Volume 50, Issue 6 - June 2015

Canít Let THAT One Slide Ö

By Trey Barrineau

The trend of bringing the outdoors in doesn’t appear to be fading anytime soon. That means sliding door systems should keep growing in popularity, particularly in applications such as high-end residential projects and those in the hospitality segment, such as restaurants and hotels.

But for dealers and manufacturers, it’s still hard to slam the door on misconceptions about these products – both positive and negative.

To set the record straight, USGlass magazine reached out to some industry leaders about the most common fallacies they hear from building and home owners regarding sliding doors.


Stunning views and the ability to open the interior up to the outside are the biggest selling points for sliding doors and wall systems.

1. “Sliding Doors Can’t Keep All Water Out”

Chet Willis, vice president of production builder sales for Western Window Systems in Phoenix, doesn’t hold back when he hears this one.

“Wow,” he says. “Where to begin? Technically, this is true, but if the doors are installed in an environment where the weather conditions do not exceed the structural rating on the door, then it should not leak water … If the weather conditions such as wind speed and precipitation exceed what the door is tested for, then it is likely that the doors will leak water into the interior of the home. I could spend hours relating all the technical aspects of this conversation, but any statements being made like ‘can and will infiltrate’ need to be qualified.”

Willis says all doors that are structurally tested and certified need to meet certain water ratings to attain their final certification.

Lee Maughan, president of LaCantina Doors, echoes Willis’ sentiments.

“High-performance sliding doors have varied options and tested performance levels that achieve some of the highest ratings in the industry,” he says. “There are multiple different sliding system types in the market for application in any environment. As with any large opening multi-panel system that opens the indoors to the outdoors, home design elements should include adequate protection from extreme and direct weather exposure.”

Sue Weiland of Weiland Sliding Doors and Windows says it really depends on the type of door being used.

“The [owners] want this seamless transition you get with a flush track, and a lot of the companies are providing flush tracks on their sliding doors without performance ratings,” she says. The lift-slide door, which she says her company pioneered in the 1980s, is designed to seal against the finished floor.

Greg Header, president of Solar Innovations Inc., of Pine Grove, Pa., says his company also favors a lift-slide design for a watertight seal.

“Solar will often utilize a lift-slide door which, as the name implies, is raised and lowered off the sill/gasket system by the operation of the handle to create a seal on the bottom of the doors, especially at the hook rail location,” he says. “Properly designed and installed sliding glass doors (including proper sill pan, with design performance matched to sill) are extremely watertight. These doors do not rely on gaskets, but rather utilize the water column as designed to match sill height. Sliding doors can be very watertight by nature, due to their interlocking hooks and head/sill/jamb configurations.”

Despite that, Weiland says some companies take shortcuts to get their doors to meet standards.

“To try to meet those higher numbers, other manufacturers will have to add a dam to the threshold,” she says. “A lot of our dealers affectionately call them ‘trip tracks.’”

The Garza Blanca Reserve Ocean Front Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico features Western Window Systems’ 600 Series multi-slide doors throughout the entire project, opening guestrooms up to the ocean.



Floor-to-ceiling glass walls serve as one of the key features of the Joyride Taco House in Phoenix, limiting the barrier between indoor and outdoor dining.



Multi-slide doors used at the Koaola Landing at Poipu Beach in Hawaii seem to disappear when open.

2. “Sliding Doors Don’t Leak Air”

Sorry. They do.

“No door can be made airtight,” Willis says. “But there are minimum standards to which all sliding doors must adhere in order to be certified by AAMA (American Architectural Manufacturers Association).” Willis says tests for sliding doors have standards for allowed air infiltration and exfiltration.

But sliding doors are getting better in this area, says Header.

“Sliding doors typically are less efficient in water and air performance than their folding-door counterparts when considering pressure-equalization designs and thermal performance,” he says. “However, with new technologies such as Insulbar struts, sliders can be very energy efficient. Sliding doors in OX or OXXO configurations are able to achieve a thermally broken frame and leaf set-up; however, all other configurations do tend to breach the thermal breaks, so they are not as thermally efficient. For this reason, Solar does not recommend multi-track sliders in extremely cold climates as ice and snow can also limit operation. Also, quality sliding glass doors are constructed from thermally isolated aluminum frames which limit the transfer of temperature from inside to outside.”

“There are extremely well-engineered, thermally efficient door designs and glass options in the market that provide excellent overall performance,” says Maughan. “Any well-designed sliding door system should have particular attention paid to the sealing system and therefore keep air and drafts out of the home, even in windy environments.”

3. “The Bigger
the Panel, the Harder it is to Slide”


As sliding doors get larger, many consumers fear ease of operation will suffer.

Again, it depends on the type of door, Weiland says.

“A typical sliding door drags the gaskets as the panels are operated, and as the panel gets larger and heavier, it gets more difficult to roll,” she says. “The lift-slide lifts that panel up off the gaskets. So we can roll a very heavy, big panel very easily. They are very surprised when they visit us here and see some of our display doors, how large the panels are and how easily they can be operated.”

According to Header, modern hardware for sliding doors is much more advanced.

“Customers often remember the sliding doors of yesteryear which did not include the advancements of today,” he says. “High-performance options, including high-performance hardware, oversized 3-inch precision rollers and other technology improvements have made the use of sliding glass doors exceptionally more appealing.”

4. “Sliding Doors are Really Ugly”


Maybe they were for the Brady Bunch, but today? Ugly? Not so much. Sliding doors in the 21st century offer narrower sightlines thanks to hook rails and interlocking functions, among other advances.

Header reminds people that these are not your father’s sliding doors from the 1970s. Today, they come in multiple design configurations, including panels that all slide in one direction or split units with some panels sliding left and some sliding right. These products are constructed of durable, thermally enhanced aluminum that won’t rot or warp and don’t require constant maintenance on the finish.

Hardware and color options are also diverse.

“Generally a quality manufacturer will offer a variety of finish options and should be able to match any custom color a customer desires,” he says. “Anodized finishes should also be available for high traffic areas or to match modern aesthetics. The use of a wood veneer on a sliding glass door can add to the space’s warmth and make it feel more inviting. Metal cladding options can also be added to meet specific aesthetics. Hardware options include modern, aesthetically pleasing options, coupled with the more narrowly designed frames and multiple color options that have made them infinitely more flexible and high performing for the customer’s use.”

the author

Trey Barrineau is a contributing editor for USGlass magazine and editor of its sister publication, DWM Magazine.


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