sliding vs french doors for patio

nancyinmichOctober 20, 2005

I am asking this here because you guys will think (perhaps even debate) on this question more than in the other fora.

I have a contract to buy a house that was built in 1978. It has the original windows (aluminum with storms), so it also may have the original patio door. It was warm when we did the inspection, so there was no way to feel for heat loss. I have almost decided to replace the existing patio door to get one with the blinds in-between the panes of glass. This is so we can keep the dogs from looking out and finding something to bark at in the evening when we are trying to relax. Of course, I am also thinking that we might be less drafty, too, with a newer doorwall.


1. These type of windows - where you can remove a glass to clean or repair the blinds inside - are they worse than normal double or triple panes for energy efficiency? Does the blinds-inside feature ruin the efficiency?

2. If I were to replace the patio door, would a sliding doorwall or a french-door style be more efficient for heat loss when letting the dogs in and out? The dogs are medium to large; 36#, 60#, and 68#. Is sliding a door open a foot and a half or opening a french door going to be worse? I just can't get a handle on all of the variables to decide.

Unfortunately, there is no room to put a double-door, foyer kind of setup here. The family room and the garage side door are the only two ways to let out the dogs.

Oh, and I had to give up on the idea of a pellet stove insert in the fireplace. I learned that it will give off a faint smoke smell into the house, and my lungs can't take that, I'd die of coughing fits from asthma! I am now considering an electric heat mat under a new wood floor, that way we could keep the general temperature of the house lower while keeping a 90 year-old parent from freezing in the evening while watching TV. I know the electric is not a renewable source, but I am hoping that being able to lower the overall heat level of the house and just space-heating Dad's room and the family room will save on some energy consumption. Unfortunately, electric heat is the only kind my lungs might tolerate.

The furnace is 27 years old. We will replace it next autumn with something high-efficiency. The current owner is giving a home warranty, so we'll wait one year and hope the furnace dies while the warranty company still has to pay something toward the replacement. Is Geothermal practical for a .24 acre suburban lot? Would it be a significant improvement in efficiency over a 90% natural gas furnace?

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A Geothermal heat pump is THE most environmentally friendly way to heat and air-condition your home.

Would it be an improvement over a 90% efficient natural gas furnace? The answer is an unequivocal yes! You should achieve efficiencies of well over 300% as compared to electric resistance heating, which is 100% efficient.

You could install one geothermal unit, which will heat and air-condition your home as well as heat part of or even all of your hot water, depending on what you installed.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 12:40AM
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Sliding doors are a big energy waster for 2 reasons: 1. The seals leak and 2. the door is easily left open when it's a slider. I have installed 2 garden doors that are like French doors, but they open outwards. Wonderful, but we do not have the blinds between the glass.

Good luck

    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 3:35PM
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Thanks, keep that information coming! Bydesignprez, It is good to hear that there is a difference in the two types of doors - just the thing I was hoping to learn. Does the outward swing of your door have advantages over the inward-swinging french door beyond efficient use of floorspace?

SR, so is Geothermal always a radiant heating system? I know that the temperature differential is used to create power, but not much beyond that. Is is easy to retrofit for a system, or is it a major overhaul of the whole house? Does a geothermal system require a certain kind of geology, or can it be done anywhere? How far down do you go to find the temperature differential? I really do need to learn more.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 12:53AM
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A well working pellet stove should never give off a paint burning smell. I have never heard of that.
the only problem with french doors is deciding how to put a screen on. I do prefer them though. My parents just put one in their room and I think they seal and work much better than a sliding door.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 12:46PM
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I live on the Canadian Prairies where we get an honest -40 in winter (and quite warm in summer). Energy conservation is a big deal for us, so I can confirm a garden door beats a French door hands down. Reason? The Left door only opens 7 - 8 inches and has a screen - it's for ventilation. The right door opens all the way but BOTH doors are seperated by a frame member and have excellent compression weather stripping when they are closed. To make sure it's 100% tight in winter, we have 2 cam locks per door which pull it in snug when it's cold out, otherwise the regular door handle keeps it closed/locked. Result - a weather tight door that in summer is a breeze to open but encourages people to close it again. In summary, it's easy to use but very energy efficient. I have 2 garden doors and am very glad I have them over sliding or French doors. A double pane sliding door is VERY heavy and not easy to use, whereas our doors are easy to open and close. Do check them out.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 2:03PM
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Hi Nancy,

Geothermal can be whatever you want it to be as long as you select the right heat pump. That is, hot water radiators, forced air heating and A/C, radiant in floor heating or a combination of all of these.

