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Different Types of External Sliding Doors

Sliding doors are still one of the most popular types of patio door chosen by homeowners in the UK. This is because sliding doors open up your home to your garden, let in lots of natural light and are cost effective when compared to other types of door.

External sliding doors come in a variety of different styles, materials and configurations. We’ll show you the many options you have when choosing a sliding patio door for your home.

One of the biggest decisions will be the door frame material. The most popular choices are uPVC, timber and aluminium, with all having their advantages. Whatever frame, today’s doors are manufactured to a high standard with double glazing and multi point locks being common features. This means you can be sure of good levels of energy efficiency and security.

What are Sliding Patio Doors?

A sliding patio door is a kind of external door with glass panels that traditionally slides horizontally to open. Sliding doors are usually mounted on a track at the foot of the door or one at the top.

Modern external sliding doors are secure, energy efficient, and safe. The doors are popular for joining up the interior and exterior of a property.

Sliding patio doors are also a great choice for saving space. The door panels slide behind each other, rather than open outwards (like French doors) or inwards (like b-fold doors). The doors have the advantage of being cheaper than bi-folds. They are also more flexible than French doors when it comes to suitability for wider openings.

We’ve described the basic sliding door as you’d perhaps expect it. But there are variations on the standard sliding door that you should consider if you’re thinking of fitting them in your home.

Inline Sliding Doors

An inline sliding door sits within a door frame, opening and closing using rollers that slide along horizontal tracks. A handle allows the user to move the door along the tracks to open and close the door.

An inline configuration is the most common and traditional way in which a sliding door operates. Inline doors are available with two or more door panels.

The advantages of an inline door is their ease of operation for the user. It doesn’t take much effort to slide a door open. Although modern and made from high manufacturing standards, inline doors are uncomplicated in the way they operate. This means less maintenance and less things to go wrong.

Lift and Slide Patio Doors

A lift and slide door sits on a horizontal track and is lifted by the turn of a handle onto rollers to move. Although the lift and slide system is not new, construction methods have advanced enough to make the mechanisms the doors operate on very reliable and easy to operate.

The main advantage of lift and slide external doors is the opening method. The doors are lifted up by a 180 degree handle turn on to rollers. This allows for heavier & larger doors. The weight is carried by the rollers meaning the user requires little effort to open and close them.

Tilt and Slide External Doors

A tilt and slide door operates by a handle lifting the door out of the frame where it sits and on to rollers. This is the same as a lift and slide door.

The tilt and slide door has the extra feature of tilting inwards with a turn of the handle to allow ventilation whilst the door remains in a ‘closed’ position. This is great if you have children or pets.

Pocket Sliding Doors

A pocket sliding door has panels that when open are housed in a space in the wall the door is situated in. Effectively this means the panels ‘disappear’ leaving a fully open view and saving space.

Pocket doors are commonly used where there is little room for a conventional sliding door, in small openings where space is at a premium. You’ll also find pocket sliding doors used as interior doors in small rooms.

Slimline Sliding Doors

A slimline sliding door is an evolution from the conventional sliding door. The design of a slimline door allows for an either minimal frame size, or an almost frameless presentation. With less frame on show, the view and the amount of light the doors let in is increased.

Slimline sliding doors are usually manufactured in aluminum or steel, as strong materials are required to create the thinner profile of the doors.

Which is Better: uPVC, Wood, or Aluminium Sliding Doors?

Aluminium sliding doors offer durability, thin profile frames and a huge variety of styles. Wooden doors are a more traditional choice whilst uPVC offer value for money, but not the perceived quality of the other materials.

uPVC External Sliding Doors

uPVC has been a regular choice of material for sliding doors and was arguably responsible for the popularity of homeowners having patio doors installed in their homes from the 1980s onwards.

The reasons uPVC doors have become so popular over the years is their affordability, low maintenance and value for money. Where uPVC may have fallen behind other choices of material for patio doors is style and the fact that they are almost a victim of their popularity as they are so widely found, and older doors are looking rather tired.

Like many types of door uPVC has benefited from improved manufacturing techniques and the doors of today are light years ahead of patio doors from back in the day. uPVC still remains a great value option for doors.

Wood External Sliding Doors

Timber sliding doors are renowned for great looks and quality. Although thought of as more of a choice for traditional homes, timber frames are now available in a stunning variety of styles. One of the reasons for not choosing wooden patio doors has been the extra maintenance required compared to other materials. There is no doubt your timber frames will need more looking after, but modern paints and finished offer a lot of protection meaning a much longer lifespan.

Aluminum External Sliding Doors

Aluminum sliding doors have gone through a renaissance over the past few years. If you see a contemporary house on Grand Designs with an open plan living area looking out onto a beautiful vista, you can be sure aluminum framed sliding doors will be used to maximise the view and provide a seamless gateway between the inside and outside.

Previously aluminum frames were associated with frames that became discoloured & easily damaged. Today’s aluminium patio doors are finished with a powder coated paint before being heated to produce a hard wearing & attractive surface.

Powder coated finishes mean a massive choice of colours available to suit every style. Anthracite grey external sliding doors are currently very popular with modern and traditional homes alike. The strength of aluminum frames can support very large panes of glass. That strength also means slimmer frames, so you’ll see even more of your garden and let more light into your home.

Which External Sliding Door is Right for Me?

If your external door is made by a quality manufacturer, security and energy efficiency will be of a high standard whatever type of sliding door you choose.

Two major factors are aesthetics and budget. In terms of style, that is likely to be a battle between timber and aluminum. Timber doors have tradition on their side for older properties. However, aluminium doors with slimmer frames and many style choices will be tempting to many homeowners, whatever the age of their house is.

If cost is the overriding factor, a traditional uPVC inline sliding door is the natural option. Whilst not at the top of everyone’s wishlist, you’ll get value for money and a door that will provide you with all the major benefits sliding doors bring.

If you have an extra large opening, then aluminum lift and slide doors would be perfect, with tilt and slide being a solid choice with their extra functionality.

External sliding doors are a great choice, whichever style and material you choose you can look forward to having a wonderful gateway between home and garden, and natural light flooding into your home.

Be sure to check out the quality range of external sliding doors we offer at Aspire. Our sliding doors are available in standard sizes of 2.1m, 2.4m and 3m but we can happily build them to your specification, just get in touch.

Check out our article on sliding doors:


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