A flood of natural light. Incredible views from sunup to sundown, maybe even into the night. Fresh air that fills every corner of the room, and an effortless walk from indoors into the limitlessness of the outdoors. A place to relax, to entertain, to share, and to savor alone.

It’s not difficult to imagine the fun and the real health benefits of including a large opening glass door system in the construction of your new home or adding one to your existing home. But there are several things to know (and a handful of decisions to make) before you select the exterior door system that’s right for you. Here are some ideas and questions to get you started on the selection process.

TYPES OF EXTERIOR DOORS WITH GLASS

There are three types of exterior doors with glass to choose from: folding, sliding, and swing.

Folding exterior doors with glass (also called bifold doors or accordion doors) feature multiple glass panels hinged together and hung on a track. When the door is pushed open, the panels fold smoothly together into a stack that sits close to the wall opposite the opening.

Exterior sliding glass doors have two panels, one fixed and one operational; the operational or moving panel slides next to the fixed panel to open the door system. When there are three or more panels moving on multiple tracks, the system is considered a multi slide. Multi slide systems will mostly consist of moving or operational panels but may also incorporate fixed or nonoperational panels. In most cases, the moving panels will stack against the fixed panel when the door is fully opened.

Swing glass panel exterior doors operate like most traditional patio doors: swinging toward the inside or the outside of the home via hinges. A swing door operates on its own or may be doubled to create French doors that open from the middle and swing out (or in) to the left and the right.

Some exterior glass door systems combine a swing door with another type of system (folding or sliding). The swing door provides easy in/out access without requiring the larger multi-panel system to be pulled open.

WHICH EXTERIOR GLASS DOOR SYSTEM IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

Now for the questions to consider before you choose:

What size of opening do you want? What size of door system is reasonable for your home?

Think of the side of the home where your exterior door system will go. How much wall space is available for the system to be installed or incorporated there? Are there structural elements of the home that limit the wall space that can be devoted to an exterior glass door system? You may need a builder’s or architect’s help to obtain specific dimensions or identify structural limitations, but for now, consider what’s possible for your home.

For example, if you’re simply looking for quick access between your kitchen and deck or patio, a swing door or swing double door may be the answer. If you want a larger opening that spans the length of the wall, a multi slide or bifold door system (or a combination of two systems) can handle that.

Does the space around your (future) door system work with your preferred system choice?

Say you love the idea of pushing open a folding door system and watching the panels cleanly stack together. As they move, the glass panels extend outward by several feet, coming to rest in a sizable group. Is there enough clearance for them to move freely and stack without bumping into built-in deck features, fencing, or permanent lighting elements? If there isn’t, a sliding glass door or multi slide might be the better choice. The same idea applies to swinging glass door systems, both single glass doors and double glass doors. The inswing or outswing area should be free of obstructions.

Exterior sliding doors use the least amount of space to operate. The panels typically stack next to a fixed panel at the far end of the system, but a pocketing configuration (in which all panels disappear completely into a far wall “pocket”) is possible if your wall allows for it structurally.

Which exterior door material is best for your system?

The right material comes down to a variety of factors. The three most critical: the climate in which you live, your preferred aesthetics, and your budget.

An aluminum exterior door system can be constructed with stiles and rails less than 3” wide, which allows for more glass area and therefore maximizes natural light and views. But aluminum works best in moderate climates. If you need strong thermal performance, an aluminum thermally controlled or contemporary clad glass door system would be the better bet. Both offer excellent aesthetics and design flexibility.

What if you want to make a statement with oversized glass door panels? Aluminum wood fits the bill, balancing the strength but lighter weight of aluminum with the thermal performance of wood so that the panels move easily but still act as a barrier against heat transfer.

Exterior wood doors with glass are available for those who prefer wood’s rich warmth and authentic beauty. Vinyl glass doors are an economical choice and work well in all climates.

Want to find out which materials are best suited for your home’s location? Watch the first of our interactive videos here.

COMPARING EXTERIOR GLASS PANEL DOOR SYSTEMS

Glass exterior door systems will differ significantly in capabilities and sizes, so it’s worth exploring to find what you like visually and then doing a little homework upfront to determine your available space and your goals around performance and cost.

Here’s a very brief overview of exterior door systems with glass panels engineered and manufactured by LaCantina. “Made to measure” custom sizes and configurations are also available. Please download our Open Spaces brochure here to learn more.

Note: Some numbers have been rounded slightly for easier reading.

Folding Exterior Glass Door System

Maximum system height: 8’ (standard), 10’+ (custom)

Maximum opening width (per system): 17.5’ (standard), 65’ (custom)

Number of panels: 2-6 (standard); up to 20 (custom, combining two systems)

Material choices: Aluminum, Aluminum Thermally Controlled, Aluminum Wood, Contemporary Clad, Wood, Vinyl

Sliding Exterior Glass Door System

Maximum system height: 8’ (standard), 12’+ (custom)

Maximum opening width (per system): 16’ (standard), 30’+ (custom)

Number of panels: 2-4

Material choices: Aluminum, Aluminum Thermally Controlled, Aluminum Wood, Contemporary Clad

Multi Slide Exterior Glass Door System

Maximum system height: 8’ (standard), 12’+ (custom)

Maximum opening width (per system): 16’ (standard), 90’+ (custom)

Number of panels: 3-6 (standard); up to 12 (custom)

Material choices: Aluminum, Aluminum Thermally Controlled, Aluminum Wood, Contemporary Clad

Swing Exterior Glass Door System

Maximum system height: up to 8’ (standard), 10’+ (custom)

Maximum opening width (per single-panel system): 6’ (standard), 7’ (custom)

Number of panels: 1-2

Material choices: Aluminum, Aluminum Thermally Controlled, Aluminum Wood, Contemporary Clad, Wood

To get the most accurate cost estimate for the system you want, we recommend that you request a quote online or call us at 888.221.0141. A LaCantina representative who’s familiar with your area will help you compare the systems and materials that work best with your local climate and answer specific questions about your home.

Ready to find some inspiration? Begin your exterior door visual search here, with our gallery of residential folding and sliding glass doors.