Folding doors, sometimes referred to as “accordion” doors, are one of the latest emerging design trends for both homes and business/office spaces. Essentially, they’re large high-tech, all-glass versions of your everyday closet door found in small apartment.
They fold on a multi-point system that allows you simply fold a wall of glass into a neat parallel stack on one side of the room. Each system comes with an easy open/close swing door that will function as your everyday use door so you don’t have to open the entire system every time you want to pass.
Bi-fold door systems can be used to replace existing sliding doors with smaller setups or can be used to replace entire walls in the case of setups designed for large openings. Most manufacturers offer a wide range of custom colors and glass options which allow the buyer to customize every aspect of the door panels. You’ll even be able to match the door hardware to the rest of the trim in your space.
The Rise Of Glass Folding Doors
The concept of a glass house has long been contemplated by architects and designers. In the past, glass was hard to manufacture and only the wealthy and affluent could afford large panes of glass. Some of this original glass can still be found in old European cathedrals and castles.
In 1959, architect and home designer, Philip Johnson, designed one of America’s first glass houses. Since his death, it has since been turned into a sort of architectural museum. At the time, it was considered a marvel of engineering. Up until this time, glass had always been thought of as a weak building material- unable to withstand high pressure or winds, and certainly not what you would think of as energy-efficient.
Around the same time period, a company called Arcadia Steel invented the first sliding glass patio doors (to this day they’re one of the top glass door/bi-fold door companies in the U.S.). Since then designers have been trying to push the limits of how expansive, complex, and sturdy they can push the concept of large glass walls and folding doors in structures.
Modern advancements in glass glazing and tempering has resulted in the development of high-quality accordion door systems that can be used as simple room dividers or interior doors or as exterior patio doors designed to withstand the harshest elements. The only limit to how many configurations or living areas you can apply these doors to is your own imagination and the depth of your pockets. If you can dream it, one of our high-quality manufacturing partners can almost certainly design and build it.
In today’s article, we’re going to be taking a closer look at the most important factor when it comes to folding door systems- the glass.
Without modern glass technology, these advanced door systems would not be possible. The only people would be able to use them would be those who never had to worry about storms, high wind speeds, or extreme temperatures. As you probably know by now, the places with the best views rarely have perfect weather.
Today’s high-efficiency glass bi-folding doors are a marvel of modern engineering and development. Most of these systems even come with a 5 to 10-year warranty that shows just how much the manufacturers stand behind their product and their glass. Let’s take a look at the science behind these impressive bi-fold doors.
Top Concerns When It Comes To Glass Options
When it comes to desiging the highest quality panels, there’s a lot of considerations that go into the design before it’s even made. Since many manufacturers customize individual panels and glass for each job, customers usually have complete control over the process.
If you’re swapping out an entire wall space for a transparent glass folding door system, then you want to ensure that it’s thermally efficient. Imagine spending all of that money for your new doors just to find out that it raises your electric bill by 15% a month! Thankfully with today’s technology, you won’t have to worry about that happening.
The technology that goes into these glass panels is designed to automatically regulate thermal transfer as it tries to pass through the glass and into your room. With today’s glazed windows and weatherproof door stiles, it could literally be -20 Degrees Fahrenheit outside and you would be able to stand on the other side of the glass in complete comfort.
One of the main concerns that we hear from our customers is about security. Glass is typically viewed as a “weak-point” in the structure. People tend to think of glass areas as locations that can be easily broken into by burglars or destroyed by flying debris in the event of a storm or hurricane.
If you’re concerned about either one of these outcomes, you’ll be able to choose from a wide range of glass options designed with enhanced durability to be impact-resistant or even hurricane proof. In regards to home security in instances where burglars may have advanced glass-breaking tools, there are a wide range of home security products on the market designed to trigger alarms upon the surface of the glass breaking. We’ll get into these more below.
Last, but not least, privacy is often a concern for some of our customers. In regards to exterior doors, you may not trust your neighbors or you might live in close proximity to other homes. Some people choose to use these bi-folding doors in their private rooms or swimming pools as well. For obvious reasons, you may want to have a bit of privacy. One of the most common times we hear about privacy is from our corporate clients who are installing folding interior doors in their personal offices or office meeting rooms.
Again, with today’s glass options, you’ll be in complete control of how much privacy you have. Most manufacturers will allow you to fully customize the finish of your glass allowing you to create fully opaque or translucent window panes so that outsiders can’t see past the glass.
Depending on the type of door you select, you may also be able to add additional soundproofing to the glass. Whether you’re discussing sensitive information behind closed doors or you just want to blast your music as loud as you want, soundproofing ensures that whoever is outside will only be able to hear muffled sounds at most.
Innovative New Technology = New Glass Options
You’ve probably considered at least one of the common concerns we just went over. While many folding door companies claim that they’re able to cater to these concerns, few actually break down the science behind how they’re actually able to accomplish it.
Truth be told, not everybody cares about the science- they just care that it works. However, for our buyers who are more analytical and like to see behind-the-scenes, we’ve broken down some of the latest innovations in glass-making that make all of this possible!
Multi-Paned Glazed Glass
One of the first things that modern glass engineers discovered was that if they wanted their window panels to be energy-efficient, they would have to make them thicker. While this sounds simple enough in theory, the kicker is that the thicker the glass is, the heavier it is. To make glass panels resistant to thermal energy transfer would require incredibly heavy sheets of glass that would not only distort the view, but would be almost impossible to mount onto tracking systems.
