Every year, countless homeowners have to decide whether they want to install or replace an exterior sliding door. While most doors manufactured today are of better quality than past generations, there are still important facts to consider when choosing the right door style for your particular home. The central issue to consider is whether you want something that swings or something that slides. Obstruction of view is also another important factor.
Sliding glass doors are popular, but I believe they come with more maintenance issues than, say, a swinging atrium or French door. The two big pluses with a sliding glass door are that it allows for a largely unobstructed view, and it does not require the space of a swinging door. The issues with sliding doors are that regardless of your cleaning efforts, the runners always attract water and dirt. This causes an unsightly area; and the moisture and dirt cause a constant rub on the moving part of the unit- thus prematurely wearing the unit down. Yes, the runners can be cleaned and the rollers adjusted. Just bear in mind that you need to perform more routine maintenance on this type of door unit.
If you have the room, and you do not mind using it for a swinging door, then I believe this type of unit is worth serious consideration. Both swinging atrium and French doors create a less sterile look than do glass sliders. However, with a swinging French door, because of its design, you will have a more obstructed view than that of a sliding unit. Swinging doors also require less routine maintenance. Both sliding and swinging door units allow for screens to be used with them.
As for costs, French will most likely have a higher price point. You can get comparable price points with atrium and sliding doors.
As for installation, all can be a do-it-yourself kind of project. Square, level and secure are three keys to installation success. If you attempt this type of installation, you should plan to have a helper for the actual installation and squaring of the door unit.