In a four-season climate, we do our best to make the most of the good weather. And for good reason. A stronger connection to nature, even in small doses, may lift our moods and increase our productivity.

According to the American Psychological Association, exposure to nature is linked to many benefits, including better attention and mood, lower stress, and reduced risk of psychiatric disorders. In fact, just a few moments of looking at green space can perk up a tired brain. Just hearing the sounds of nature may improve cognition.

So, whether you have a big backyard with green space as far as the eye can see or a small balcony, you’ll want to make the most of your link between indoors and out. Your choice of patio door can help you blur the boundaries between inside and outside or simply get you out to the barbecue faster. 

Types of patio doors and how to choose the right one for you

You’ll hear many names for the doors leading to the backyard–patio doors, French doors, garden doors, terrace doors–but technically there are two main types of exterior patio doors: sliding doors and swinging doors.

Sliding patio doors

Sliding doors slide open and closed along a track, most often with one stationary panel and one horizontal slider. They are also available in different configurations, with three or four panels and various combinations of fixed and stationary panels. One popular choice is two sliding panels in the middle, framed by two fixed panels on either side. 

Although sliding patio doors have been around for decades, today’s doors boast a higher quality and aesthetic. Sliding doors have a modern, clean appeal and provide a more expansive view of your outdoor living space. Sliding doors increase glass area substantially because the frame around the doors is only about three inches. For a more classic touch, you could opt for a grid pattern over the glass. 

Opening parallel to the wall, sliding doors don’t take up valuable floor space in smaller areas. Because they operate on a track, though, they require a bit more maintenance. Homeowners will want to keep dirt and debris out of the track so the door glides smoothly and the screen door doesn’t go off-course. Snow built up on the outside may also affect the sliding of the door, so be sure to shovel snow away from the exterior. 

Another advantage of the sliding door is the available foot locks, which allow you to open the door three inches and put the foot lock in, for increased air circulation while maintaining security. Some also have a headlock at the top or a security bar along the track.

JELD-WEN’s vinyl sliding patio doors come in a range of colours (including black!), and offer optional grille designs. They also boast triple pane glass options for increased protection from extreme weather.

Swinging patio doors

Swinging doors swing either inward or outward, from the left or the right. JELD-WEN’s swinging patio doors are available in single, double and French opening styles. 

If you are looking for a nice, easy flow between your inside space and the outdoors, a swinging door with two panels that open can give you the space you need to move larger items in and out.

When it comes to renovating an existing home, you’ll want to work with what you have. If there are transoms or fixed windows around the patio door, a swinging door will typically offer a better architectural match. Swinging doors contribute better to an estate look or a more symmetrical aesthetic too.

A swinging door can be purchased with a screen or without (if you’re fortunate enough to live in a mosquito-free area). In contrast, the sliding door will always come with the sliding screen. A swinging door also offers more flexibility to match your locking system with the entry system in the rest of the home, whereas the manufacturer provides the key to a sliding door.

JELD-WEN’s custom fiberglass swinging patio doors can be styled in an array of configurations. With features like custom carving, raised moulding and decorative accents, plus a plethora of beautiful colours, you can get a look that suits any exterior. With ENERGY STAR certification, they stand up to extreme weather, providing better comfort and energy savings.

Create a dialogue to get the right door for you

When working with an architect or designer, consult with a door product expert early on in the process to discuss what is feasible for your renovation or new build. Sometimes a wall of glass isn’t practical in a residential application, for example. A door expert can help you to work within local building code requirements and to choose products that will last well and perform over time in your unique environment. 

Patio door trends

Bigger is better continues to be a trend. Homeowners have a desire for more glass space to let in natural light and those coveted outdoor views. That often translates into a feature wall, with a large portion of glass (both windows and doors) to make a strong style statement and bring the outdoors in. This can make the whole footprint of the house feel bigger. 

Getting that increased amount of glass means thinking outside of the box. Doors don’t have to be the traditional width and height–wider and taller doors are another means of creating more glass. Those lucky enough to have a cottage or recreational home are capitalizing on the trend, bringing the outside in and the inside out for optimal summer home living. 

Depending on whether you are building new or renovating an existing space, your options may be more limited. In the Toronto area, many people are opting for additions, adding more modern architecture to existing houses. This gives them the freedom to explore 42-inch swinging doors and plenty of fixed glass, adding natural light to older homes.

Another trend that isn’t going away anytime soon is black doors. Black is the number one colour choice after white. Besides being visually attractive, black has a unique way of minimizing the appearance of the frame so the glass appears bigger and the frame is more “invisible.” 

How to ensure a properly installed patio door

Whether it’s a sliding or swinging door, the key to a proper install is “plumb, level and square.” Effective installation requires tools, ingenuity and attention. Doors must be properly sealed on all four sides of the frame and the exterior to resist air and water penetration. Installation must also adhere to local building codes for considerations like water penetration. 

In some areas with higher exposure to extreme wind and rain, additional measures–like an awning or overhang–may be needed for better protection. This is particularly important if you’ve opted for a big wall of glass in a challenging environment, such as facing a large lake. Properly installed doors will weather the elements better and last longer. 

Swinging doors in particular require shimming and blocking. This also helps with security, making the door more difficult to pry open.

Double door systems can also require more expertise than a single door. Plumb, level and square might be more challenging to accomplish and the hinges might need a slight adjustment. A qualified person can install the double door system properly and effectively to stand the test of time.

When installing a door in an older home, getting things level can be a challenge. In all cases, consulting your contractor or a professional door installer can ensure you get a well-installed product that–with a little maintenance–lasts for years to come. 

Find JELD-WEN products at lumber and building supply centres across the country, or locate a dealer at

For a deeper dive into the differences between sliding and swinging patio doors, check out this recent episode of Canadian Contractor Magazine’s “The Hammer” podcast. Russ Miller, JELD-WEN Canada's National Account Manager, and Mike Desmarais, Territory Sales Manager for Northern Ontario, chat about bridging the gap between indoors and outdoors with the right patio doors.



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