The ease of which it can be retrofitted will depend on what you have now, forced air or hot water radiators. It can be installed virtually anywhere. Vertical ground loops are the most efficient and require the least amount of space. A closed loop ground system is drilled to a depth of usually at least 100 feet.

Take a look at this site and follow the links to the government agencies near the bottom of the page.

Good luck,


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 2:15PM
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Thanks again!
Renee, it is not a paint smell I was warned of, but a faint smoky, burning wood smell. That is very irritating for my asthma and I just cannot have a heating source that irritates my lungs. DH is very unlikely to do much but fill the hopper (and only if I remind him!), so I would be doing most maintenance.

Thanks Renee and Bydesignprez for the further info on sliding doors vs garden or french doors. I had not even considered the heaviness, but now that you mention it, I think that this was one motivation for changing out the door before we move in. My 89 yo F-in-L is home alone with the dogs in the day and could never get the existing door opened. I have only ever had OLD sliders, so I think I was assuming a newer one would glide better. Instead, I need to think of a different door altogether, dear Dad is being worked up for possible osteoporosis and may already have multiple fractures. He fell on his wrist last year and apparently did not tell anyone. Today the doc said it looks fractured and healed wrong. He'll need a very easy-opening door. I know I'll not talk him into keeping the dogs in until the dog sitter can come by and let them out. He'll feel it is his job unless he is entirely unable.

I have never heard of the term "garden door". Is it possible it is a Canadian term that has not made it south yet? No- I searched on Yahoo and found a Jeld-Wen door and there is a dealer nearby where I can probably order it. Good. See, I knew you guys would come through. It just makes no sense to replace the old with something just as inefficient.

Renee - check out this link for a screen door for the french door. I put one on the back door so I can leave the screen door propped open in good weather and let the dogs come and go without Dad getting up and down the back stairs. It did work quite well.

SR, thanks, I will explore those links further. That whole project won't be until next year, so I have time to learn.

Again, thanks for pointing me in the right direction!

Here is a link that might be useful: walk-through screen

    Bookmark   October 26, 2005 at 1:13AM
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Ooops sorry, I meant FAINT burning smell, not a PAINT burning smell.
I really do proof-read!

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 8:32AM
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Hi Renee,
Over in Fireplaces, I responded to a thread about pellet inserts and Xandra, who seems to be an expert, said there would be a faint smokey smell. Do you disagree?

Here is a link that might be useful: thread

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 9:43AM
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I'd like to come back to the idea of the french doors swinging out vs. in. This is a new idea to me, but might be the best solution to my problem. I'm in the process of ordering french doors right now and this is my biggest question. If I have them open inward, they take up room space and they cannot open all the way.

On the other hand, I plan to put up the plantation or wood-slat blinds that attach at the top and bottom and I'm wondering if they open outward if there would be any problems, i.e., would they get too dirty, would the wind catch them and break the glass, are there any safety or other issues (or benefits) with an external door opening outward?

I'd love your input on this.

Thanks so much.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 10:52AM
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Hi PattyLou,
I looked at Lowes yesterday, and Reliabilt will make the french doors swing inward or outward, with one door or both doors openable, with blinds insidethe glass (I plan on these) and with grilles inside the glass.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 3:22PM
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Thanks Nancy,
I had thought about buying these before, but had heard different opinions on how long the interior blinds mechanics lasted. Perhaps I'll take another looks at these.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 6:21PM
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As I mentioned before, i have a freestanding stove and I would have to disagree. There is no wood smell in our house.
You light a match set it on the pellets and then close the door and the entire unit is now sealed. The warm air that is blown into the room from the unit is never "inside" where the fire is.
If there is a wood burning smell this means that some of your seals are not good and you have air leakage. We run our stove nearly 12 hours non stop a day and if we had air leakage our room would fill with smoke!
There was only one time we had a smoke problem. Our stove fire went out and my husband was in the yard and didn't realize this and for some reason the smoke was blown into the room. After this we replaced all the gaskets in the stove so this wouldn't happen again. It was an very odd occurance and we didn't ever figure out how it happened.
Once the stove is burning well there is no smoke outside either! They are very efficient. We have a exhaust pipe that exits out the side of the house and it rarely needs to be cleaned. The exterior of the house never needs cleaning.

