Whether you’re planning an entire home remodel or want to upgrade a few elements, doors are often one of the main components that come into play. Though they tend to be overlooked, doors play a crucial role in both interior and exterior home design.
The right door should complement the rest of the design components in the home. However, doors aren’t purely decorative and, therefore, should be the appropriate size and type for the structure it is being fitted for.
Generally speaking, doors are separated into two main categories: interior and exterior. Though, there are a number of subsections in each of these categories. One of the most common types of doors, seen in both interior and exterior applications, is sliding doors.
As the name indicates, sliding doors operate by sliding one panel of the door to the side horizontally. Oftentimes, sliding doors are placed parallel to the wall and consist of a track on the top and bottom that facilitates the side to side movement.
Sliding doors can also be broken down into many different types, based on their design, materials, features, and the type of glass used. Some of the most common types of sliding doors including pocket sliding doors, bypass doors, sliding French doors, patio sliding doors, accordion doors, and barn doors. They are incredibly popular in residential homes because they are easy to use, offer security, save space, and are energy efficient.
When used in interior applications they can often be found used for bathroom or pantry doors to save space in small homes. Or, large glass sliding doors a popular choice to separate a home office from the main living space. They offer just enough privacy, without completely cutting off the space and natural light. With that said, let’s take a look at the various types of sliding doors to inspire your next home renovation project.
Table of Contents
- Interior Doors vs. Exterior Doors
- Types of Sliding Doors
- Sliding Door Materials
- Sliding Door Glass Types
- Additional Sliding Door Features
Interior Doors vs. Exterior Doors
Before we take a look at sliding doors categorized by their design, it’s important to understand the difference between an interior and exterior door – especially since sliding doors can be used for either application depending on your needs. Simply put, exterior doors are generally those that serve as an entrance to your home. As such, they are durable, often have weatherproofing, and must withstand the exterior elements.
Interior doors, on the other hand, are less durable and cannot stand up to outdoor conditions. Therefore, as their name suggests, they are meant to be used indoors as entrances to various rooms in your house and sometimes as an opening to a balcony or patio.
Exterior doors also offer safety and security, especially when they serve as the main entrance to your house. They are often primarily constructed out of wood and are designed to last for a longer period of time. Whereas, interior doors are usually more affordable and can be found in a range of materials.
Types of Sliding Doors
Of all the types of doors, sliding doors are one variety that can greatly increase the style and curb appeal of your home. They offer safety, security, easy access, natural light, and help save space. Sliding doors can be used in both interior and exterior applications and some of the most common types include:
1. Pocket Sliding Doors
A pocket door is a type of sliding door that, when fully open, vanishes into a compartment in the adjacent wall. They are often used in situations where there is no room to accommodate the swing of a traditional hinged door or simply as an architectural effect.
Pocket sliding doors may function based on rollers that are travel along a suspended overhead track or they may travel using guides or tracks in the floor. You can find both single- and double-door varieties, chosen based on how wide of an entry is desired.
These types of sliding doors are ideal for anyone who wants to have a nice, highly functional door but is limited on space. They are commonly seen used as closet doors, pantry doors, and even bedroom doors. When you’re working with a limited amount of space, it is very convenient to have a door that can disappear into the wall when open.
Installing a pocket sliding door instead of a conventional hinged door can free up approximately ten square feet of floor space.
Pocket doors come in a variety of materials and styles, though you’ll typically see the traditional wood design most often. Since these types of doors became popular back in the Victorian era, it’s common to see them used with a similar type of interior design.
One major drawback to pocket sliding doors is the fact that most of the hardware and parts are hidden. This can make it difficult for the average homeowner to fix or replace something when an issue arises. To access the problem, you might have to remove the door and trim and open up the entire wall.
2. Bypass Doors
Another common type of sliding door is the bypass door system. Bypass doors are ideal for installing in a washroom and closet and are commonly found used as shower doors. Like pocket doors, they work well in small spaces. These doors consist of fixed panels that are mounted adjacent to each other and tracks both above and below the door frame. They operate by sliding the door conveniently in one direction.
