Choosing a Patio Door for a Home Remodel in Madison, WI

Andersen 200-series 4-panel gliding patio doors are used in this Signature Home located in Conservancy Place, DeForest, WI

Patio Door Types and Materials for a Remodel

Big Patio Door Openings

When open, the 4-panel patio doors provide an expansive connection from indoors to outdoors. If you want to feel connected, this option provides the best value.

Most homeowners don't give a lot of thought to the patio door unless they're considering a change. While the patio door is often the most used door in your home, especially in the summer, you probably don't think about it unless you're considering an upgrade, or it's a part of a larger home improvement project.

The fact is, until you begin to research a replacement, most homeowners don't realize the wide range of styles and materials available. Whether you choose the elegance of French Doors, the practicality of a sliding patio door or even a wall of folding windows that open your home to the outdoors it is an architectural element that can be practical, and beautiful. You'll have choices in terms of energy efficiency, frame materials, sizes and of course price.

Every patio door comes with a list of pro and cons. In this post, we're going to examine some of the most popular types and materials and take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of certain styles.

Types of Patio Doors

There are three primary styles of patio doors you'll have to choose from. Base your decision on your needs, your personal style, and your budget.

The Sliding Patio Door

The sliding patio door is arguably the most popular type. They are versatile, easy to use, stylish and affordable. Sliding doors make it easy to get in and out of the house fast, which is great during grill season. They also offer a large surface area that allows plenty of natural light into your home. Most sliding doors come with a screen included, which is a great way to let fresh air into the house while keeping out pests.

Andersen Frenchwood Hinged Patio Door

The Andersen 400-series Frenchwood Hinged patio door used in this Storybook Lake House have wood frames with vinyl and aluminum cladding. They are adjustable and easy to operate.

French Patio Doors

French doors are usually set in a pair, and hinged on the outsides like a regular door. They come in a few different styles with variables like color, finish, decorative glass, and more. You can also have variations in size, with normal side by side French doors, and three-panel French doors being the most common. Most of the time, you'll see French patio doors with full-view glass panels to allow the most natural light into your home, but you have a number of glass choices available.

Folding Patio Doors

Folding patio doors can make a wonderful statement. They can truly open your home to the outdoors and give it a wonderful flow. Typically a folding system consists of anywhere from 2 to 8 panels that open and close on a track system. Folding doors are meant for wide openings and the system works a bit like an accordion to allow for maximum openness.

Multi-Panel Sliding Patio Door

This sunroom addition uses an Andersen 200-series 4-panel Gliding Patio Door. The center two panels of this 16' wide door open, providing a wide open connection from sunroom to deck. The same style of door is visible in the photo at top of page.

Multi-Panel Sliding Patio Doors

If you are looking for the large patio door opening that a folding patio door provides, but if you are concerned about the price tag and airtightness of those units, then a multi-panel sliding patio door might be right for you. 

Popular Patio Door Materials

Patio doors are made from a wide variety of materials. Some offer easier maintenance, some offer better durability, and some are more energy efficient. Here are the most popular patio door materials.

Wood – Wood is elegant and traditional. It offers a distinctive look and can be painted or stained for a custom finish. Scratches and small damages are easily repaired. However, wood patio doors are among the most expensive and require upkeep to maintain their looks and durability. If you live in a climate with high-humidity, wood doors can warp.

Steel – Steel doors are built to stand up to a variety of weather. They're not as stylish as wood but won't warp or bow if weather conditions change. Steel doors are less expensive than wood, are easier to maintain and provide good insulation, making them energy efficient.

Aluminum – Much like steel doors, aluminum patio doors are sturdy and require minimal upkeep. However, they are lighter than steel and can be dented more easily. Aluminum doors are reasonably priced, energy efficient and designed to resist corrosion, scratches, and dents.

French Doors

Fiberglass French Patio Doors are used in this French Country Home located at Revere Trails in Windsor, Wisconsin.

Vinyl – Vinyl is used everywhere today, including patio doors. Although it is a form of plastic, it can be designed to mimic natural materials. Vinyl doors are inexpensive and cost-effective. They are also energy efficient and stand up well to the elements without peeling, flaking or rotting. Vinyl does have some minor issues. Dramatic temperature extremes can cause cracking and vinyl can be more flammable than some other materials. These are minor issues when you compare the benefits this material provides.

Fiberglass – Fiberglass patio doors are made of glass-based material but you'd never know! Fiberglass can be designed to mimic the look of wood almost perfectly, but offer none of the drawbacks. Fiberglass doors are energy efficient and require virtually no maintenance. They are sturdy and can handle radical shifts in the weather perfectly.

If budget is a consideration, fiberglass and vinyl patio doors look great, are durability and come in a variety of styles. They can be designed to match your home's style and require little upkeep. If you have the budget, nothing looks more elegant than wood, but you will need to maintain them to help them last.

In terms of energy efficiency, patio doors will offer efficiency ratings right on the door. If you're not sure, your design build remodel contractor can help you to choose the right rating for your location. You'll also have choices for the glass panel. Low-e and double-pane doors are extremely energy efficient and again, your contractor can help you make the best choice based on your location, needs, taste, and budget.

Your patio door can add a wonderful design element to the exterior of your home while allowing you to more easily open your home up to the outdoors. Remember, your patio door is more than just an entryway, it's an architectural design element that can add beauty and value to your home. Today, you have more choices than ever before. With a little research, you're sure to find the perfect patio door to meet your needs!

This article was updated by Abe Degnan on 7/13/2018.


About Degnan Design Build Remodel
Since 1981 Degnan Design Build Remodel has provided home improvement and construction services to customers throughout Greater Madison, Wisconsin. Our goal is to WOW you with a "Designed For Your Life" solution using a process that will transform your home into a beautiful living space, delivered on time, and on budget. We are known for our communication, respectfulness, and a commitment to our customers and our community. Contact us to speak with one of our designers about your home improvement project.