Really, if you are interested I would try to visit a shop or a friends house and see if it smells to you.

on the other topic: If you want window treatments you need your doors to open outward. We can't put anything around our doors because they open inward. The room they are in is very formal and it just kinda looks wierd. I think it would be better if I could frame it with similar curtains as the windows in the room.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 9:17AM
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Renee, thanks. I was looking into the pellet inserts for just that reason - sealed unit. I thought is was just weird for Xandra, who really pushes the Harmon stoves and inserts (she used to sell them) to say that I could expect a smokey smell inside. If she said so, it must be true, you know?

I was glad to read that you disagree. There is a Harmon and Quadrafire dealer about 20 miles away and I'll have to get over there and sniff around a bit. If the stove burns at 84% efficiency, how could there be much left over to make smoke? Particle emissions are so low that the Harmon burns almost as clean as natural gas. There is a stove made in Canada that claims to burn cleaner than natural gas. They are working on an insert and on US marketing, so I'll put all of this off until next summer. There is a snowman's chance that I could even get on a list for this year.

I had not thought about the whole window treatment thing. I think that with three dogs brushing on them, I had planned to just go with the blinds inside the glass, no fabric. Thanks for the good point, though. I think I like the outswing better, it gives more furniture-arranging options.

PattyLou, you are welcome. I just plain need the blinds in the glass, so they will work as long as they work, you know? I should research the different brands, though.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2005 at 11:56PM
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They have those blinds now that you buy in a plate of glass and screw onto the doors. They are not PART of the door really so you can replace them as needed. I saw them at the hardware store. They are expensive however they may be a similar price to the blinds in the door.
We have a quadrafire and are very happy with it. actually we went looking for another one this year and the new ones are much better. They have a HUGE ash collector on the bottom as compared to our old one. When the dealer showed us my husband and I were like "WOW!!"
Maybe Xandra was just kinda covering his/her butt. For the most part the stoves don't give off any smell at all, however when their are accidents, like the one we had, it can smoke up the room. Also I depends on how you start the stove I guess also. I start the stove by dropping in a match and closing the door. My husband starts it by dropping in a match, letting it burn a couple seconds and then turning on the stove and shutting the door. I don't know why he does that! Regardless I don't think anyone would notice we burn a wood stove for heat unless we told them or they saw it.
Actually my sister is visiting tomorrow. I will ask her if she notices a smell.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 8:35AM
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Great, thanks Renee, we often don't notice our own home's smells because we are too used to it. Your sis will be a great judge. As a 3-dog-mom, I know all about not being able to notice smells!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2005 at 10:58PM
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Thanks... from all this great input I believe the outward swing is the best way for me to go with my french doors. Besides Nancy's recommendation, I'll also take a look at the screw-on glass/blinds Renee mentioned. Great ideas - thanks again....I'm feeling better about this purchase.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2005 at 8:08AM
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Nancy, I would have to agree with Renee. We just installed a freestanding pellet stove, a Harman P38. This is a manual-ignition stove, and the only time I ever smelled any smoke at all was when the fire didn't light completely on the first try, and I had to open the door again to re-light. To avoid this, go with an automatic-ignition stove. The unit is closed & sealed; you will not smell or see any smoke coming from a pellet stove. As Renee said, you won't see any smoke coming from your flue either.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 9:54AM
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I will certainly look into it. Anybody out there have the Harmon insert and want to chime in with repots of their smell (or lack of smell)?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 11:31PM
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Nancy and Others:
I have also been researching what to replace my great room sliding glass doors with (one 6 ft wide and two 9 ft wide). Here it is, already December and I haven't made a decision! We bought the house in 06 and these are the orig that came with the house. I spent last winter stuffing kitchen towels in between the sliders with a spatula. Not the most attractive thing for the room company walks into. Originally, I thought of going with french doors but the prices quoted were so outrageous and since we don't plan on staying here more than 3 or 4 more years (as it is, we'd take a bath if we sold now with home prices as low as they are now and we wouldn't be able to get what we paid for it), I don't know if it would be wise to invest that much money. I'd been thinking of going the sliding door route once more. Someone above said french doors are tighter than sliders and thoughts of all those kitchen towels between the sliders last winter have me shifting back to french doors. I also want the blinds for the same reason you do....five dogs (3 pugs and 2 shi tzus).

