patio doors to meet these.
When maximum views and largest glass sizes matter
Whether you’re replacing old doors or building a new extension, many people love the idea of getting better views. Sliding doors remain the only product offering the least amount of visible aluminium and the most amount of glass.
Therefore when you want the best views (through closed doors) and as few panels as possible, sliding doors are the only option here in any material, although aluminium sliders give you the thinnest sightlines. Here’s which aluminium sliding doors have the thinnest mullions.
For sliding doors, you’ll get the best overall look of a glass wall with two sliding panels. There are impressively sized sliding doors such as the Glide-S contemporary slider made by Dutemann comfortably going more than six metres in just two panels.
When the design of your new extension involves getting the most glass and least amount of visible aluminium, then the current generation of slim patio doors works best. Of course, getting this result means hiding the frame into the structure and setting the door track flush.
Here you’ve got the choice of slim sliding doors with minimal mullions. The various Cortizo-based patio doors are popular, but we also recommend looking at Sunvista sliding doors, Maxlight, Greenways, Ultraline and the SVG20 model made by Sunflex and the Hi-Finity by Reynaers.
At the very top end of the market, the Cero sliding door by Solarlux, Panoramah, Vitrocsa, Cantifix Skyframe are in many respects the best sliding doors of their type.
Would you prefer a bifold door but with larger panels? Check out two products on the market coming at door panels at 1.5m wide. Of course, you need the space outside or inside for the panels to stack, but the Schuco heavy-duty ASS model and the XP Vision by Express Bifolds using the Alumil system go up to these impressive extra-wide panels.
The benefit is having three bifold panels in many openings requiring four panels with other bifold brands. Another excellent feature is with the doors closed they give you the look of a slimline sliding patio door. Even better, you get the full opening only a bifold door provides opening up the room on warmer days.
Offering even larger panel sizes are pivoting doors. These are usually a single door leaf. They open in or out, on an offset floor pivot and are capable of covering large sizes in just one panel.
Best slimline French Doors
Some properties such as cottages and smaller houses need new French doors and many don’t like the thick sightlines of PVCu and timber doors.
If sightlines are top of your list and budget nothing is slimmer than steel French doors such as those by Crittall® or any expert supplier of steel glazing. And modern steel doors are thermally efficient, super secure and last forever.
For aluminium French doors, we recommend looking at Alitherm, Aluk and Reynaers doors all coming in slim versions. You could even choose an aluminium steel-look door with or without the bars and grid pattern.
Another top tip is to look at buying two-panel bifold doors but made as French doors. You can even get them with side panels. Origin OB-49, Visofold 6000, Sunflex SF55e, Schuco ASS70, Solarlux Ecoline and Sieger Lux are our recommendations for thin bifolds also possible as French doors or single doors. Check these out or get in touch – you’ll find a double bifold set, slimmer in many cases than regular French doors.
Best patio doors for open corner designs
If you’re building a new extension and like the idea of a full open corner, then the options are sliding doors or bifolding doors. There’s even a frameless version available with no visible mullions.
The open corner design depends on your design and the look you want with closed and open doors. Sliding doors with an open corner give fewer visible mullions, larger glass panels and better views closed, but you’ll lose some of your apertures with open doors as they need somewhere to slide and rest. Pocket sliding doors are another solution here.
For bifolds, any of the current range comes in an open corner option with a moveable post so you can choose the best door based on sightlines, brand or budget. And both sliding and folding doors give you the option of a flush threshold and track. There are also products like Sunparadise’s Monoslide that goes around corners, disappears from view and gives you more of the available opening.
Best steel-look patio doors
The best steel-look patio doors is the genuine Crittall® steel product and no other. There’s nothing like it and it’s timeless, luxurious and iconic. If you’re after the genuine article this is it and of course, any other steel patio door.
Of course, steel comes at a higher price and outside the budget of many. Therefore the best steel look patio doors are all explained in full to help you buy the most suitable for your property project.
The Alitherm and its various versions and brands, aïr MOD, Reynaers SL38, Aluco Aluminium and similar products are the best options here.
The best patio doors in a minimal and frameless design
When it comes to choosing the best patio doors with minimal and all-glass designs, aluminium is likely to provide the best solution because of reduced sightlines.
It’s important to remember no product is 100% frameless and framing is required for tracks, locks and other essential features. Getting the frameless look usually involves hiding the framework in the structure of a new extension leaving mostly glass in view.
However, there are some products going beyond this and one of the best is made and supplied by Frameless Glass Curtains. These doors use a slide and turn design and feature no aluminium at the door mullions, just glass to glass edges with an advanced seal. They’re secure and fully weather-resistant too.
You can also check out Vistaline, IQ Glass, Keller, Vitrosca, Sunseeker Doors, Skyframe or the SF20 by ID Systems/Sunflex as further suggestions. Remember these door types are at the top end of the market. Other options marketed as frameless is the entire range of slim sliding doors with 20mm mullions although these remain full-framed systems. It’s the installation of these products creating some of the best patio doors in a frameless style.
New patio doors in a woodgrain finish
The best patio doors in a woodgrain finish are those made of wood of course with hybrid patio doors using fine woods inside and aluminium outside. Whether you choose hinged, folding or sliding doors, nothing beats the look and feel of real wood.
PVCu patio doors of all types now come in some gorgeous plain or coloured woodgrain foils and we’d also recommend these, not to mention being more affordable. They no longer have the tacky cheap look of early generation woodgrain plastic windows.
