Seamless Transitions

A handful of door manufacturers in the niche market of disappearing doors is upping the ante in the battle to win customers. New flush track options, larger sizes and more design options are now available for designers and architects to push design limits.

Some people have the misconception that these doors can only be used on the beaches of California or in the deserts of Arizona. Not true. “[The doors are found] anywhere people have a beautiful view, whether it is the Colorado mountains, or rolling hills of Kentucky. People want to bring the outdoor and indoor living environments together,” says Elizabeth Souders, product marketing manager for doors, Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors.

The doors can be found as far north as Canada and everything in between. “California and Florida are strong partially because of their climates. But it’s not just in the Sunbelt states; we do sell in states like Wisconsin,” says Matt Power, president, La Cantina Doors.

Weather resistance must be part of these doors to meet the demands of colder regions. “[NanaWall Systems] are just as energy-efficient and weather-tight as regular windows. We have five systems that are Energy Star-rated,” says Ebrahim Nana, president, NanaWall Systems.

In areas where bugs can be an issue, some manufacturers offer screens or partner with third-party screen manufacturers; La Cantina Doors recently launched a screen product. NanaWall also offers a screen product. “There’s a whole part of the country where you wouldn’t have a large opening wall without a screen,” Nana says.

Weiland Sliding Doors and Windows offers screens for its lift and slide doors. “Pocketing is available with the screens. We use third-party screen companies for our folding doors,” says Steve Donner, general manager, Weiland Sliding Doors and Windows.

Material options range from wood, aluminum, aluminum clad with wood interior, or fiberglass depending on the manufacturer. “Architects like our [aluminum clad] folding system because of the low maintenance on the outside and the warmth of wood on the inside, and it’s Energy Star-rated,” Nana says.

Jeld-Wen offers its doors in wood, aluminum clad and fiberglass. “There is a variety of wood species that we can offer from pine to mahogany, plus tons of finishes. The aluminum clad has a ton of different choices to match a window package,” Souders says.

Size, aesthetics matter

New products hitting the market range in size and material. Weiland is making advances in size offerings with its new 16-ft. lift and slide. “We introduced an impact, hurricane-rated lift and slide door, an AAMA-rated 16-ft. lift and slide, and our bifold doors are currently 13½ ft. tall,” Donner says.

La Cantina Doors is expanding its offerings to meet the needs of the market, Power adds. “We started with wood doors, then aluminum clad doors, and now an all-aluminum door that is more contemporary and has more glass,” he says. “Other new products include hurricane-rated doors. We also have a new flush threshold option. It’s a zero-step sill — a floor channel option that allows for a flush, seamless transition from outside to inside with an effective seal at the bottom of the doors. Everyone wants a flush transition — it’s a key design feature, especially for custom homes.”

Flush track options are also available from NanaWall. “Our new product is a single-track, multipanel slider. Normally sliders have multiple tracks. We eliminated the issues of multitracks. Now we have a single-track top-hung slider and the bottom track is a guide,” Nana says.

Jeld-Wen folding doors are available with two to 16 panels depending on the configuration. “We can even do a 90-degree corner to open up adjoining walls,” Souders adds.

Loewen’s bifold doors meet designer demand for contemporary and traditional styles. “The profiles of our bifold system allow these products to be placed in both contemporary and traditional styles of architecture. Traditionalists may opt for a grille pattern or doors with panels, while modernists typically lean toward minimal profiles and maximum glass,” says Jon Sawatzky, product marketing manager, Loewen.

Since the introduction of its bifold system, Loewen has seen an increase in demand for taller doors. “The norm used to be for doors up to 8 ft. but we’re now frequently building doors that are 10 ft. tall,” Sawatzky adds.

Glass and hardware

In the world of custom homes, it is inevitable that some homeowners will want custom glass in their folding doors. Many manufacturers will work with builders and designers to create a completely custom door, including the glass. “Decorative glass is an option. On the fiberglass and wood products, you can sketch your own glass. We have artists that can place decorative glass into those units,” Souders says.

Donner adds that all Weiland doors are custom. “Any glass we can get our hands on, we can put in the doors,” he says.

La Cantina doors come standard with Low-E glass. “Decorative glass is custom. We do decorative glass, obscured glass, laminated and impact glass,” Power says. The company sells products in Florida where impact-resistant glass is needed.

Loewen’s doors also come standard with Low-E glass. “Our standard glazing is HeatSmart 1; double-glazed, Low-E, argon. Because we build our own sealed units, we have the capabilities to construct various glass configurations,” Sawatzky says.

NanaWall offers two systems that are impact-resistant; one product meets Miami-Dade requirements and the other meets AAMA requirements. The company’s hardware is also tested for forced-entry resistance. “We pride ourselves on our hardware. Our locking system is concealed — no surface-mounted locking. It offers easy operation and is aesthetically pleasing. The hinges are security hinges that you can’t just pop from the outside,” Nana adds.
Many doors are offered with multipoint security locks. Some manufacturers such as Loewen offer handle sets; Jeld-Wen offers hardware to match other products in the house. Jeld-Wen also offers an automated opening/closing system. “With a push of a button [the homeowner] can open or close the doors. We partner with Doors in Motion,” says Brian Hedlund, product marketing manager for windows, Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors. This automated system cannot be integrated into a home automation system.

Lift, slide and folding doors often are designed as easy to operate, making them more appealing than traditional sliding doors. “Conventional sliders are difficult to operate after a few years. After 20 years, lift and slides are effortless to use. I know of a 70-year-old woman has a 1,000-lb. panel that she operates with ease,” Donner says.

Folding or sliding?

Homeowners should weigh the advantages of folding vs. lift and slide doors when deciding which products to choose for their homes. “With a folding system, the panels remain 90 degrees to the opening — you can’t hide them. If the layout of the home allows for it, then it’s not a big deal,” Nana says.

“Folding doors are a good option to maximize the opening when there’s no room for pockets. With a lift and slide door, you can get much larger panels so there is more glass and more view. If you have room for pockets, you can slide the panels and have them disappear into the walls,” Donner adds.

The types of homes that include these doors may change as building techniques and homeowner demands change. “People want bigger openings so if the trend is to smaller homes, smaller homes are more attractive with large openings. Plus they significantly increase the value of the house,” Donner adds.

These doors most often are found in the higher-end home market but that, too, may change. “Folding doors are products that the mass market deserves and it shouldn’t be limited to the custom and high-end market. The average homeowner will understand what it is and understand the choice between folding and sliding doors; the average person will understand it and want it,” Power adds.

Future product options most likely will be reliant on the architecture community, adds Jeld-Wen’s Hedlund. “We work with a lot of architects who want to do certain things. That is where the 90-degree wall came from; they wanted to open the door without a post,” he says. “Architects will design around them. That’s where you’ll see more products. You will continue to see companies providing innovative doors.”

DOOR RESOURCES

  • Jeld-Wen Windows and Doors For more info, please indicate #9 in E-Inquiry
  • La Cantina Doors For more info, please indicate #10 in E-Inquiry
  • Loewen For more info, please indicate #11 in E-Inquiry
  • NanaWall Systems For more info, please indicate #12 in E-Inquiry
  • Weiland Sliding Doors and Windows For more info, please indicate #13 in E-Inquiry

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