Sliding bypass doors are simple, easy to use, and reasonably priced for closing off a storage area or dividing off a space in your home. They can come in a number of configurations, meaning they can achieve far more than what you might expect while still maintaining their ease of use and forthright installation. Bypass doors are typically made of either wood or glass and since they are one of the most cost-effective sliding door options, they are wildly popular in residential applications.
3. Sliding Bi-Fold Doors
Sliding bi-fold doors, or sometimes referred to as room dividers, get their name because they fold in or out to open up the space. To open sliding bi-fold doors, one of the panels is slid to one side which compacts both halves of the door toward each other. The panels stack against the wall to take advantage of the available space. Though this solution is not as compact or space-saving as a pocket door or bypass doors, it can still work well in certain situations.
Most people opt for sliding bi-fold doors because of the aesthetic that they create. They can be used for both interior and exterior applications, with internal sliding bi-fold doors typically being used to close off small spaces like laundry rooms, closets, and pantries, while external sliding bi-fold doors are often used to connect the interior of the home to the exterior.
The external variety is generally found at the back of the home, leading to a summer home or garden.
Flexibility is the major advantage to these types of sliding doors, as they come in a range of materials, styles, colors, finishes, textures, and shapes. They are also typically very easy to clean and install and fix yourself. As long as you have some DIY experience, you should have no trouble installing your own sliding bi-fold doors.
4. Patio Sliding Doors
As the name suggests, patio sliding doors are used in residential applications as openings to the patio. Though they are found in most homes in North America, they can also be seen in various parts of the world. When you mention a sliding door, these patio sliding doors are synonymous with the name even though they are often used in both exterior and interior situations. There are a number of patio sliding door styles, with the most common being a single fixed panel and a sliding door that serves as the entrance.
In most cases, patio sliding doors will be made out of large, thick glass panels to allow natural light in and facilitate an excellent view of the outdoors. They also help to keep the rooms in your home well-ventilated.
Choosing the right patio sliding door for your home comes down to your budget and how durable you need the door to be. For example, if you have children or security is a top priority, you’ll want to opt for a door that is made out of strong materials.
Generally speaking, these types of sliding doors are easy to install. You’ll only need to make some minor modifications if your home already has an existing doorway. For this reason, you likely won’t need a professional installer, especially if you have some DIY experience.
5. Sliding French Doors
One of the most universally loved types of doors is French doors. Although traditional French doors operate with hinges, there are also sliding French doors. If you want the versatility and appeal of a French door but don’t have the space for a conventional hinged one, choosing a sliding French door is the perfect solution. They are an excellent way to show off your sense of style in your living space.
While sliding French doors are commonly used as patio doors, they can be used in various applications all over the house. You can install them in a home office or to separate your living room from a sunroom. It ultimately depends on your particular needs, situation, and what you want to get out of your sliding French doors. Regardless of where you choose to install them, sliding French doors can add a substantial amount of charm to your interior home design.
6. Shoji Doors
In recent years, globalization has led to many people being educated on various cultures and habits outside of their own. As such, many individuals in the western world have grown a strong appreciation for Japanese culture and that passion has stretched into interior design as well.
Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see western homes with some sort of Japanese aesthetic incorporated into the design. When it comes to sliding doors, the Japanese have their own: The Shoji Door. Shoji doors hail from Japan and can significantly add to the aesthetic value of any home.
What sets these sliding doors apart from other varieties is the fact that they do no use glass as the panes. Instead, they use paper panes and the frame is constructed out of wood. As you might expect, Shoji doors operate by sliding on the door on a frame. Of course, the major disadvantage to this type of sliding door is the fact that the paper could tear during install or sometime afterward.
For best results, it’s recommended to hire a professional to install a Shoji door. This will greatly reduce the risk of the paper tearing or becoming damaged during installation.
Shoji doors are best suited for a home full of adults, who will treat the door with the necessary care it needs. They are commonly placed as the entrance to garden areas, but will look lovely and add light to any area of your home.
