Horizontally sliding glass doors were a California creation in the 1950’s or earlier. The original sliding doors were aluminum framed and glazed with a single piece of glass in each panel. After the National Glazing Standards were enacted, it was mandated that this door glass be tempered for strength and safety. Often called “patio sliding doors,” they were commonly installed for egress to patios, decks, balconies and other outdoor areas adjacent to the house.

Sliding Closet Door Frames

Over the last half of the Twentieth Century the framing material for SGDs was aluminum, wood, steel and finally polyvinyl fluoride (PVC). Steel is obviously the strongest material, but it was costly and not as attractive as wood or aluminum. Concerns about heat transference and energy usage resulted in the development of an aluminum frame material that had a non-conductive material that minimized this conduction. Wood door frames were often clad with aluminum for durability and to minimize maintenance (painting).

The advent of PVC has produced the ideal residential sliding wardrobe door frame material. PVC requires no maintenance, is non-conductive, and is less costly to produce. The natural color of PVC is white, but the material may be impregnated with colors during the extrusion process.

Thermally-broken aluminum is usually the choice for commercial structures or high-rise buildings. Aluminum sliding door frames are very strong, meet high wind loading requirements of the coastal areas of the USA and require little or no maintenance.

Wood sliding glass door frames are usually specified in more exclusive, higher priced homes. Wood must be maintained periodically; exterior painted, interior stained. Wood is a non-conductive material so conduction of energy is not an issue.

Glazing Material

The advent of insulating glass units in the 1960-70s greatly reduced the energy transference through the glass units by minimizing the convection of the glass. Modern SGDs are fitted with “double” or “triple” glazing. The insulating glass unit is made up of two (double glazed) or three (triple glazed) pieces of glass, a desiccant-filled separator and a rubbery sealant. The unit is assembled, hermetically sealed and installed as a single piece into the sliding closet door frame with a wrap-around gasket forming a seal with the frame material. It is mandated by the National Glazing Standards that all glass within four feet of any doorway or within eighteen inches of the floor, must be tempered, so all SGD glass is heat tempered to four times the strength of regular annealed glass.


The sliding screen door frame is installed without the glazed panels. The door opening is sized by the installer to accept the assembled frame. Wood SGDs are fastened directly through the jambs, head and sill into the wood doorway material. The trim material is usually part of the wood door unit. Aluminum frames often have a nail-fin when used in new construction, are nailed into place and trimmed appropriately around the interior and exterior. On rehab, aluminum frames are installed in much the same manner as wood, by fastening them through the jambs, head and sill into the surround material. Vinyl sliding doors are installed in the same manner. Before the final tightening of the fasteners, the frame is checked for level, square and plumb. Shims may be used where required.

After the frame is installed, the glazed fixed panel is slid into place and fasteners applied. The operating panel is placed in the frame and the handles and locking mechanism installed. The rollers on the sliding panel are adjusted for level and plumb.

The cost of sliding mirror doors will range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, determined by the frame and panel material, the size and the amount of trimming required. Sliding interior doors come in several standard widths: Six feet, eight feet and twelve feet. The standard heights are 6 feet 8 inches and 8 feet. The panels will be either three or four feet wide. Some manufacturers may offer a five foot door, but these are not considered standard sized.

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