A Blind Decision

Off of our kitchen, there is a little entry vestibule that leads to the backyard.  We had no plans to ever replace that back door, but when we changed the locks, we realized it may have to happen.

Back Entry

(Sidenote: this past weekend, we knocked out all of those shelves on the left, and got rid of those weird cabinets on the right, and we can’t believe how much larger the space feels!).

While trying to decide what kind of door to replace it with, one of our favorite options was something like this (but stained to match the existing woodwork):

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 2.08.37 PM

What we loved about this door is that it would maximize the amount of light in the vestibule/kitchen, but I had two concerns.  Being that we live in Minnesota, which has exceptionally cold winters, I was concerned that having a glass door would be a huuuuge source of heat loss.  Additionally, I was worried about people being able to see directly in to our house when we weren’t home.

Now I know there are options to prevent people from looking inside, but I didn’t like any of them.  We used a window film on the front door of our last home, but I don’t like that option for this house because then we can’t see Roxy when she’s out in the backyard.  Sure, we could hang a curtain/shade, but that would be so annoying whenever we open and close the door, not to mention the fact that it would look really weird.  So as I was wracking my brain for a solution, I remembered something Noel and I saw on the Parade of Homes: blinds that are built in to the door between the glass panes.


Well, this seemed like the perfect solution to my “how do I keep people from looking in our big glass door” problem because their seamless design was stunning, the blinds wouldn’t bang around when you open the door, they wouldn’t be clumsy/bulky/awkward, the glass would be easier to clean, and kids/pets wouldn’t be able pull on them/destroy them.  I was completely sold on the idea, so off I went, searching for the right door.  

Truth be told, I actually had heard about these doors awhile ago, and from what I knew, they received mixed reviews.  So, about a half hour into my search, that little voice in my head chimed in, insisting that I read some reviews before I fell in love with the idea and there was no turning back.  And boy am I glad I did.

After reading countless reviews, I concluded there were three major drawbacks about these doors:

Drawback #1: They aren’t as energy efficient as a normal glass door.

Glass itself is a terrible insulator, which is why majority of windows are double paned.  By doing this, the glass sandwiches air in between it.  To make a window more efficient, a gas called argon is often sealed between the two panes, and a low-e coating can be applied to the glass to reflect heat.

Well, when you put blinds between the two window panes, you can’t have the argon sealed inside, which dramatically reduces the efficiency of the window.  It’s also important to note that the blinds themselves don’t add any significant insulation.  So, by buying a window with blinds, your window is far less efficient than just buying a double paned window.

There are companies that make triple pane windows so that there can still be argon gas between two of the panes, and then the blinds can be in the other cavity.  However, if you go this route, you’d get a lower U-factor* (more efficient window) if you just bought a triple pane window without the blinds, because then you’d have two layers of argon gas.  Plus, triple pane windows are expensive, and the ones that have the blinds in them are even more money.

Drawback #2:  The blinds still get dusty and are hard to clean.

One of the major misconceptions with these doors is that the blinds don’t get dusty.  And that’s completely false.  There are tiny holes that allow dust to enter the space between the glass, so the blinds will in fact get dusty.  With some of the windows, you are able to remove one of the panes of glass to clean the blinds, but it is quite the process and the instructions are quite elaborate.

Drawback #3: If the blinds break, they are hard (if not impossible) to fix.

If it so happens that the blinds between your window panes break, you are in quite a sticky situation.  If you are lucky enough to have the kind where you can remove one of the panes of glass, you will be able to fix them.  However, I wouldn’t consider yourself too terribly lucky, because the replacement blinds are NOT cheap.  Furthermore, if you don’t have the kind where you can remove a pane, you are stuck with broken blinds, and the only way to fix it is to replace the door.  Whomp whomp.

So, with all of that being said, what’s the verdict for us?  There are a lot of great features, but in the end, they just aren’t for us (at least not for us in this house).  Right now, I can’t justify spending that kind of money for a triple paned version, and I don’t want a window with no insulating properties.  With that being said, even though they aren’t for us, doesn’t mean they can’t be for you.  Just please make sure that if you do buy them, you don’t buy them because you think they are more energy efficient. :)

*In homes, a product’s insulating capabilities are measured by either an R-value or a U-factor.  An R-value measures heat resistance, so you want your R-value to be as high as possible.  U-factors are just the opposite.  They measure the rate heat is transferred through a material, so the lower the better.  U-factors are generally associated with windows, and they usually range anywhere from 0.2 to 1.2 (with anything under 0.4 being “energy efficient”).

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21 Responses to A Blind Decision

  1. Kay says:

    Thank you for the information. That helps us tremendously in our quest for energy efficiency in a window-loving family!

  2. Alexandra says:

    Amazing Site Kristen! So much useful information!! Thank you so much for having this blog! I hope you are still out Designing for new clients?!? Your site just needs a good promo engine. I will be visiting again soon for new ideas for 2015!!

    • Lonna says:

      I too enjoyed the blind info. I have dust between my 6 year old French door glass. Haven’t been really happy from the beginning because the slide to raise the blinds disengages so we can only raise to a certain level. Now we have dust in between. Bummer!

  3. Gordon says:

    Hi Kristen,

    A good article, but I do disagree with these 2 points:

    Drawback #1: They aren’t as energy efficient as a normal glass door.
    Drawback #2: The blinds still get dusty and are hard to clean.

    There are a range of options that allow the integral blinds to be put inside conventional double glazed windows and doors. Th U-values are the same is for conventional double glazing.

    Because the blinds are in sealed double glazed units there are no gaps for dirt and dust to get into the blind area. Any holes in the system would release the argon gas fill, so it has to be air tight.

    We manufacture these type of blinds – see http://www.sunshadeblindsystems.co.uk/integral-blinds/. But there are a range of manufacturers and suppliers in the US, UK and worldwide.