7. Sliding Barn Doors
For those who live in rural areas, barn doors are highly desirable. Although they come in a variety of styles and colors, they are pretty much universally loved. Barn doors are easy to install and feature an upper track and a bottom groove that the door rests in. The track is installed above the doorway opening and then the door slides effortlessly from one side to the other on the track. Sliding barn doors offer much more convenience than the swinging variety.
The major advantage to using a sliding barn door is to save space in areas where you cannot accommodate the swing of a traditional door. These doors also require significantly less effort to open and close, providing easy access. Since there are so many colors and styles available, you’ll have no trouble finding a barn door that complements your interior design aesthetic.
On average, a sliding barn door costs roughly $600, but ranges between $200 and $1,000. This range includes both parts and labor. Of course, you can significantly lower the cost of your sliding barn door by choosing to DIY the installation. Generally speaking, the barn door should be approximately two to three inches wide than the door opening and around one inch higher than the dimensions of the opening.
8. Accordion Doors
Of all the sliding door options available, accordion doors are the most affordable. They can be purchased for an incredibly low price to suit your sliding door needs. As their name suggests, the door slides to one side when opening and folds to resemble an accordion. These sliding doors come in an array of colors and styles and are typically used for closets. Though, you can also use accordion doors on your pantry or anywhere else that is suitable in your home.
Unlike the other types of sliding doors, accordion doors are hung. They are relatively simple to install, offer a clean, neat appearance, and slide easily along the track. Wherever you have a need to conceal multiple doors on a much lower budget, these types of sliding doors can come in handy!
Sliding Door Materials
Sliding doors are manufactured from a variety of materials. Generally speaking, a wood sliding door isn’t usually just wood, as some will have steel interiors. Whereas, a steel or fiberglass door might have a wood frame or a wood interior. Though, nearly all types of sliding doors will have some sort of energy-efficient interior foam insulation. With that said, here are the most common materials used in the construction of sliding doors:
Because of its natural beauty, wood is typically the most common material used for sliding doors. Of course, wood tends to be rather vulnerable to the elements, meaning it requires a durable finish stain or paint job. It also must be repainted or re-stained regularly to maintain its strength and integrity. You can find wood sliding doors that are already primed and painted in standard colors, or you can pay a premium to have them painted a custom color.
Both softwoods and hardwoods are used in door construction, with hardwood being the most common when a natural finish is preferred. Each type of wood has its own advantages and disadvantages – while some are incredibly durable in weather, others greatly benefit from staining. The following are the characteristics of some of the most popular wood species:
- Red Oak: The most abundant and popular choice of all the hardwoods. It offers exceptional water resistance and, because of its courser grain, can withstand more abuse.
- Poplar: A great choice, since it is generally inexpensive and accepts both paint and stain very well.
- Hickory: The heaviest, hardest, and most durable of all the hardwoods. It looks best when used in a rustic application, such as a log cabin or for a barn door.
- Ash: Ash also accepts stain well and is slightly harder than red oak.
- Cherry: Cherry will darken with age and also from exposure to sunlight. It is resistant to warping, and is hard, durable, and accepts stain well. This type of wood is highly sought after for use indoors, cabinetry, and furniture.
- White Oak: White Oak receives a reputation as the best all-around wood species. It allows little to no water to infiltrate the surface, offers wonderful resistance to wear, and is highly stainable. As such, white oak is generally used on boats and for making wine and whiskey barrels.
- Mahogany: A tropical type of wood that is very strong and doesn’t tend to warp. Its reddish-brown color is highly desirable and the wood possesses exceptional finishing qualities.
- Walnut: Walnut is a strong, dark hardwood that, in some cases, has blonde streaking. It stains to a beautiful finish and is second in line behind cherry as the choice for doors, cabinetry, and furniture.
2. Fiberglass Composite
This is a man-made material that offers a clean, modern look. It can also be stained or painted and due to the synthetic nature of fiberglass, these types of doors are generally very durable. Fiberglass composite doors will also never warp, swell, or peel – a strong advantage over their wood counterparts. Fiberglass is competitively priced, energy-efficient, resistant to denting, and requires little maintenance. However, under severe impact, fiberglass can crack.
