You always know you’ve arrived at a grand house when there’s a of set of double doors as the front door.
You can use patio doors as your front door, but it depends on the size and style of your house – and your budget. A large imposing statement home would look great with double patio doors as a front door, however, the same look may seem out of place on a smaller home.
Let’s consider whether patio doors can be used in this way, or indeed if they can be used inside your home or in the place of windows.
Is it Weird To Use a Patio Door as a Front Door?
Well, yes, a bit. A patio door, by definition, is two glass doors that bypass each other and slide along rails. Patio doors are almost all glass. If you have a beautiful view out your front door, then patio doors might be a good fit. Patio doors would open up a small entry with lots of light.
Aesthetically, some styles of houses would totally rock patio doors, like beach houses, condos or small patio homes. Inside, glass patio doors give you more space because they don’t need to swing open. Large glass doors are good for passive solar heat. Privacy – not so much. Many houses, though, are set back from streets and neighbors.
In a hot climate, a patio door with a screen could open up some nice cross-ventilation. The area of a patio door screen is much larger than a front door.
Traditional front doors are more practical (less weird), but glass patio doors will fit the aesthetic for many houses. But before you decide on a patio door for your front door, check out the pros and cons.
The Difference Between Patio Doors & Front Doors
There are quite a few differences between patio doors and front doors. A big difference between patio doors and front doors are tracks versus hinges. Patio doors slide on small wheels along a track at the base, and traditional front doors swing open on hinges.
Patio doors need to slide along rails at the bottom, but the rails can be damaged by dragging heavy things over them. Moving furniture in? How about new appliances? Most front doors have flat sills.
Patio doors are less secure – the locks are not as strong as on front doors. Most patio door owners upgrade with heavy-duty locks, or invest in a home alarm system. Some patio doors can be lifted from their track. Experts recommend putting a dowel or a fold-down bar on the track on the inside.
Burglars love all the glass in a patio door – glass is easy to break. Thieves will also appreciate the big glass doors because they can check out the house from the outside. Check out your electronics or art. Check whether you are home. Solid front doors are much more of a challenge for burglars.
Front doors are more secure than patio doors. Front doors can be made of wood, steel, composite, fiberglass and aluminum. Front doors are designed to be strong. They are made of heavyweight materials. Steel doors or solid wood doors are hard to beat for security.
For extra security, heavy-duty deadbolts can be installed on front doors. Storm doors can be added as another layer of protection. Front doors can have keyed locks or coded locks.
Front doors are more energy efficient than glass patio doors. Today’s patio doors are more energy efficient than your grandmother’s, but patio doors are still made mostly of glass. Glass is not as energy efficient as a solid or a solid core door. Steel, fiberglass and aluminum doors have cores of insulation, resulting in efficiency numbers up to R-5.
Front doors are designed to stop energy transfer from the outside of the door (where it might be freezing) to the inside of the door (toasty). The design feature is called a thermal break.
The door into your home is important – it can add personality and charm. It can be sophisticated or traditional – colorful or dignified. Front doors come in hundreds of choices – even one-of-a-kind wooden ones. Patio doors do fit into some house aesthetics. They can bring the outdoors in.
The Difference Between French Patio Doors & Front Doors
In the 17th century, during the French Renaissance, architects were crazy about symmetry. Back then, French doors were called porte-fenêtres – “window doors”. Today, French doors are still symmetrical, and they still have small glass panes (or lites), like windows.
French patio doors come in a pair. Both doors have hinges and both can swing either in or out. One door keyed entry hardware. Traditionally, there are four to eight glass panes, but the doors can also be full glass.
The two doors of the French door pair are called “active” or “inactive”. The active French door is the entry door and has a keyed knob. An electronic number pad can also be Installed. A deadbolt that slides from the active door into the inactive door can add to security.
The inactive door has one or two deadbolts that slide into the frame above and below. When the active door is dead-bolted into the inactive door, and the inactive door is dead-bolted above and below, the French door system is very secure.
A screen door can be added to a French door, sliding from side to side.
Trying to choose between exterior French patio doors and front doors? Here are the main differences:
- Size. French doors are double the size of single front doors. They need double the door frame space and double the interior (foyer) space – for both doors to swing open.
- Security. Front doors can be solid steel or solid wood – there’s nothing stronger than a solid door. French doors are charmingly, mostly, glass. Glass is just not as secure.
- Energy efficiency. Most front doors are mostly thin veneers of wood, metal or fiberglass over solid cores of insulation. French doors do have a metal frame, but mostly they are glass. And because French doors are double the size, they have double the drafts, and double the weatherproofing issues.
- The Look. French doors are beautiful, elegant and traditional. They are Olde World. Front doors are smaller, but come in all looks, too – hundreds of them.
Can Patio Doors Be Used as Interior Doors?
No. Exterior doors and interior doors are fundamentally different.
Exterior doors are designed to beat the heat, the rain, the snow – and the burglars too. Exterior grade doors are thicker and heavier than interior ones.
Exterior doors can be constructed of wood, fiberglass or metal. They can have glass panels. They can be solid or have a solid core. A solid core metal door has a veneer of metal with a solid core of insulation.
Exterior doors are treated to withstand the elements.
Interior doors weigh less than exterior doors – and are much cheaper. Interior doors may have panels but are plainer than exterior doors. They are the same on both sides. Interior doors don’t need to be insulated or withstand any elements.
Exterior doors are heavier and more expensive than interior doors – why pay for something you don’t really need? And who wants to open and close heavy doors inside the house?
Can I Use Patio Doors As Windows?
If you are building your own structure – go for it! Think: tiny house, backyard office, greenhouse, granny flat, basement finishing, pool house, shed, mountain cabin, lake house, hot tub house, kid’s playhouse, or sun room.
So yes – you can use patio doors as your front door, but only if they will look to scale. Otherwise they will just look a bit weird.
This means that if you have a smaller home then big double patio doors would not be a good idea as the main entrance to your house.
However, if you have a larger, statement property – then high quality and tasteful double patio doors may well look amazing used as your front door.
In the end it all comes down to size of property, style of property, budget and taste.