No matter what type of sliding or patio door you offer, homeowners demand unobstructed views and lots of light. And manufacturers are offering a broad array of high-performance products to suit every style and budget.

Many manufacturers predict that 9-and 10-foot-tall doors will become standard. “Multi-panel and taller doors that maximize views go along with bigger homes to create a monumental feel by flooding rooms with light,” says Jeff Kibler, brand manager for Peachtree Doors and Windows.

But no matter the size, builders and remodelers simply expect they'll be installing lots of patio doors and sliders.

“I've been using more and more patio doors these days. You get more light [than just a window] for your dollar; they're the cost-effective way to make the most of your views,” says Scott Grote of Grote Construction, a building and remodeling firm in Mohnton, Pa.

SLIDING VERSUS PATIO

According to Jeff Lowinski of the Des Plaines, Ill.-based Window and Door Manufacturers Association, the design of the room the sliding or patio door will occupy is the biggest influence as to what product style you should install.

The market for sliding doors continues to be tract applications off of decks; swinging or French doors are used in more formal interior spaces in both new construction and room additions. However, you typically won't replace a slider with a swinging door because it would encroach on the existing space.

“The disadvantage to sliding is that you never can completely slide all of it out of the way, but swinging doors take up much more space when they're open, and those factors dictate your choice,” says Lowinski, the association's vice president of technology and marketing.

Homeowners who want to replace a standard white sliding door have numerous options. Wood-grain interiors and decorative hardware allow you to create stylish looks, says Bill Lazor, senior brand manager for Simonton vinyl windows and doors. Simonton, along with a majority of its competitors, offers many sliding styles in an array of finishes and options.

But no matter what kind you install, both types of doors address a nationwide “trend toward view and access to outdoor space,” claims Lowinski.

MATERIAL WORLD

Available at big box retailers for as little as $200 for basic steel, climbing into the thousands of dollars for wood and fiberglass units, sliding and patio units are available in many materials at various price points.

Lazor says that many builders typically use vinyl products because they're cost effective and meet basic codes. What's more, many vinyl doors feature one-piece construction and come factory assembled, which are advantages for pros.

“They're easy to install and save so much time,” comments Grote, adding multi-piece wood units are more labor intensive to put up.

Nevertheless, other materials, such as aluminum and fiberglass, work best in specific applications. Aluminum, which accounted for nearly a quarter of sliding and patio door sales in 2000, now holds ground in coastal areas because it's very strong and durable, claim the experts.

“You can't avoid [the DP-50 rating] on the East Coast. It's starting to become standard,” says Kibler. And fiberglass, though not widely used, is gaining popularity with high-end homeowners who want the look of wood but not the maintenance.

THE DOOR IS OPEN

With so many sliding and patio doors available, manufacturers predict that performance-enhanced products will drive the market. Manufacturers are offering products at every grade, from improved welding techniques for stronger vinyl frames, to enhanced laminated glass for sound control, to alternative materials for improved low maintenance.

“We're going back to a craftsmanship ideal, creating doors on an individual level,” says Lazor.

Options Abound

From decorative glass to unique hardware, manu facturers are setting themselves apart by offering distinct sliding and patio door options.

“I've been seeing more attention to leaded and beveled glass these days,” notes Scott Grote, a builder and remodeler in Pennsylvania.

In addition to decorative glass, manufacturers are offering more and more options to meet a general trend toward upscale-looking products and to create a consistent look throughout a home.

“Interior hardwood choices such as oak, maple, cherry, and pine allow homeowners to have coordinating cabinetry and doors,” says Jeff Kibler of Peachtree Doors and Windows, a firm that offers these choices.

Exterior colors also allow manufacturers to set themselves apart. Many sliding and patio door makers offer an array of hues as a diversion from standard white, while others mix custom colors.

Last but not least, hardware finishes are taking their cue from kitchen and bath fittings and fixtures—from brushed and stainless nickel and chrome to Venetian bronze.

“People want all the options to choose from, whether it's decorative hardware or divided lights, and they're willing to pay for them,” says Jeff Lowinski of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association.

Energy Efficient, Too

According to sliding and patio door manufacturers, homeowners are selecting low-E glass because of its energy-efficient benefits.

“The Energy Star logo is big. People know what it means so they add low-E glass to get [local] rebates,” says Jeff Kibler of Peachtree Doors and Windows.

Low-E glass, which many sliding and patio door manufacturers offer, also protects interior furnishings from damaging UV sunlight, notes Jeff Lowinski of the Window and Door Manufacturers Association.

While not standard, those in the industry predict low-E glass will become increasingly popular as consumers become more savvy about energy conservation.

Superseal Superseal.Designed for new construction, the 950 vinyl swing patio door comes in inswing and out-swing models. The DP-50-rated door features fusion-welded frame and sash construction, tempered clear insulated glass, and a full-length hinge. The fully assembled unit comes in standard sizes in white or beige. Matching side lights and transoms are optional. 908-561-5910. www.supersealwindows.com.

Vetter Vetter.Designed to complement ProV 200 vinyl windows, the ProV French sliding patio door features fully welded panel and frame construction. It has tandem ball-bearing rollers and a choice of a natural wood pull or brass-finish handle. DP-50 construction and low-E2 argon-filled glass are optional. 800-838-8372. www.vetterwindows.com.

