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Steel or aluminium sliding wardrobe doors: what's the difference, and which is better?

Posted on 23rd June 2011

After spending 15 years in R&D for the largest manufacturer of sliding wardrobe doors and interiors in Europe and the US, this is a topic that has been raised on many occasions.  There are views that aluminium is the better product, but thats not always the case.

Aluminium is a great product to design with, as the manufacturing process allows for more flexibility in shape and design, but, steel, if designed correctly, and of the right quality, can have all the properties of aluminium, and more.  If you are requiring wood wrapped products (such as our Shaker and Minima sliding wardrobe doors), or wood effect frames, then steel has the advantage that it can be laminated flat, and then formed into shape.  This is a far more efficient process than post wrapping a preformed aluminium section, but the initial investment and setup cost means its only the larger companies that can afford to benefit from this.  As a direct result of this, the smaller companies will claim that aluminium is better, when the reality is that it’s the only option they can afford.

The tooling and set up cost for an aluminium system is very low compared to the massive investment required to make steel framed sliding wardrobe doors.  As a result, there are a lot of small companies producing aluminium systems, or importing aluminium from China or Eastern Europe, and only the bigger players in the market can afford the investment in high quality steel systems.  There are only a handful of companies in Europe who manufacture in steel, and only six roll form lines in the UK, and five of these are now being used to produce our sections in Sheffield.  This should be no surprise considering Sheffield is nicknamed the city of steel, and home to the global invention of stainless steel.  I have spent 15 years in this industry, 10 of which in product development and purchasing, and I’m yet to find better source of roll formed steel sections.   During my 10 years at Stanley  (the world’s best tool manufacturer and also the largest manufacturer of sliding closet doors) we were under great pressure from above to move production to low cost countries, but we could never find a producer that we could trust, so production always remained in Sheffield (I’m glad to say).  Now that I run my own company, I’m glad to say those days of looking for the lowest cost (at all costs) are over.

Anyway, back to the question of which is better?  The answer is simple, if you want a great quality & great value, then steel products such as our Minima and Shaker sliding wardrobe doors perform well at both high and mid ends of the market (as long as they are produced in Sheffield), but at the high end, if you want that perfect silver anodised aluminium finish, with crisp cut edges, and precision engineering then go for our Gliss and Maxima aluminium sliding wardrobe doors.