Types of Patio Doors – by Operating Style

Whether you are constructing a new home or are remodeling one, deciding from the types of patio doors to include takes up a substantial amount of time. That may come as a surprise to many as people place a lot more emphasis on the material (fiberglass, vinyl, aluminum, wood, or even frameless), which can, in fact, be chosen at a later stage as it does not affect the construction phase.

Patio Door Types and Ideas

The type of door does as the architect will have to alter the structure to accommodate the operating style of the door. You can choose from various different types of patio doors such as sliding, French, pivot, folding, vertical, stacking, or corner.

If you are getting your house constructed or renovated from the ground up, then your personal preference will govern your choice. However, you will have to take into account the existing structure of the house when renovating an old house.

In this guide, we list down the function and benefits of each type of door to help you choose one.

What is a Patio Door?

A patio door is essentially a large glass-paned door that connects and separates indoor and outdoor living spaces while allowing natural light in the house.

The Purpose of a Patio Door

Many patio doors open completely to create an indoor-outdoor living experience that is a very popular concept in modern housing. They not only facilitate movement and provide easy access to the backyard but also illuminate the interior with natural light that helps create the illusion of larger living space. You can also turn them into a decorative element by choosing a fancier material.

Door Type Considerations

Aesthetic isn’t the only aspect to consider when choosing the type of patio door. It is perhaps one of the most used doors in the house, especially for people with children or those who regularly host get-togethers and parties or if you love barbecues. Thus convenience and ease of opening and closing are other factors to consider when choosing a patio door type.

You will also have to draw a line between how big of a door you want. You can turn your entire wall into a patio door if you wanted to. However, that can result in overheating in summer and unbearably cold in the winter, unless you choose energy-efficient doors.

A huge patio door or multiple patio doors also increases the number of openings into the house, which can render the house unsafe. So besides visual appeal, you need to consider energy efficiency, ease of use, and safety.

You should look into local rules and regulations regarding safety standards and the installation of energy-efficient fixtures. We suggest looking into double-glazed glass as it is energy-efficient and substantially more secure and durable than standard glass.

Even if you replacing an old patio door with a new one, you don’t have to get the exact same style. You can look into different styles that your existing structure can accommodate with some minor changes. There are a number of patio designs to choose from as long as it provides the functionality you need.

When we say functionality, we don’t just mean ease of use. It should fit into the home decor and design organically, let in natural light, and air and ensure optimal space utilization. Instead of making random suggestions, we decided to reach out to the manufacturers.

In our research, we found that different manufacturers produce patio doors with the same operating style but under different names. To provide the most comprehensive categorization, we created a very structured list of the types of patio doors, which we offer below so the consumers can get educated ideas and make an intelligent choice.

Types of Patio Doors by Opening Technology

In our guide, we’ll start with some of the most popular types and move on to the unconventional ones.

Sliding Patio Doors

Sliding doors generally consist of glass panels set on a sliding rack. They come in various heights, and the number of panels depends upon the amount of space available. They also come in various operating styles, and you can choose from pocket doors, lift and slide, stacking, or common sliding mechanism.

The most common form of sliding doors is the simple 2-panel one, which offers a relatively small opening – as wide as one panel.

Below is an example from milgard.com.

An example of a sliding patio door - simple 2-panel type door

You can also opt for a four-panel door, which offers double the opening that a two-panel door does and look a lot more sophisticated.

See an example from milgard.com (image below).

A four-panel sliding patio door

Sliding patio doors also offer multiple options for customizability. You can install a longer sliding rail, integrated shade, and even add oversized panels. What makes sliding doors such a popular choice is the fact that they work well, even in small spaces. They barely have any special requirements and can be customized to fit even the smallest patios without taking away from the space.

Some of the modern sliding doors feature oversized glass panels to let in the maximum amount of sunlight. Though the increased size does add weight to the doors, you can choose the lift and slide operation for ease of use.

The oversized glass panel makes the room appear larger than it is. You can choose a low-E glass for energy-efficiency as it blocks all UV rays and helps maintain the natural color of the furniture and carpet.

Here are some images of beautifully designed and installed sliding doors, sub-categorized by additional features.

Integrated Sliding Doors

Integrated Sliding Doors by Centor (UK)

Images above and below are by UK’s Centor.

A sliding patio door system with an integrated shade

This particular sliding door system has an integrated shade. The image above shows how the shade slides out of the pocket in the wall.

A sliding patio door with an integrated mosquito net

An integrated shade eliminates the need to install blinds separately. It also helps to keep the house cool when the sun is at the highest point in the sky. The neat and slim frame of the patio door allows for maximum and efficient utilization of the space.

