Slim sliding doors, an inside view

Rod Tate, sales director at Viiu, gives an insider’s perspective on the UK ultra-slim sliding door market.

Is this product good enough? It’s a question that glazing businesses should be asking themselves all the time, but far too many don’t.

At Viiu, the products we offer has to pass a very simple test: would I install it in my home? If the answer’s yes, we’ll sell it. If it’s no, no matter the price or the potential profitability, we won’t.

You might think that’s just common sense – standard practice among companies offering the sort of complex, high-end products that Viiu specialises in. But in my experience, that’s just not the case.

I’m frequently astounded by some of the claims I see in the trade magazine from some of our competitors.

I know of sliding door systems that repeatedly claim to be ‘premium’, ‘high-end’ and the like in the press, but actually use components that cost less than a decent coffee.

That’s not just hearsay. It’s something I’ve seen with my own eyes. I’ve examined these products up close, even flown abroad to have impressive three-hour factory tours only to be shocked by the shoddy quality of some of the parts used.

One supposedly premium product we trialled used acrylic rollers costing £3 each.

To be fair, this was a door with a maximum panel weight of 320kg – most prestige slimline systems have a maximum panel weight of 750kg – and at first glance looked OK.

But 320kg is still a lot of glass, and I certainly wouldn’t want to pay for a high-end ultra-slim door and have it depend on critical rolling components that cost just £3 to work properly.

If the product offered flawless performance in spite of the bargain bin hardware, it would be more understandable, but the wheels were extremely crude, requiring effort to move even panel sections weighing just 120kg.

It was a Ford trying to sell itself as a Ferrari, and what I find so disturbing is that so many homeowners, installers and even architects have been taken in.

I know some readers are just going to accuse me of attacking a competitor’s system to try and sell my own.

So, in the interest of balance, let me say that Viiu is by no means the only prestige ultra-slim sliding aluminium door on the market; Skyframe and Keller, are excellent systems. We obviously think Viiu has the edge, but these two are robustly built, and certainly don’t use the sort of sub-par hardware like other systems we could mention.

The bottom line, as far as I’m concerned, is that if you want to truly see what a product is like, don’t just read the brochure, or the technical manual, or speak to the salesman – go in, and see it up close for yourself. If it’s one of the systems I referred to earlier, handling the rolling gear will tell you everything you need to know.