Simpson Simpson.French-style Performance series wood doors prevent wicking, eliminate rot, and resist insects and warping when installed with the firm's patented FrameSaver door frame, claims the maker. Available with optional insulated glass, the units come standard with a five-year limited warranty. 800-952-4057. www.simpsondoor.com.

Peachtree Doors and Windows Peachtree Doors and Windows. The 500 series of aluminum-clad wood patio doors includes center-hinged and French-style in-swing and out-swing designs as well as wide-stile French and traditional narrow-stile sliding patio doors. The doors come in three heights and five exterior colors. Fiberglass and steel sliding and French doors also are available from the manufacturer. 800-732-2499. www.peachtreedoor.com.

CertainTeed CertainTeed.The New Castle XT vinyl sliding door comes in standard and French rail styles in two-, three-, and four-panel configurations. The units come standard with low-E glazing and feature insulating glass for high thermal efficiency. New Castle XT doors are available in white or tan in numerous widths and heights. 800-233-8990. www.certainteed.com.

Marvin Marvin.Available with wood or extruded aluminum-clad exteriors, the redesigned sliding patio door has 3-inch stiles and rails, a pultruded fiberglass sill, and a top-hung screen. The unit features a clear pine interior and comes in one-, two-, and three-panel styles for design flexibility. Energy-efficient glazings are optional. 888-537-8266. www.marvin.com.

Integrity Integrity.Part of the Inswing door line, the jamb-hinged Inswing French patio door allows for movement of both panels in the two-panel product. The Ultrex pultruded fiberglass unit comes in 8-foot heights and retrofit sizes. It has a solid pine interior and a choice of three hardware finishes. Optional low-E II glass with argon-glazing construction reduces heating and cooling costs, the company says. 888-537-8263. www.integritywindows.com.

Crestline Crestline.Vinyl, natural wood, or primed wood, aluminum-clad patio doors in out-swing or inswing hinged and sliding door styles with narrow or French stiles all are available from the firm to meet nearly every homeowner request. Numerous glass and hardware options are available. All of the maker's products are NFRC and AAMA tested and certified. 800-552-4111. www.crestlinewindows.com.

Milgard Milgard.Available in fiberglass, wood-clad, or vinyl, the French-style sliding patio door comes in two-, three-, or four-panel configurations in standard and custom sizes. Many additional aluminum, vinyl, and fiberglass windows and patio doors are available from the manufacturer. 800-645-4273. www.milgard.com.

Andersen Andersen.Expanded hardware offerings for 200 and 400 series patio doors include three new design collections. The Metro collection features two contemporary looks in three finishes while the Estate collection has three traditional units in numerous finishes. The Andiron collection features rustic hardware styles in two finishes. 800-426-4261. www.andersenwindows.com.

Kolbe & Kolbe Kolbe & Kolbe. The aluminum-clad Ultra series raised-panel patio door features the same aesthetics as a traditional all-wood door with 4 17/32-inch stiles and top rails and a 7 9/16-inch bottom rail. The door comes in 22 standard hues as well as custom colors. Removable grilles, grilles in the airspace, and divided lights are optional. 800-955-8177. www.kolbe-kolbe.com.

Jeld-Wen Jeld-Wen.Pozzi custom windows and patio doors are available in AuraLast, a solid western pine that features a water-based treatment that penetrates the wood to protect against decay, water absorption, and termite infestation. Patio doors and windows with AuraLast can be painted; paints and stains on the material match those on untreated wood. 800-877-9482. www.jeld-wen.com.

Weather Shield Weather Shield. Sliding and French sliding patio doors feature 1½-inch-diameter tandem rollers, pultruded fiberglass sills with internal weep systems, two-point locks, and 1¾-inch-thick jambs. The DP-35-rated doors are available with wood, extruded aluminum, or anodized aluminum exteriors and a choice of seven wood species for the interior. 800-477-6808. www.weathershield.com.

Pella Pella.ProLine aluminum-clad sliding patio doors are the most affordable of the firm's extensive sliding and patio door lines, the maker says. The doors, which are available with white, tan, or brown exteriors, have wood interiors and come with a choice of argon-filled low-E insulating glass or standard insulating glass. Screen doors and grilles are optional. 888-847-3552. www.pella.com.

Simonton Simonton.Featuring a polyvinyl butyral (PVB) plastic interlayer sandwiched between two pieces of double-strength glass, the StormBreaker Plus vinyl garden door is available in 18 coastal states from Maine to Texas. The patio unit comes in interior and exterior color combinations of white and tan. Grid styles and patterns are optional. Many other vinyl windows and doors are available from the manufacturer. 800-746-6686. www.simonton.com.

Therma-Tru Therma-Tru.The Slim-Line patio door features durable fiberglass and an advanced trouble-free track system that reduces callbacks, the maker says. The units come in four colors: white, almond, stone, and bronze. Optional internal grids are available in the four colors. The units come in one-, two-, three-, and four-panel configurations in a range of widths and in 6-foot 8-inch and 8-foot heights. 800-537-8827. www.thermatru.com.