For aluminium, the best woodgrain doors are the foiled Liniar bifolds and French doors under the Alumina name. Not only do they look gorgeous but they’re an excellent match for existing PVCu windows previously fitted. Origin also has excellent woodgrain patio doors in their OB72 and OB49 bifolds, French doors and aluminium windows. Smart Systems also offer their Woodstructure finish. There are other brands too albeit on longer lead times and special orders.
Security, energy-efficiency and weather sealing
Ongoing product developments, improving industry standards and good product design means all patio doors offer good levels of security, energy efficiency and weather sealing.
Some products are designed with higher performance standards than others but overall you can expect all aluminium, PVCu, timber or hybrid patio doors to meet minimum requirements. These include:
- A U-Value no higher than 1.8Wm2K
- Safety glass provided in all doors as standard
- Doors glass having a soft-coat low-emissivity coating, warm edge spacer bars and argon gas fill
Ventilation may also be required meeting Building Regulations for new openings or where the outgoing doors and windows have ventilation such as trickle vents.
For weather performance, most if not all patio doors are designed to provide excellent sealing and most are put through specific weather and sealing tests such as BS6375
Best patio doors for energy efficiency and warmth
Every product will make reasonable claims about how energy efficient they are. But if you’re looking for the doors providing the best energy efficiency there are two good options.
First of all is the specification of the glass itself. The better the performance the more energy efficient the product. The less frame and more glass also provide great energy efficiency and low U-Values. As well as this, the more glass and less frame, the lower the U-Values should be.
However, if you’re looking for the most energy efficient including warm to the touch, then timber or hybrid patio doors, whether sliding, folding or hinged are the most energy efficient in most cases as well as the best for touch and feel. Again the glass chosen provides different results including double or triple glazing.
Best patio doors for security
This is probably the simplest topic to address even though security is obviously important in any patio door with most being at the back of the house and out of sight. The good news is, most products, pvcu, aluminium, hybrid, timber or steel come with excellent security credentials.
Design features such as anti-lift blocks, internal glazing beads, glass locking clips and the strength of the profile all assist with door protection and security. Of course some have better hardware, performance and ratings than others. The security tests all good patio doors pass are the same irrespective of whether they’re metal, wood or plastic. Each product goes through the same attack tests.
One of the ways of getting better and more secure patio doors is to insist on a full Secured by Design specification or upgrade. This usually means having laminated glass, higher security door cylinders and other security enhancements.
How price also affects patio door choices
Best patio doors for those on a budget
Not everyone wants to spend big on patio doors and for many, they just need new doors and don’t need the best. People renovating property to sell on, landlords refurbishing their properties or those wanting to replace damaged or old doors, don’t necessarily need the best .
For those on a budget, PVCu patio doors, sliding, folding or hinged provide the best solution. Choose your PVCu product well and you’ll actually get some pretty good products. Liniar doors are slimmer than most and their bifolds are pretty good in this material. Patiomaster sliding doors are some of the best of their type too.
In aluminium, there are some more affordable systems such as Senior Architectural, Kestrel Systems, Exlabesa, Skyframe, Aluk and Smart Systems, depending on the product and where you buy them from.
Best patio doors for bigger budgets
Spending more doesn’t necessarily mean getting a better product. Bigger budgets are projects with a specific design requirement, particular patio door types or doors are an integral part of the overall project such as integrating with other glazing or even having automation, sun control or a particular feature.
Aluminium and hybrid wood-aluminium products are the best products to use where the design is larger, more complex or needs integrating with the property as a whole. Both aluminium and hybrid patio doors provide the best in terms of quality, design flexibility.
Check out Grand Designs on television or any ambitious property builds and renovations. It’s an aluminium and hybrid product that is mostly used. Crucially, when your project is ambitious, it’s equally important to work with a specialist installer such as Express Bifolds, ID Systems, IQ Glass, Cantifix, Sieger, Solarlux and other similar businesses with significantly more expertise as well as complementary products in glass or metal.
Best patio doors for engineering and design
There’s no absolute best product here, as it depends on too many factors. However, some systems stand out more than others and there’s a good reason why architects prefer them over the more mainstream brands.
German designed and made patio doors such as Schuco, Sunflex, Solarlux, Weru have the best reputation for engineering. There are also other brands such as Reynaers, Sunparadise, Kawneer and Technal, Panoramah is also regarded by professionals as the best engineered. For PVCu patio doors Residence 9 and Liniar products provide some of the best styles, finishes and even French doors in a timber-like style. For hybrid products, Centor, Internorm, Westcoast, Rationel and Velfac are excellent choices.
Centor patio doors are made like no other product using only their hardware. They’re even assembled first then powder coated so there’s not a single flaw in the paint finish at the joints – something no other manufacturer does.
Best patio doors for the wow factor
What’s the wow factor when it comes to choosing new patio doors? Is it size, operation, colour, style or high-tech features? Wow factor comes in many different forms but these doors are typically grand sliders, wide and tall doors, minimal sightlines or extreme sizes.
At the eye-opening end of the market, you’ll find Panoramah! or Cero sliding doors spanning six-metre heights and two floors. There are products such as HIRT Swiss Descending Windows disappearing into the floor, frameless structural glazing incorporating doors and automatic sliding doors. Pocket sliding doors, pivot opening doors and doors moving around a corner are also in this group of products.
These high-end doors are limited only by the size of glass possible or engineering constraints. Materials include aluminium, steel, fine woods inside and aluminium outside as well as some advanced frameless glazing.