You can also opt for an integrated mosquito net (shown on the left on the image above), so you can enjoy fresh night breeze during summers without worrying about mosquitos finding their way in. The integrated shaded and mosquito slides are pocketed away in the wall for a neat and beautiful finish. Learn more on Centor’s website.

Large Surface Frameless Sliding Doors

Large Surface Frameless Sliding Patio Doors

Images above and below are by Amari.

A near frameless sliding door that spans over the entire length and height of the wall

You can also opt for a near frameless sliding door that spans over the entire height of the wall. They look like floor to ceiling windows that give the room a floating look and allow you to seamlessly connect your interior and patio spaces.

Featured in the images above are Amadeus sliding doors. You can integrate other features with your Amadeus sliding doors such as shades and mosquito nets, and motorization, including an automated opening process. They provide an almost barrier-free indoor and outdoor connection, making it ideal for nature lovers.

Amadeus sliding doors feature a very modular structure that can fit into a wide number of designs and architectures. It also allows for customizability, providing you the opportunity to include various fixtures and design elements.

One major advantage of Amadeus sliding doors is that once fitted, it is nearly invisible and merges into the building architecture naturally. It allows you to recreate modern designs that you see in contemporary architectural magazines. Visit www.amadeus.design for more information.

Double Glazing Sliding Doors

Double glazing sliding patio doors by Sunroom

The image above is from sunroom.it

If you don’t want to compromise on energy-efficiency or on looks, double-glazed sliding doors are the way to go. They are also known as double-paned, or argon gas-filled glass doors and can be customized to fit into all sliding door designs.

Featured in the image is a slim and stylish double-glazed sliding. It is a minimalistic styled door system with a very narrow frame. The oversized glass panels are set on a stainless steel frame with stainless steel wheels to aid the sliding process. The panels also feature adjustable runners to ensure the panels remain perfectly aligned at all times.

Stacking Patio Doors (Sliding)

One or two sliders is a simple sliding door. Three of more sliders is already a stacking sliding door. Each panel on a stacking patio door has its own railing, so they all stack parallel (on top of each other) when you open the door. If you live in a warm climate and love entertaining, they can be great for you. You get various frame material options as well as frameless designs – see the images below. And you can even have them weather-stripped for improved energy-efficiency.

Stacking sliding patio doors by Lacantina Doors

Learn more at lacantinadoors.com about an installation shown above.

Frameless Glass Stacking Doors

Each panel on a stacking patio door has its own railing

The image above is from woodproject.be. We love it how the same style tile was used for the patio and the room interior floor. When the door is open, the room and patio become one large living area.

Featured in the image above is the Tuttovetro Slide, a completely frameless stacking door system by Sunroom, an Italian company. Also called a parallel sliding system, it contains tempered glass panels joined together through a linking mechanism made of stainless steel. The ‘linking’ allows all glass panels to move together and stack one in front of the other by the first panel. Because it is a frameless design, when open, the door creates the widest possible opening between indoor and patio spaces.

Wooden Frame Stacking Doors

Wooden frame stacking patio door

Shown on the image above are wood frame stacking patio doors you can purchase on eBay.

Pocket Sliding Patio Doors

The Pocket sliding door is a system that allows you to tuck away the panels in a cavity in the wall. This opens up the entire width of the door. It is an ideal space-saving system that provides a seamless indoor-outdoor transition.

A Pocket Sliding Patio Door example

The design featured in the image above provides the option to either stack the glass panes in front of the wall or tuck them away completely. You can opt for weather stripped frames with a structural interlocking system that enhances energy efficiency.

Lacantina Pocket Patio Doors slide into the wall completely out of view

Learn more about the deck design pictured above at lacantinadoors.com. Do keep in mind that to form a pocket, you need to dedicate a part of the wall or construct a cavity dedicated to hiding the door, such as the one shown above.

French Patio Doors

What is a French Door?

For those new to the architectural world, the term may not have a meaning. Put simply, a French door is a term used to describe a pair of hinged doors with glass panels spanning over most of the height. They can be installed to swing in or out, at your design preference. They are one of the preferred alternatives to sliding glass doors and often called just that – swing or hinged doors. Both traditional and modern contemporary style homes can use this type of patio doors. It all depends on the actual pane design.

French patio doors do not only serve as an entry and exit point, but they are also a much-coveted decorative element. But it is not just a beautiful addition to the home either. It is an access point for letting in a lot of natural light and air, improving the overall quality of life. You can include sidelights to let in additional light as well, as seen in the image below.