In response to this, engineers came up with some innovative ideas in regards to glass “glazing.” This term is really just a fancy way of saying glass “stacking” and involves layering multiple sheets of glass (usually two or three) on top of each other in a system.
A dual or triple-glazed folding door system has the same thermal efficiency as if the manufacturers had used a large solid core sheet of glass, but weights significantly less. It also makes repairing cracked glass easier as only 1 of the panels will need to be replaced instead of the whole thing.
Soundproofing has always been a topic of interest, especially for those who live in neighborhoods or busy apartment-style buildings where neighbors are nosy and don’t appreciate noise.
There are several ways to soundproof glass. The most obvious thing to do is to simply make thicker glass. However, as we discussed above, this isn’t always an option as it can make the doors far heavier and less efficient. The other method involves layering a soundproof film over the glass designed to deaden sound waves as they attempt to pass through.
In order to accomplish a fully soundproof system, most manufacturers utilize three methods, usually in combination with each other:
- Double or triple-glazed glass. The fact that sound has to pass through 2 or 3 separate layers of glass helps to significantly dampen sounds even without the additional processes.
- Thicker glass panels. As we mentioned, it’s usually inefficient to significantly increase the thickness of the glass. Instead, manufacturers increase the thickness incrementally by 10 to 15% at a time. While this may insignificant, every little bit helps when soundproofing.
- Sound proof film. This is usually the factor that contributes the most to how sound proof a folding door system is. After the glass has been glazed and placed into the wood, pvc, aluminum, or stainless steel door frame, they adhere a thin layer of soundproofing film over the surface of the glass. This thin material is almost completely invisible but deflects and absorbs 95% of all the sound that tries to pass through it.
One of the coolest innovations in glass technology is the invention of “Low-E” glass. Remember int he section on glass glazing where we mentioned that one of the best ways to make a window more energy-efficient was to layer multiple thin panels in a dual or triple-glazed system?
Well, low-e glass goes a step further. As the panels are being glazed and set into the door frame, they’re coated with a thin layer of silver or another similarly reflective material. While you won’t be able to notice the presence, it helps to deflect a high percentage of the UV rays and infrared rays that hit the surface of the glass. Since these are the rays responsible for transferring heat through glass, reflecting them ensures that it’s hard for heat to transfer from one side to the other.
While that’s a good start, why not go a step further?
The latest innovation in low-e windows is the introdution of gas-filled spaces between multiple glazed panels. The most commonly used gas is Argon due to the fact that it prefers to retain the same temperature. This Argon gas layer ensures that whatever infrared and UV light rays get through the reflective coating are still unable to completely pass through the glass.
This is what we mean when we say that modern glass bi-folding door systems are just as efficient if not more efficient than typical walls or even wood doors.
At the beginning of the article we mentioned how one of the top concerns regarding glass wall systems is the possibility of glass shattering when burglars or flying debris smash into them. While it’s impossible to completely prevent glass from breaking, modern glass engineers have found a way to prevent glass from shattering into countless shards and imposing a safety risk. During the manufacturing process, both sides of the glass are coated with an invisible resin or film that’s designed to hold the glass together in the event that it does shatter.
This means that the system will still retain its structural integrity. Whether it’s a burglar or a rock trying to get through, it won’t be easy with all of the glass being held together. Burglars would have to work twice as hard to pull the glass apart and flying debris would stand little chance of making it through to the other side.
While this may seem a little bit frivolous, tell that to the guy who lives in the middle of the Arizona desert where the sun shines bright almost every day of the year. In addition to silver coating in low-e glass windows, some folding door manufacturers go a step further and add anti-glare coating or film to the surface of the glass. This is often coupled with a light tint as well.
Anti-glare glass is an important consideration if your door is going to be positioned in an area of your home that gets a lot of sun or if you live in an area that receives a lot of UV light throughout the day.
Laser Glass Security Systems
Last, but not least, we thought it was beneficial to address one of the common security concerns in regards to glass folding doors. Namely- what are you supposed to do if a burglar decides to break down the glass?
Like we just said, anti-shatter film is a great way to keep intruders from breaking in. However, what happens if they do? This is where it pays to have a good security system. Thankfully, most home security systems give their customers the option to add a laser securitiy device to large doors and windows.
Essentially, it works by projecting an invisible laser beam across the surface of the glass. If the glass shatters or anything tries to pass the invisible barrier while the system is armed, then it will trigger the alarm. While folding door manufacturers don’t include these systems from the factory, they’re relatively easy to install using a third-party security company.
Final Thoughts on Glass Bi-Fold Doors
Ultimately, an all-glass folding door system can be just as strong and energy-efficient as a traditional door or wall. Today’s advanced glass manufacturing technology means that the material is no longer regarded as weak or inferior. In fact, if you really wanted to, you could design a house almost entirely out of fortified glass.
One of the defining differences between high-quality folding door companies like the ones listed on our site and the cheap per-fabricdated systems you’ll find at your local hardware store is the quality of glass. In the end, you get what you pay for.
Wouldn’t you prefer a system that’s designed to withstand the elements and last decades?