Thanks to advances in technology and design, patio doors can be made from a number of different materials. Generally all these materials offer the same design and configuration possibilities. Each material has it strengths and weaknesses and it is important to understand that good quality patio doors can be made using any of these materials. What is paramount is good energy efficient design.
Aluminum frames and sash are strong, lightweight and durable. In addition to its strength, aluminum is low maintenance and resists warping. Aluminum however is a high conductor of heat energy and, as such, a significant source of heat loss. To compensate, aluminum frames and sash must incorporate an effective thermal break, such as PVC or urethane, between the inside and outside surfaces to counteract conductive heat loss.
Wood patio doors are desirable for their natural beauty, good insulating value and structural strength. They do however require significant protection from the elements as well as regular maintenance. Manufacturers are required to treat wood with a preservative to help prevent rottingbut ongoing maintenance is the only way to ensure that wood lasts and performs. Wood frames and sash are often clad on the exterior side with PVC, aluminum or other factory-applied finishes to reduce the maintenance requirements and increase its durability.
Vinyl (PVC) has grown in popularity because it is a good thermal performer, lightweight, resistant to the elements and is easy to maintain. All vinyl patio doors incorporate some type of re-enforcement in the frame and /or panels to maintain structural integrity.
Fibreglass patio doors are constructed in the same fashion as vinyl patio exterior doors. Fibreglass is very strong and durable. In addition to a flat painted surface, fibreglass can also be embossed to give it the texture and appearance of wood. Unlike vinyl, fibreglass does not need reinforcement to maintain structural integrity.
Combination frames and sash combine two or more of the materials described above. The objective is to capitalize on the best features of each material so that the finished product will provide good thermal performance, durability and strength, and require minimal maintenance.
Composite materials, in contrast to combination frames, blend different materials, such as wood fibres and resins for example, together into a single unified composite material through a manufacturing process. The frames and sash are then manufactured from this unique new material.