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Tom Shafer

Replace sliders with folding patio doors

June 06, 2013

You have seen them used in malls to open and close access to stores: Folding doors have long been in use for commercial applications, but more recently they are showing up in homes. Residential applications can include indoor/outdoor living areas, pool houses, enclosures and cabanas, solariums and sunrooms -- even in high rise buildings.

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NanaWall folding doors

While a bit on the pricey side -- a wood, 3-panel, 9'-by-6'8" folding door can run about $12,000 -- they can open an entire wall up to the outside and when closed provide the security and weather protection of a traditional slider or french patio doors. They may open from either end or from the middle.

folding door diagram

Popular brands of folding doors

Called bi-fold, or accordion doors by some manufacturers, folding doors come in a variety of materials -- aluminum, wood, clad, fiberglass -- and with the usual range of glass options. They are often available in many non-traditional sizes, as well as the more typical 9'-by-6'8" and 12'-by-6'8" to retrofit your old patio door opening. But the beauty of these doors is that they can be opened to their entire width, essentially turning a solid wall into a wall of windows that becomes no wall at all!

Here's a sampling of some popular brands:

  • Jeld-Wen offers folding doors in two materials -- the Aurora® custom fiberglass model and the W-4500 wood folding door. Fiberglass doors are available in several simulated wood grains; wood doors come in a few different species. Jeld-Wen has multiple panel designs that can open a wide section of wall.
  • NanaWall, a California manufacturer, offers folding doors in aluminum, as well as wood and clad wood versions. Sizes vary from 2'3''-wide panels to 5'-wide panels, and heights from 6'8" up to 12 feet.
  • Panda, another California folding-door manufacturer also has wood, clad and aluminum models. Similar to Nana, they offer a unique hinged/roller system for simplicity of operation and ease of adjustment.
  • Andersen has a door that can be made up to 48-feet wide and 10-feet tall. Their folding doors come in seven wood species for the interior frames and eleven exterior colors. The Andersen Series 400 folding door is vinyl clad.

Folding patio doors are most popular in Florida, California and the Caribbean, but they offer homeowners everywhere a design alternative that is unique and dramatic.

About the Author

Tom Shafer has decades of experience in window sales, marketing and product development. He's worked closely with window design engineers in testing, design, and building code interpretation. Past employers include United Windows and Doors and Norandex, MI Windows. He currently works at a home improvement retailer.


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