Adding a Patio Door and Window Combination
Thinking Inside the Box for a Unique Patio Door and Window Combination
By Larry Walton
I’m not a big fan of sliding glass doors. I know they have their place. In fact, they have some distinct advantages such as being constructed like a window, which makes them particularly well-suited for handling direct, wet weather.
Another advantage of the slider is that it’s out of the way much like a pocket door, with a built-in place to park the door when it’s open. I get that, but I don’t like the look, the movement it takes to walk through, the extra effort needed for kids and the elderly to operate, and the extra measures needed to secure them.
So I keep taking them out and replacing them with double French doors or a combination of swinging doors and sidelights.
Thinking Inside the Box
When replacing these overgrown windows, there are two basic design principles to keep in mind. Number one is to think inside the box. In other words, configure your design to work within the space of the original opening of the sliding glass doors. This can be done by drawing a simple sketch of the opening and putting the combination of doors, windows, panels, pet access openings, glass blocks and art niches where you want them.
Sometimes there is a challenge getting the new door jambs to fit below the header, depending on the design of the sliding glass doors. Remember, if you remove material from the header, it will need to be re-engineered to support the house structure above it. I usually pay my door supplier a little extra to cut down the door and the jamb—an operation that is pretty common for them.
Other than the elevation, it’s really just a matter of choosing what you would like to fit in that opening. Often a simple solution is to install a pair of French doors that fill the entire opening, which can be a nice upgrade in looks. It also provides a very wide opening to bring in large fixtures like grand pianos, hot tubs and stuffed grizzly bears.
If a grand passage is not required, you can configure the opening in a variety of ways. Another slider in our house got a single door with an active half-lite for screened ventilation. The remaining space was walled in to accommodate an additional armoire in the bedroom.
Don’t forget that you have choices in how a door operates in terms of swing. You may want to put the swinging door on the left or the right, and the hinges can be on the outside or toward the middle of the original opening.
The design which we chose for this particular project is a good example. To get the desired traffic flow and accommodate the type of air movement that we needed, plus access for the family dog, we brought several elements together.
We got a good deal on a 2’6″ door, which is smaller than most exterior doors but takes up less room when open. This helps with furniture placement. In addition to the door size, rather than hinging it at the outside of the original opening like you would a pair of French doors, the hinges are located in the center of the opening to get the swing and the traffic flow that we desired.
Trim as a Unit
The second basic design principle is to trim the components in your layout as one unit. Tie the components together under one trim header casing that extends the length of the new doors and windows. The far left and far right vertical trim board should extend from the header all the way to the floor with the rest of the trim components filling in as needed.
In our case we wanted a single-light French door with a left-hand swing hinged in the middle of the original opening. The rest of the space was to be filled in with a single hung window above a wall panel, which would accommodate a dog door.
Of course, in the same space, you could install double doors or a larger swinging door with a glass sidelight, or a glass sidelight on one side with the door in the middle and an active window on the other side. Be creative by thinking inside the box.