    • Joan Hahn says:

      I have a patio door with the inside blinds, they have never gotten dusty or greasy, they cant, they are encapsulated between the panes…I love them!

    • Tom says:

      We had full glass french doors installed on the back of our house going out to the back porch. They have the blinds between the panes. The house is 12 and 1/2 years old, the blinds get opened and closed, every day, sometimes more than twice. There is no dust on them, and there has not been one problem with them. We love them.

  4. Adalberto says:

    It’s hard to find well-informed people for this subject, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking
    about! Thanks

  5. Shirley Beard says:

    I am wondering what breaks? Is it the “string” that pulls the blind up and down and works in turning the blind or is it the slats that break? I would like them in the sliding glass door and this door does have the sun on it so I can see where the string cold weaken. I live in California and am not really worried about the energy factor as it doesn’t freeze much here. This would be the perfect solution for me. I hope this makes since and you can give me some help.

    • Joan Hahn says:

      Shirley, my sliding glass door has built in blinds and I have a small flat type lever placed on one side of the door that moves the blinds up and down or changes the light filter. Ive had the patio doors for about 5 years now and nothing has ever broken.

  6. Carrie says:

    Just stumbled upon this blog, while searching doors with blinds inside. Thanks for this food for thought! We are about to start building a home and thought we were wanting the doors and windows with blinds.

    I did notice that our local Lowe’s has something called “OLD Add-On Blinds” that attach to the frame around your current door windows or regular windows. One side is a pane of glass. I’m guessing dirt will likely still get in between, but it may be a less expensive option. I haven’t been able to see exactly how much bulkier it really looks around the frame of the window of the door though – the video on Lowe’s site doesn’t give a good perspective.

    Anyway, thank you for the insight on this option!

  7. Lee Shaw says:

    An interesting read.
    However; speaking from a European point of view, integral blinds within a double glazed unit are possible with a soft coat low e glass and argon gas filled cavities, so we can get down to centre pane U values of 1.0 W/m2K, which is quite remarkable. Dust can never enter the cavity with the dual sealed system that Pilkington offer, so the blinds remain clean for the life of the unit. I speak from the UK as a Manufacturer of high performance glass and double glazed units. Our integral blind partner is ScreenLine – http://www.pelliniscreenline.net/

    I’d be very surprised if the US don’t have outlets that manufacture to the same or similar standards as the European manufacturers of this product.

    Kind Regards,

    Lee Shaw
    Technical Advisor
    Pilkington UK
    NSG Group

  8. Mel says:

    I agree with Lee Shaw. As the UK’s largest dedicated manufacturer of magnet operated Cordless & Wandless fully symmetrical integral blinds I must say that the article here contains important errors of fact.

    Integral Blind sealed units here in the UK have a U value usually of 1.2. Our SwiftGlide integral blind sealed units made by Integral Blinds Ltd boast a u value as standard of at least 1.1 so are in fact high performance sealed units in there own right.

    We even manufacture triple glazed integral blind units. Both our double glazed and triple glazed units include ultra High Clarity, Low reflection glass as standard.

    Our units are fully BSi Certified and are argon filled.

    The guarantee on SwiftGlide ultra low profile integral blind units is a full 10 yrs.

  9. Joe says:

    Drawback number#1 will depend on the quality of the design, some are actually 94% efficient, making them the most energy efficient window on the market.

    Drawback #2 will depend on the design. If the blinds are hermetically sealed between the panes, no dust will EVER get on the blinds. You can see here: http://www.royaltechwindow.com/blinds-inside.html

    Drawback #3, any good design and company can service the blind unit.

    Most of the designs are not hermetically sealed or designed very well. You really have to do your homework before painting with such a broad brush. There are good designs out there.

  10. Alex Johnson says:

    A very nice pattern of doors.Thanks a lot for sharing this. Good Post.Keep it up.

  11. Dee says:

    Where can you buy a replacement blinds for inside the glass?
    I have a glass door that I want to install a Bline between the glass.

  12. Brandy says:

    I also disagree with a couple of points here. I have a set of french doors in my Master Bedroom with these in-glass blinds in them. I’ve had them for 11 years now. They do not get dusty at all. In 11 years, there’s not a speck of visible dust on them. As to the efficiency, I have never had an issue with them, but I’ve also never “tested” their efficiency either.

    As someone with 11 years experience with using them every day, I will say overall, I think they are a nice concept. However, there are some real drawbacks.

    After about a year of owning our home (we bought the home new, so the door/blinds were brand new), the up/down mechanism of one of the blinds broke. Like literally fell apart in my hand as I was raising the blind. Since they were under warranty, the door company came out and replaced the mechanism with a new design. The way they replaced them was they don’t take off the doors. They just pop out the glass panels and put in new glass panels with new blinds inside. So, that was easy.

    However, about 5 years later, the string broke on one of my blinds while in the down position. No way to fix that other than replace the glass panel again.

    Today, the string in my other blind broke when I was raising it. Now the blind is all wonky and looks bad. No way to lower or raise it – half the blind is hanging down. Yuck.

    So, my next step I think is to just get regular glass panels put in with no blinds. That’s 3 breaks in 11 years. I kinda think they aren’t worth the trouble or the expense to replace.

    Hope my many years of experience with these blinds helps someone else considering getting the in-glass blinds.

  13. Andrenette Williams says:

    Renting a home with Blinds in glass French doors….while cutting the grass a rock flew and shattered the outside glass. Do you know If the glass can be replaced without replacing the entire door?

  14. It is really a nice and informative blog and the content is really precise. I liked your views on it. I will subscribe to it. I am looking forward for more such kind of blogs as they are really mesmerizing. Thanks for such an interesting and wonderful blog.

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