French patio doors with sidelights - by Milgard
Image and Installation by Milgard

Usually, the glass pane is covered with delicate latticework or a gird, but that is not a must. In fact, you can choose different patterns or choose to leave the glass bare if you prefer a minimalistic style.

Just look at this American style French door we found on ThermaTru.com – shown below.

American style French door from ThermaTru.com
Image: thermatru.com

You can even opt for arched French patio doors if arched doorways are your preferred aesthetic.  This beautiful design is from Marvin.

Arched French patio doors from Marvin

There are two types of French doors: in-swing and out-swing. As the name suggests, the classification is based on the direction the doors open in.

In-Swing French Patio Doors

In-swing French Patio Doors by Milgard
Image: milgard.com

In-swing French patio doors swing inwards when open, ensuring they don’t take away from the patio space. They are ideal for homes that have large and open interior spaces but smaller patio space. Make sure you don’t place any furniture by the doors so that the door doesn’t bump into it when you open it.

Out-Swing French Patio Doors

Out-Swing French Patio Doors by Milgard
Image: milgard.com

Outswing patio doors swing or open outward, ensuring they don’t take away from usable indoor space. They are ideal for home with smaller or heavily furnished living spaces. They also provide a cleaner and classier look to the interior space as the hinges are located outwards. If you have an expansive patio, then these are ideal for you.

Folding Patio Doors (Or Bi-Fold Doors)

Folding doors are those that fold and stack together either inwards, outward, or on themselves. Their function is similar to that of stacking sliding doors, but while stacking doors hang parallel in front of the first one, the panels in the folding doors fold over and stack vertically, freeing up as much of the space as possible. Because of their opening technology, these types of doors often called accordion-style and even moving glass walls. No matter the name, this type is at the top end of the market.

Bi-Fold Patio Doors

Bi-fold patio doors example by Milgard
Image: milgard.com

In bi-fold patio doors, each panel folds and stacks on top of each other, and then you can tuck it away on the side. They can either open inwards or outwards and here too, your choice will depend upon the space availability on either side and the function you want them to provide.

You can choose from anywhere between 2 to 8 panels that either all open up to one side or with a partition in between with some folding to one side and some to the other. You can even create a French door out of the two middle panels for ease of use when you just want to go outside to get something.

Bi-fold patio doors by Reynaers At Home, in the UK

Shown above is a beautiful installation by reynaersathome.co.uk.

The latest housing trend is to create the illusion of having more indoor housing space than the house really does. However, an undue focus on space maximization means architects and homeowners end up compromising on the flow of the house.

Here, folding doors can help create the flow without making any structural changes. They operate with the help of stainless steel ball-bearing rollers and are bottom-loaded, so you don’t need to add additional load-bearing structures to the house, and they can also increase perceived space.

Aluminum framed folding doors with large glass planes provide nearly un-constructed views of the patio or of adjoining rooms but are also energy-efficient, especially if you opt for double-glazed glass.

Inexpensive 2-Panel Folding Patio Door Kit from Home Depot

2-Panel Folding Patio Door Kit from Home Depot
Image: Home Depot

Needless to say that getting the full-paneled folding door requires a substantial amount of money. You can, however, opt for the more affordable two-panel patio door. It can fit into most standard patio door openings, but it opens all the way, creating a wider view onto your patio or deck.

They can help seamlessly connect the house to the deck, as they are opening up almost the entire doorway instead of just one side. This could be the perfect solution for your modern patio as it looks gorgeous and secures tightly.

Bi-Fold Patio Doors with Integrated Retractable Screen

You can even get mosquito nets or shades integrated into your folding patio door setup, as shown in the images below – from AG Millworks.

Bi-Fold patio door with Retractable Accordion Screen - from AG Millworks

Watch this amazing video from AG Millworks, to see their Big Daylight Bi-Fold with Retractable Accordion Screen in action.

Pivot Patio Doors

What is a Pivot Door?

Pivot doors rotate on pivot hinges attached to the top and bottom of the door, as opposed to butt hinges affixed to the side of the common swing door. The ‘pivot’ point can be at the center or off-center. Therefore, an open pivot door takes both indoor and outdoor space.

What Makes Pivot Doors So Unique?

Let’s just admit that as children, we were obsessed with the revolving doors at hotel entrances and we all wanted one in our homes. Pivot doors are just as fun but classier. They don’t operate like your average patio doors. You don’t need to worry about butt hinges and bulky framing ruining the home’s aesthetic.

