Archaeological finds in Pompeii, Italy, tell us that sliding doors were used as early as the first century in Roman houses. It seems that the Romans were onto al fresco dining and indoor-outdoor flow ahead of their time. Here in New Zealand the sliding door revolution took place in the early 1960s with the introduction of the ‘ranch slider’. Although these days we use this term when referring to sliding doors in general, it is a trademark still owned by Fletcher Aluminium.
There are two standard types of sliding doors, top hung or bottom rolling systems. Top hung sliding doors have the rolling gear in the head of the doorframe. This provides maximum protection from dirt and track damage and in many cases, will allow the sill to be completely flush for low maintenance cleaning and a sleek aesthetic. The downside of top hung sliding doors is that increased lintel support may be required and installation generally takes longer. With modern lifestyles demanding large openings and double glazing, top hung sliding doors struggle to support the increased weight requirements.
The alternative bottom rolling system is ideal when heavier panels are required. There are several options – one being the classic inside slider which has a panel that slides in a channel or trough on the inside face of a fixed panel. A key benefit of the inside sliding door is the ability to have opening sashes (windows) for ventilation in the fixed panel. The downside is that the trough tends to build up unsightly dirt, debris and the odd dead fly which can hinder smooth operation and cause the vacuum cleaner to be used on a more than regular basis. Weather performance also isn’t as good as with the outside sliding version due to the fact that water is being brought into the house when opened.
Outside sliding doors generally offer increased weather-tightness and can have a smooth sill with a raised rolling guide. A good option is looking for a door that has a chevron shaped rolling guide (like an upside down ‘V’) and the wheel is also chevron shaped but concave (like a ‘V’). This allows for greater panel weight distribution as it rolls along the whole surface of the guide. Round shaped guides and wheels tend to roll on a point, which causes flat spotting – that ‘thump, thump, thump’ noise you hear when sliding the door. Ultimately the chevron is one feature that helps to create the smoothest kind of sliding door.
Sliding doors are now available in a multitude of configurations ranging from the standard single panel slider to stacker doors, bi-parting doors, bi-passing doors, internal and external corner sliders, doors that slide into a cavity to doors that slide over the exterior wall cladding.
The kind of glass you use is just as important as the style of your chosen sliding door configuration. It affects the design, appearance and thermal performance of your home. In contrast to simple single glazing, performance glass will ensure your home stays comfortable all year round – protecting you from the strong New Zealand sunlight in summer. Options include double glazed, tinted, toughened or laminated glass.
There are three key points to consider when thinking about glazing: the amount of natural light you still want to enter while controlling UV and glare, the degree to which you want to minimise solar heat gain to maintain ambient temperatures, and reducing heat loss to the outside.
One of the best possible options is using double glazed laminated tinted glass with a Low E coating and Argon gas between the panes. This will control solar heat gain and UV while maintaining an ambient temperature, so it keeps your house nice and cool in summer and warm in winter. Alternatively, you can choose to go with double glazed glass or laminated single glazed Low E glass.
Sliding doors are a really practical option for most house layouts and scenarios. They are great for easy outdoor access from living area or bedrooms. They are ideal when opening onto narrow passageways. And they are a good option for controlled ventilation as they can be opened a little or a lot. Compared to bi-fold or French doors, their limitations are that they tend to not open up completely. This is only achieved through a cavity or through over-cladding options, which are more expensive.
Sliding or stacking doors used in upscale renovations can be three metres high or higher in some cases. As for widths, there are no limits, therefore open plan glass boxes can be created to fully open up, providing fun social spaces.
Sliding doors offer a larger doorway that makes it easier to carry big items through, such as furniture. Because sliding doors do not require additional space to swing open, they occupy less space than hinged doors. Therefore, the space surrounding sliding doors can be used for other things, for instance, outdoor furniture, the barbeque or giant pot plants without hindering the door from being opened or closed.
All it takes is a bit of imagination and thinking outside the square to transform what could be something average into a feature that’s not only a benefit to a home but a real talking point as well.
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.
This article by Ronnie Pocock featured on page 60 of Issue 05 of Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations.
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