If you want to open a house to the exterior, there are many door options, but one of the hottest for high-end homes is a lift and slide patio door.
In general, large patio doors are hot, as we reported three years ago. The main driver for this is the continued interest in indoor/outdoor living, as homebuyers and owners want to make their increasingly elaborate outdoor spaces an extension of the home’s interior. Large patio doors are riding this wave.
Sliding patio doors are nothing new, but a lift/slide door is a completely different animal. A type of multi-slide patio door, a lift/slide, for those who aren’t familiar, is a door that uses special hardware allowing the panels to lift off their track and weather-stripping and glide open or closed. When it’s time to close the doors, the handle lowers the panels on the track for a tight fit.
Because of the way they function, the patio doors offer a variety of benefits that architects, custom builders, and homeowners embrace.
“With panels that rise off the track and move with ease, these doors are an upgrade from your traditional sliding glass doors,” says the website of Solar Innovations, a Pine Grove, Pa.-based manufacturer of windows and door systems. “The door handle is the home of our lift slide technology; the gaskets in the door are lifted when you turn the handle, which then lifts the panels and allows them to smoothly travel across the track. Once the panels are in place, you turn the handle once more, and the door locks into place.”
Solar Innovations says its standard lift/slide units consist of two-, three-, and four-panel units, with a maximum panel size and weight of 440 pounds and 50 square feet. “Despite the size, these doors can still be opened with one hand and closed with just the push of a finger,” the company says.
Quantum Windows says one of the primary benefits of lift/slide doors—aside from the ease of operation—is the nice tight seal the track system and hardware help create. “With the best seals available on the market, you won’t have to worry about water or harsh winter drafts entering your home or business,” the company writes. “In addition, the aluminum profile of the lift slide system allows these doors to provide superior thermal performance.”
Steel Windows and Doors USA confirms the energy efficiency bonafides of the doors, saying energy saving is exceptional. “Since lift and slide doors have optimum sealing, they are one of the most energy saving products you can find on the market when it comes to doors,” the company says. “You won’t find your heat or cooling escaping and costing you extra money; you’ll be saving money instead.”
Steel Windows says the flush track means homeowners “get more of an unencumbered view” and because the doors don’t need as much room as a traditional door, they save space. “With a regular door, it will swing in our out, taking up precious space,” the company says. “These do not, which gives you more room on the inside and the outside.”
Lift/slide doors also offer better security than traditional sliding doors and better soundproofing, says Seemray, a company that manufacturers European-style windows and doors. The doors have more gaskets and weatherproofing, and the handle engages the hardware to create a nice tight seal. “The increased insulation also means less sound permeates into your home,” the company says. “This will also enhance your home’s level of comfort, especially if you have noisy neighbors.”
Unlike conventional sliding doors, lift/slide doors aren’t standard to most manufacturers. But they are still many suppliers out there (see resource list below). Products are available in a variety of sizes; in wood, aluminum, uPVC, steel as well as other types of metal cladding; with different hardware finishes; and a variety of colors.
But specifying a lift/slide door requires some thought. “Whenever a professional is specifying or planning to install a lift and slide-style door, my first piece of advice is to remember it’s a specialized installation process,” says Kris Hanson, director of product management at Marvin. “Following the manufacturers’ instructions carefully and utilizing installers specifically trained and familiar with this type of door is essential for a successful install.
Lift/slide doors are highly engineered and require tight tolerances for deflection and movement. Depending on the installation, doors could bind and fall out of alignment. As a result installation is extremely difficult and complicated, requiring leveling, sealing, flashing, and other considerations.
It’s important to think about location and environmental exposure when you are considering a sill option. While traditional raised sills help keep water out, flush-mount sills offer a seamless transition from inside to outside, but some manufacturers require a minimum overhang to prevent bulk water in rainy regions. Some products are rated for high performance, able to withstand strong winds up to 67 miles per hour and heavy rainfall.
“Does the application require the door to seal against air and water? If so, a performance sill is needed,” Hanson says. “If it doesn’t, a recessed sill can be used, which creates a more seamless flooring transition from the inside to the outside.”
Hanson says there a few more things builders and architects should think about: Consider which door has hardware and locking mechanisms that are the easiest for the homeowner to use. “Not all lift and slide-style doors are created equal when it comes to operation, so it’s important that a homeowner understands the basics of operation and is comfortable using the doors,” he says. Additionally, think about how the door will be used. If there’s a need for a daily use to access the home, a swinging door adjacent to it for ease of access is a good idea.
Finally, keep in mind that most low-threshold sills require a drainage system that takes water away from the system, so it’s a detail that architects and builders must consider during specification.
Get the Goods: Lift/Slide Door Manufacturers and Suppliers
Duratherm, Euro-Wall, Kolbe Windows & Doors, Marvin, NanaWall, Panda Windows & Doors, Quantum Windows & Doors, Reveal Windows and Doors, Seemray, Solar Innovations, Steel Windows & Doors, Tiltco, Unilux, Ventana USA, Weiland, Zola