As explained above, pivot doors pivot on a spindle. The setup is simple, with one huge glass panel set in a frame. The panel rotates with the help of nearly invisible hinges at the top and bottom of the panel. Besides being beautiful, they are also easy to operate, providing quick access to the patio or deck.

If you don’t like the look of multiple sectioned panels or generally prefer a minimalist look, then a pivot door is the one for you. From what we’ve learned, you can create a single panel pivot door up to 13 feet tall and 9 feet wide. They are not only chic and stylish but are also very convenient. It can rotate to a complete 360 degrees with minimal effort.

You also have the option to choose from a variety of frame materials such as aluminum, wood, steel, or opt for a frameless door for a more modern look. You are more likely to find them in high-end luxury homes as they do require a substantial amount of space both indoors and outdoors as they open and shut.

Pivot doors are fast becoming popular, especially in contemporary patio designs, for their clean-cut lines, chic look, and functionality.

Single Pivot Doors

Single Pivot Patio Door by PB Finestre, Italy
Image: pbfinestre.it

Shown in the image above is a pivot patio door by PB Finestre that rotates on a vertical axis placed in the middle of the horizontal panels of the frame. This particular door has a wooden frame. You can, however, get the exact same function with different materials.

Group Pivot Doors

Pivot patio doors installed in group
Image: eBay

Pivot doors can be installed in groups, as shown in the example above, for opening up large spaces. The beauty of these doors is that you can arrange them at different angles to block sunlight or breeze or allow it. They are also easier to operate and are a lot more stylish than folding or sliding doors.

Pivot vs. Hinged Doors

For many, the concept of hinged doors is a lot more comfortable than that of pivot doors. They know that you need a door frame, a couple of hinges on the side, and your door is ready. You know that the weight of the door rests on the hinges, and they also aid the 90-degree rotation that opens the doorway.

A pivot door, on the other hand, is mind-blowing at first glance. To watch a huge glass panel rotate on an axis opening up a huge section of the wall is amazing. However, it also brings a myriad of questions to the mind about safety, structural requirements, operational nitty gritties, and more.

The operational pattern of both doors is very different. The pivot spindle can be placed at any point on the glass panel. You can even place it at the very end of the panel to limit the rotation to 180 degrees and open up the entire doorway all at once.

The important thing to keep in mind here is special requirements. Pivot doors look beautiful in all contemporary settings, but they require a lot of open space to remain functional. Hinged doors are ideal for smaller spaces as they are customizable and can look beautiful without taking away from usable space.

Corner Patio Doors

Though corner doors may require the installation of additional support pillars, they are definitely worth considering. Usually, corners are dark with no windows. They bring down the entire vibe of the room. You can liven up the room with a corner patio door.

If you are working on home remodeling then installing a corner door might be aesthetically logical for many spaces. Here you can opt for sliding or folding patio doors as they provide maximum functionality by making efficient use of limited space.

Zero Corner Sliding Doors

A zero corner sliding door by True View Windows and Glass

Featured in this image (see above) is a zero corner sliding door by True View Windows and Glass. The corner is made of two individual pocket sliding doors providing the option to open only one section for daily use or open both for parties.

The doors slide into pockets, disappearing completely and opening up the entire corner. You can either opt for one huge panel or multiple small panels providing a lot more flexibility in terms of design options. You can also integrate shades and mosquito nets for additional functionality.

Zero Corner Bi-Fold Doors

Zero corner bi-fold doors by AG MillworksShown above are zero corner bi-fold doors by AG Millworks. They span over the entire width of the living room and its adjoining wall. By opening these bi-fold doors, you can significantly increase usable space by merging the patio and the living room.

If you like to host parties, then consider creating a shaded deck and installing these doors for ease of hosting. There are no supporting corner posts, so you get unobstructed panoramic views. Watch this cool video to see how they open.

Turnable Corner Doors

Turnable Corner Doors by Vitrocsa
Image: vitrocsa.com

Those obsessed with clean minimalist and contemporary architecture are going to love the futuristic-looking turnable corner doors by Vitrocsa. They pivot and slide around a corner freeing up the majority of the doorway to access the patio.

They are an ideal solution for those looking for space-saving ideas as these glass panels are wide and slim, so when stacked in a corner, they don’t take up much space. The roller system can be modified to ensure each panel slides independently, or you can link them so that they move together for additional ease of use.

Vertical Folding Patio Doors (Or Garage Doors)

Vertical Folding Patio Doors or Garage Patio Doors
Image: gliderol.com.au

Featured in this image is a vertical door design by Gliderol Australia. They do give an industrial feel, but they look nothing short of spectacular when in motion. They are more commonly known as garage style patio doors and do need a machine with enough power to be able to pull these up.

