Ahhhhh, Arizona. There’s no better place to bring the outdoors in, right? Big sliding glass doors and multifold doors that create a moving glass wall are beautiful options to open up the patio, creating a seamless flow from the inside of your home to the backyard.
They take full advantage of balmy weather and lovely views, and add a stunning design element to a home.
Let’s talk about which moving wall system DunRite prefers, and why we feel it’s your best option.
Big Sliding Glass Doors vs Folding Doors
Whether you go with multifold patio doors, which fold like an accordion, or the big sliding glass doors called multi-slides, they are built with heavy, oversized panels. They’re typically used for openings larger than what a typical sliding glass door or French doors would manage – filling spaces as large as 16 feet tall and 60 feet wide. They have the potential to open up the entire backside of a house, and are ideal for an opening that’s wider than eight feet across.
They’re a large, integral part of the home’s exterior, significantly impacting architecture, structural integrity and lifestyle. How they are built and installed can make a big difference in the ease of using them, and how long they last.
Folding and sliding doors are built very differently, each requiring their own individual installation method and impacted differently over time by wear and tear, and the environment.
Here’s the biggest difference, and why choosing the right system matters.
Multifold Patio Doors Hang From the Ceiling
Multifold doors are mounted on a track along the ceiling, so the entire weight of the doors hang from that mounting (called a header). Because of this weight pulling down on the ceiling and roof, installation requires a general contractor to fortify strength of the original header, enabling it to support the weight of the new doors. These construction costs can be significant.
Not only are they more expensive, but they can be more problematic, too. Because they hang, normal shifting of a home on its foundation also can cause issues. If a home shifts even slightly on the foundation, as little as an eighth of an inch, it changes the alignment of that header, making opening and closing the massive doors a nightmare.
To operate smoothly, they must remain perfectly hung, with typically less than 1/8” of movement of the mounting hardware from front to back.
The odds of a home never shifting is unlikely, especially in desert sand. However, they are a good choice if a homeowner wants the full expanse of glass to completely open up.
On a side note, if a portion of that bifold will be a standard swinging door for daily use, you’ll need an odd number of panels.
Multislide Doors Glide on Flooring Tracks
In contrast, multislide doors are big sliding glass doors, sliding along a track in the flooring. If the home shifts in any direction, you won’t even notice. There’s no difference in the function of the doors under normal settling circumstances. This can make multi-slide doors less prone to issues.
They’re also less expensive than multi-fold doors.
One feature we really like? Multislide doors have options for more glass surface and less frame to obstruct the view. They can slide one or two directions, stack on top of each other or slide into a pocket in the wall, and even meet in a corner.
Similar to regular sliding glass doors, multi-slide sliding doors require at least one panel that doesn’t open (unless they are pocket doors.) This is in contrast to bifold doors, which fold like an accordion, turning sideways for a slim profile, sitting perpendicular when open. So if you have four multi-slide panels, as an example, three of them might slide left or right to stack on top of the stationary door, or depending on the installation selected, slide sideways from the center to stack on bookend stationary doors. The configuration is flexible with a stationary panel on one or both ends, but it’s unavoidable.
For those willing to bring in a general contractor, pockets can sometimes be created for the multislides, so they slide into the wall and hide from sight, but most choose the more affordable stacking option, where the fixed panel remains in view.
Commercial Product Lines are Easier to Operate than Residential
At DunRite, we recommend commercial multislide doors over residential products. “The cost is more significant,” says DunRite Owner Sal Sucato, “but it’s an extremely durable product that can support the weight of the large glass, and the doors slide open and closed like butter.”
The difference in operation allowing for this ease is due to size of the rollers. In a residential door, they might be the size of a quarter, but they’re three inches tall in the commercial doors we prefer.
If you think of a movable wall system, perhaps one that has four panels that are six feet wide and twelve feet tall, you can imagine the weight as you slide three panels open at once. It’s extremely heavy, so it makes a tremendous difference sliding the weight sideways on larger, stronger rollers.
“We want our customers to enjoy their multislide doors for decades, and be able to easily glide them opened and closed, not have to fight dragging them open.”
For more information on glass moving wall systems, schedule a free home estimate. We’re happy to discuss your options and provide pricing.
(Article last updated 6/10/22, originally published 10/22/20)
This video shows just a few configurations that are available from multiple brands. Whatever you can dream up, we can install!