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Alternatives to Basic Sliding Doors


on May 4, 2020


Though different types of architecture and home design have many distinct features and hallmarks that define each, one home design feature transcends them all — the sliding glass patio door. 

Sliding patio doors are a great use of space. They slide open within the door frame so you can place furniture, decor or a grill in front of the fixed panel without blocking the flow of the room. Though they take up some wall space, the added view of the outdoors makes sliding glass patio doors a picturesque use that can make your home feel a little more open. 

When it comes to finding a sliding door replacement, many homeowners stick with what they know. However, it’s important to understand that a patio door replacement can upgrade and elevate your home far beyond the basics.  There are an abundance of patio door options and configurations that can make excellent alternatives to sliding glass doors – without feeling basic. 

A stunning natural-light filled room with a 4-panel sliding glass door at the back of the room

3-Panel and 4-Panel Sliding Glass Doors

Two panel configurations are the most common and popular choice for sliding glass doors, but that doesn’t mean they are the best fit for your home and design preferences. While a two-panel glass sliding door may take up less space, there are many aesthetic and functional advantages to choosing a 3- or 4-panel sliding door instead. Upgrading to a 3-panel sliding glass door increases your natural light by 50 percent, and a 4-panel door creates an even wider opening for letting that sweet sunlight stream in. 

With a 3-panel sliding patio door, the functionality remains the same. One panel slides open while the others remain fixed, but you can choose whichever panel you want to operate — left, middle or right — to best fit the layout and common uses of your space. For 4-panel sliding glass doors, the middle two panels are typically operable and slide open over the outer panels, giving you double the space for foot traffic, moving furniture or plants in and out, or simply letting more open air into your home when the weather is nice. 

Swapping out an old sliding glass door for a new 3-panel or 4-panel model can be a great option for homes that need to conserve space on a small patio. The upgrade doesn’t have to come with major renovations, either. By choosing narrow glass panels, you avoid the need to tear out a partial or full wall to create the space needed for a multi-panel glass door. 

A black-framed, multi-panel sliding glass door brings the outdoors in

Exterior Pocket Doors

Pocket doors have been used on the interior of homes for centuries. They slide open and tuck right into the wall. Pocket doors can be designed to seamlessly fit the look of your home’s wall design as well, making their visible footprint nearly nonexistent if desired. 

On the patio, pocket sliding glass doors function the same way. But instead of a closed-off door, you get a beautiful glass wall that connects your home to the outdoors. Each panel of a multi-slide patio door glides open, stacking up to create a wide opening that provides an uninterrupted blend between indoor and outdoor spaces. As a sliding door replacement, an exterior pocket door offers a high level of customization. Owners can fit the size of their wall and patio by choosing pocket doors with  anywhere from four to 10 panels. If you don't have the room to store the panels inside the wall, multi-slide patio door panels can be stacked at the edge of the door’s track, too. 

double french doors as a patio door replacement provides elegant touch to a cozy modern living space

Exterior Double French Doors

Like pocket doors, french doors are a stylish feature on the inside of a home and are often seen in traditional architecture. In fact, their unique combination of style and function has made them more popular than any other patio door type outside of sliding glass doors.

Exterior french doors are classic in terms of both style and functionality, and add a unique touch of glamor to almost any room design. Because french doors can be customized to fit the size of an existing opening, you can upgrade to the European flair of exterior french doors without taking on an extensive patio door replacement project that requires major home renovation. 

Opting for double hinged french doors as a patio door replacement allows for greater latitude that enables you to configure your door to your home’s unique needs. Choose narrow doors for tighter spaces, inswing doors to preserve patio space or outswing if you need to save space in your interior. Functionally, french doors offer the flexibility to have both doors operable, or to leave one panel fixed.

A stunning exterior bi-fold patio door combines indoor and outdoor spaces seamlessly

Exterior Bifold Glass Doors

Bifold doors offer many of the same benefits as pocket doors, with a modern twist. Exterior bifold doors are often utilized as movable glass walls that emphasize modern home design

Instead of hiding away in pockets like a traditional pocket door, exterior bifold doors fold up and out of the way at the edges of the patio door frame.

Exterior folding doors offer a plethora of configuration opportunities. Customize the size and number of panels, where they open and meet and whether they create a straight, curved or angled glass wall to suit your home’s needs and your design preferences.

people enjoying an outdoor space with stunning sliding glass doors

Get the Right Alternative to Basic Sliding Doors for Your Home with Pella

When choosing your sliding glass door replacement, the most important consideration is space.

You should always start with an accurate measurement. Whether you’re hoping to replace a door within the existing space or want to install a door that takes up more real estate than your current configuration, accurate measurements of your existing doors and the walls around them are key. 

An in-home measurement by a window and door professional ensures you get the exact right size of patio door, which makes estimating the cost of the project much easier and more accurate. 

Next, you need to consider how your basic sliding door alternative may impact your home’s current design. Upgrading from a sliding glass door might disrupt some of your existing layout. Make sure you have the square footage to accommodate your patio door dreams, and determine if furniture may need a whole new room to call home, or if a few feet of moving around will do the trick.  

Once you’ve determined your design plan and have your accurate measurements in hand, schedule a consultation with the experts at Pella. We can help you choose the right patio door replacement to build the indoor/outdoor entertainment pace of your dreams.

Schedule a free consultation to find windows and doors for your home.