How multi-panel doors can be scaled for all types of homes

Andersen MultiGlide door

Indoor-outdoor connections are a must-have for many homeowners. But can large doors work for smaller-scale homes? AIA partner Andersen Windows, Inc. explores the options available to architects.

It’s no secret that large expanses of glass are popular for high-end homes. This is particularly true for creating seamless indoor-outdoor connections via multi-panel doors. But what about smaller homes and smaller budgets? Or homes in areas more prone to bugs or wind? In recent years, options and price points for these products have broadened, helping to make large doors scalable for home size, geography, and even budget.

Creative freedom

The trend toward indoor-outdoor living remains strong, including blurring the lines between the two, expanding the interior space, and bringing the outdoors in. In fact, this is hardly a trend at all—desiring a great view has been around since the dawn of time.

Innovation has led to opportunities to go bigger, with multiple opening panels spanning 50 feet or more to create larger clear openings. These moving glass panels provide maximum views with no interruptions of sightlines and also can perform well from thermal, energy, structural, and air and water performance perspectives.

But that innovation does not need to be restricted only to the largest, most opulent homes, as there are now ample opportunities to scale indoor-outdoor connections within smaller footprints.  

Why should architects consider big doors in a wider range of home styles and sizes? We’re accustomed to creating large openings with a French patio door with sidelight windows on both sides. But that hinged door and two windows are interrupting the views when closed and opened; of four panels, only two are active, and the maximum clear opening is only 7-1/2 feet. Your options are simply more limited and your configuration is set in stone.

A multi-panel door in which panels slide into a pocket can be configured into the same rough opening, but with more flexibility in day-to-day operation—slide open one panel, two, three, or four—for unobstructed views and a better indoor-outdoor experience. A traditional two-panel sliding glass door can be replaced with one- or two-panel pocketing doors, providing the same look when closed but with the capability to tuck completely out of the way when opened, creating the blurred lines homeowners crave.

Another more scalable option is to install pass-through windows, which take up less space than an open door but add that coveted connection to bring in more light and create an indoor-outdoor kitchen with a bar for entertaining.

Andersen's pass-through window creates a picturesque indoor-outdoor bar.

Geography and performance considerations

In regions of the country where insects are an issue, many sliding and lift-and-slide doors can be combined with panel insect screen options. Depending on the configuration, you can extend or retract insect screen panels for each active glass panel or close all insect screens when the glass panels are open.

One of the biggest challenges to overcome is the very idea that we’re using large pieces of glass to act as solid walls and wanting homes to still meet energy codes. Manufacturers are continuing to improve thermal performance values resulting in NFRC-certified products that meet the needs of architects striving to balance expansive views with greater thermal efficiency. All Andersen Big Doors are available in configurations with glass options to achieve U-factor values of 0.30 and lower.

The same is true for air, water, and structural performance. In most of the country, an on-floor drainage sill system for Andersen Big Doors eliminates the need for a sill pan while providing built-in water management. For areas where performance ratings aren’t required, architects have an option for a recessed sill that’s less obtrusive.

For coastal areas, wind ratings will bring some limitations in sizes, but there are ample options to meet impact ratings at larger sizes for nearly all zones.

Overcoming challenges

Two of the leading concerns professionals have with big doors is installation and sizing, but tools and upfront resources are helping to ease those burdens. For example, Andersen offers a sizing tool for its MultiGlide and folding doors to help architects size the doors and reveal available options, along with a library of training videos and monthly webinars for installers.

It’s also critical for architects to help increase homeowners’ overall awareness levels of the numerous and versatile opportunities of big doors. Many homeowners may only see the standard French door setup often displayed at dealers or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the more extravagant opening glass walls featured in magazines and internet searches. Showing clients a rendering of their home’s design—and potential views to the outside—with a traditional door versus a big door can make all the difference.

To explore the range of options from Andersen, including MultiGlide doors, Liftslide doors, pivot doors, and folding glass walls, visit their website.

AIA does not sponsor or endorse any enterprise, whether public or private, operated for profit. Further, no AIA officer, director, committee member, or employee, or any of its component organizations in his or her official capacity, is permitted to approve, sponsor, endorse, or do anything that may be deemed or construed to be an approval, sponsorship, or endorsement of any material of construction or any method or manner of handling, using, distributing, or dealing in any material or product.

Image credits

Andersen MultiGlide door

Andersen Windows

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