Sliding doors that are constructed out of steel are made using a heavy-gauge galvanized steel, which is applied over a core of rigid foam. The surfaces of these doors are usually coated in vinyl or polymer and then wood-grain embossed. Although they are designed to imitate wood, they only do a fair job at looking like the real thing. With that said, steel is usually preferred for its strength and low maintenance.
However, steel can be incredibly difficult to repair and is susceptible to denting. The material can also scratch easily and will rust if it’s not repainted regularly. Due to their foam cores, most steel sliding doors are very energy efficient.
4. Aluminum and Vinyl Clad
Aluminum and vinyl-clad sliding doors combine the best of both worlds – the appeal of natural wood indoors and the strength and durability of aluminum or vinyl on the exterior. Due to its low maintenance qualities, this material is incredibly popular for sliding doors. Aluminum cladding is prefinished using a factory coating to enhance the durability of the outside surface of the door.
Solid aluminum, which is sometimes used for the tracks and frames of sliding doors, is both durable and lightweight. In most cases, the material is treated with an anodized finish so that it can resist corrosion and be less susceptible to rusting. Though, like steel, aluminum is susceptible to denting and can be challenging to repair.
Sliding Door Glass Types
As is evident in the many examples above, glass is essentially synonymous with sliding doors. Like all other windows, doors, and skylights in your home, sliding doors can be designed with a range of different types of glass. Two of the most common types of glass used in sliding doors are:
- Tempered glass, also referred to as safety glass, is a highly recommended feature to have in your sliding glass door. It ensures that your new beautiful sliding glass door will also stand up to daily use. Tempered glass will also enhance safety, which is especially important if you have children. When tempered glass is impacted, it breaks into smaller pieces instead of leaving large, dangerous pieces of glass stuck in the door.
- Reflective glass is another common glass type used in the construction of sliding doors. The coating on reflective glass reflects the sunlight away, effectively reducing heat gain in your living spaces. Of course, energy efficiency is very important and a popular variation of reflective glass is low-emissivity (low-E) glass.
Glass in sliding doors is typically made up of two pieces of glass that are sealed together, leaving a small airspace in between the pieces. In most cases, the airspace is filled up with gas. These are typically referred to as “insulating glass units,” but “dual pane” and “double pane’ are also common terms that you may come across.
These systems serve as excellent insulators. Though, they will perform differently than a traditional opaque wall that is stuffed with insulation. Because of this fact, it’s important that you consider the climate of your area when you are deciding between single-, double-, or even triple-glazing on your sliding doors. You’ll find triple-glazing available in extreme climates, where it is absolutely necessary.
Additional Sliding Door Features
In addition to the type of glass that you choose for your sliding doors, there are a number of other features that you may want to include in the design. These include, but are not limited to:
Although accordion-style sliding doors are incredibly useful, many have issues with the fact that they do not close as tightly as other options. If this is a concern for you, you can opt for an accordion sliding door that has a snap-lock closing feature. This is a very convenient feature that allows you to have peace of mind that the door is closed properly, by snapping it into place. It helps you avoid leaving the door slightly ajar, as you’ll know that door is closed properly each time.
Most modern accordion doors come outfitted with this snap-lock closing feature. However, make sure that you check with the manufacturer to ensure that the particular door you choose does have it.
Sliding shower doors are one of the most common varieties of sliding doors that you’ll find in a home. In some cases, these sliding doors will be outfitted with a convenient towel bar for hanging your towel to dry after use. Obviously, you won’t have to purchase a towel bar for anywhere else other than the bathroom, but it can be very useful for these sliding doors.
These towel bars can usually double as a grip for sliding the shower door open and closed. They are snugly attached to the outside of the door, so there won’t be any risk of it pulling off during operation. If you’re installing a sliding door on your shower, a towel bar is definitely a feature you’re going to want to include!
Another beneficial feature to have, especially if your sliding door is on your closet, is ball-bearing rollers. These ensure that the door has a quiet operation when it is opened. This feature is especially important if you share your bedroom with someone else. That way, it’s always guaranteed that you won’t wake them up in the middle of the night when you need to get into your closet. These ball-bearing rollers muffle any sounds and also make the door feel much more natural to slide open and closed.