French or Sliding Doors? What You Need to Know

Dec 21, 2022

French and sliding patio doors are both popular options, and there’s no clear favorite between them. It can be confusing when so many factors go into the decision, and what’s right for your friends and neighbors might not be right for you. But it doesn’t have to be! Wendy Cline, J&B Construction co-owner, breaks down the attributes of each, so you can make an informed decision that’s built to last.

French: The Classic

Technically, a “French” door is any door with rectangular paneling. However, by “French doors,” most people mean a set of two doors that swing open from the middle. You can choose whether they swing inward or out, but the swinging mechanism defines them.

French doors are classic for a reason. “They’re a great-looking design that’s stood the test of time. Naturally, they’re going to take up the additional space they need to swing into, whether that’s inside or outside your house,” Wendy said.

Sliding: The Modern Take

Inspired by Japanese tradition, sliding doors combine a window’s visibility with a door’s functionality and a wall’s spatial footprint. There are multiple types of sliding doors, with most being two-panel, meaning two flat units that nest together, but some can be a series of panels that fold in and out like an accordion.

Compared to their French counterparts, sliding doors take up less space and trade an iconic look for versatility. “They come in many different colors and styles, from a standard fiberglass panel to a Japanese paper screen,” Wendy said. “Screen doors can also be fitted to sliding doors more easily without affecting their look or functionality, making them more modular.”

Installation and Maintenance

While one might think a more complicated door would be harder to install and maintain, the answer might surprise you. French doors might be simpler mechanically, but don’t come as a single installable unit like sliding doors. If you decide on a French door, get a pro to install it, because the door panel and hinges must be fit very precisely to the frame to prevent leakage. “If you DIY it improperly, you might not notice anything is wrong until your heating costs start to go up.”

Sliding doors, however, do require a bit more maintenance. Since installation is more straightforward, the sliding track under the panel requires regular cleaning for smooth movement. “Large glass surfaces, as sliding doors typically are, naturally need more frequent cleaning to look nice, too,” said Wendy.

Energy Efficiency

Gone are the days of patio doors that are drafty and waste energy. “Our doors are packed with energy efficient features like advanced seals, optional insulated frames, and multi-pane glazing, with plenty of alternatives for homeowners who want even better thermal performance,” she said.

Durability and Security

Modern designs of both French and sliding doors are sufficiently durable, as sliding doors feature strong, multilayered fiberglass to resist weather and any other potential stressors.


Different door designs have different characteristics in the context of your indoor space. The look of a door will always come down to taste, and you shouldn’t be deterred from choosing whatever makes your home look best. “French doors tend to look better on very traditional-style homes whereas sliding doors fit in best on modern houses, but either type can be customized to fit any surroundings,” Wendy said. “You can choose from a variety of frame colors, finishes, trim, hardware, and more to personalize your patio door and complement both your interior and exterior design schemes.”

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