One thing I've learned talking to people at Home Depot and Lowes....the town I live in won't sign off on french doors that swing out. In the south, like Florida, they are preferred because of hurricanes pushing open doors that swing in, however, they are not permitted here. I assume it has something to do with snow and ice on the outside preventing exit in case of an emergency. I guess your posting was a couple of years ago so it may be too late to say to check with your building dept first. I'm curious to hear what you installed and how happy you are with it.


    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 8:07AM
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Hi, re the pellet stove, They aren't always that great.

Pellet stove problems :

*Enough pellets for a month or two, takes up 2 large closets [or +cords] worth of space.
*They can get smokey. They get dirty with soot, or the fire goes out, Smoke ! AND It's awful an awful one for my asthma. The woodstove is not a problem.
* They need electricity to work.If your electricity goes out, they won't work,.

They put out a nice even heat to the front [only].
But, only get one if, It's a backup heat source to a distant part of the house, near where you can unload 2 pickups full of huge, heavy, bags and store them by the stove, your electric never goes off, and you don't mind cleaning a sooty window frequently, and you don't have asthma.

It's nice to have some redundant heat sources, french doors from a solar porch, that open onto tile inside, can supply a surprising amount of heat. Forced air is very inefficient.

Have fun planning and enjoying your new space.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 4:14PM
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They will not give off a smell when burning but if you are that sensitive to it then cleaning it once a week might lead to problems

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 1:21PM
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Patty, blinds are fine for French style doors, whther they open in OR out. Due to weather considerations, however, you will prbably want to stick with composite faux wood blinds, whichare more moisture/weather resistant.

To prevent them from moving around at the bottom, just use the hold down clips included with the in stock blinds, or make sure whoever orders custom blinds for you requests hold down clips. The only other consideration, of course, is the cords. go with tilt and lift cords, rather than a tilt wand. Cordless wood blinds aren't really an option on French doors due to ergonomic reasons (you have to bend way over to reach the bottom rail to lift, AND I don't think there are any faux wood blinds available with a cordless option. You can check with a high end window treatment store to see if Hunter Douglas offers a wood blind with the Ultraglide option, which to me, is the best mechanism for french door window treatments.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 11:12AM
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We had a pellet stove for 10 years. We put a handful of pellets in, added gel fire starter, lit it, closed it, then started the auger.

The only time we had smoke was when the electricity went out or a couple of times when we had a really strong north wind that blew directly up the pipe which was facing north.

You will have ash to clean out but not often. That can bother your asthma. The pellet stove bothered my allergies but I don't have asthma.

The pellet stove saved us during a 2 week ice storm with no electricity. We used a generator to run a living room lamp, TV, DVD player, refrigerator, microwave, clock radio, and the pellet stove. We pulled the mattress into the living room and were toasty warm all night.

The pellet stove will only heat the room you are in for the most part. A little will filter through other rooms. Problem is the thermostats are usually in the hallway. Heat from the pellet stove would reach the hallway and stop the heater from coming on at night. So when you went to the bedroom it was really cold.

All in all, even with my allergies, I would have one again. Peke

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 6:50PM
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Here is what we are looking into: bypass sliding plantation shutters for patio doors. We want them to clear the glass and slide onto the wall. That would be on a header/track that would extend 24" over on a 48" wall on both sides. How does everyone think this would look? Some use a vertical trim piece from end of header down to the floor, but how would that look right down the middle of a 48" strip of wall? What do you think?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 9:56PM
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