You will also need to dedicate a substantial amount of space above the wall to accommodate the panels when lifted, so make sure you place your electrical fixtures at a distance.

Do keep in mind that you cannot just install these on a whim as they require substantial architectural changes. We suggest you consult an architect to help you decide if they are for your home or not.

Guillotine Cavity Doors

Guillotine Cavity Doors by Vitrocsa

If you want to add a theatrical touch to your patio, then check out these Guillotine Cavity Doors by Vitrocsa. Vitrocsa is a company from Switzerland that designs and creates these vertically sliding pocket doors that disappear into pockets created in the ceiling and the floor.

Watch these doors (shown above) in motion – Vitrocsa movie.

They consist of two vertically stacked glass panels with a fully motorized system. You can choose to get both mobile panels or get one fixed and one mobile. If you choose both mobile panels, then you will have to create pockets in the ceiling. However, it may be worth the extra hassle as it opens up the entire wall and creates a grander opening.

If you don’t want to go through the additional hassle, you can get a fixed top panel so that the bottom one slides and stacks next to it, opening up half of the wall. Either way, the system is completely motorized, and the motor is embedded in the top half of the frame, completely hidden from view. At least 12 cm of dedicated space is required to accommodate the motor.

The system is completely electrical and is the epitome of luxurious living. It is also entirely safe to use as it automatically stops if it senses or encounters an obstacle. You don’t have to worry about any additional home system installation costs either, as it is compatible with almost all home systems and is easily integrate-able into your existing one.

You can choose from multiple mobile or fixed motorization systems and button locking systems. With its high-precision counterweight operation, the guillotine cavity doors become super simple to operate and manage.

Dutch Doors

What is a Dutch Patio door?

A Dutch door, like a French door, consists of two parts. However, where a French door is parted vertically, a Dutch door is parted horizontally. The two parts, when closed, act as one unit, but you can also close one and open the other to create an opening at the top or bottom.

It is also known as a farm-style or a stable door, and it is reminiscent of 80’s suburban or farmhouse look and feel.  They have recently made a comeback in modern architecture and are being modified to give a more modern look to fit contemporary style homes.

You can choose from different panel designs, door material, and length of the partition. You can even paint over the wood to suit minimalist home decor themes. Or choose a design with a very rustic appeal that demands attention. In any case, these types of patio doors will add a beautiful and charming touch to your house.

The origin of Dutch doors dates back to the 17th century, where they were a staple in all farmhouses. They are not only beautiful but functional as they let in sunlight while keeping all the farm animals out of the house. In the modern day, they can help keep the children and pets inside while letting in fresh air and light.

Choose a light pink or pale yellow color for a farmhouse look. You can even create the raw cottage look by keeping the wood bare. A raw wood Dutch door would look beautiful in an industrial-style home. The warmth of the wood could act as a nice contrast to the cemented patio and red brick walls.

Dutch doors are back in fashion so if you too want to rock a more casual style and create a homey feel, consider installing one. They fit wonderfully well in both modern and traditional architecture.

Single Dutch Doors

Single Dutch Patio Doors from simpsondoor.com

The lovely doors above are traditional American Style Dutch doors from simpsondoor.com. It is a simple single door with a latch connecting the upper and lower portion. It serves as a unique yet very practical way to connect your indoor and outdoor spaces, especially if you have a toddler or pet who could run out. It’s best suited as a backdoor leading out to the yard and on to the patio.

Double Dutch Doors

Double Dutch Patio Doors from rustica.com
Image – left, Image – right

You’ve probably heard of barn style sliding doors. Double Dutch doors look similar, but instead of sliding open, they swing inwards or outwards, just like a normal door. Put simply, they are double doors with a vertical partition connected with a latch.

They have a very storybook or stable door kind of vibe and add a warm yet whimsical look to the house. They are customizable, so you can make sure they suit your home decor and fit perfectly. They are perfect for people who like a very classic western aesthetic.

About Joe Hats 122 Articles
Joe Hats is the founder of FreshPatio.com. Joe has been remodeling homes since 1997 when he bought his first fixer-upper. He has built many pieces of indoor and outdoor furniture with his own hands and has every DIY woodworking tool in his possession. Coming from an engineering background, he has designed and built many patio fixture plans. Following his wife's lead, he is also very passionate about home decor and together they keep track of the latest trends. When he is not remodeling or trying a new woodworking tool, he is busy gardening or designing a new outdoor plan.