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It’s not unusual for product innovations to establish a foothold in the luxury niche before re-engineering brings pricing for a wider market. That’s what’s happening now with long-span glass wall systems.
The newest long-span sliders are bigger, easier to operate, more weathertight, and more affordable.
Demand for indoor/outdoor spaces with big openings is no longer limited to Sun Belt states. According to a January 2019 BUILDER article, one out of every five Toll Brothers homes nationwide includes “an indoor-outdoor living program feature.” More than one-third of the company’s New Jersey buyers opt for them.
Long-span sliding glass wall systems meet the demand for integrated indoor/outdoor living areas. They transform a wall of glass into a clear opening, making the backyard a seamless part of the living room or the patio and grill area part of the main kitchen.
That growing popularity is leading manufacturers to develop new products at lower price points. One reason for this price drop is volume-driven manufacturing efficiencies. Another is that there’s more choice in product types. In the past, moveable walls all had expensive custom wood frames (most still do) and special hardware. Today, you can get products with the same hardware and operator type as a standard sliding door and can order them from the manufacturer’s catalog.
A good example is JELD-WEN’s Premium™ Vinyl Multi-Slide system. “Rather than a moveable wall, we consider this a door,” says JELD-WEN product manager Cliff Birch. Another example is the new Siteline® Low-Friction Glider™ from JELD-WEN, which offers wall system benefits — industry-leading panel sizes, smooth operation, and excellent performance ratings — at a price point often closer to that of a traditional sliding door.
As costs-per-foot drop, homeowners are asking for larger openings. This can be achieved through wall systems with a greater number of panels and/or taller individual panels. Systems can be installed in a variety of configurations, depending on homeowner needs. These include having all panels moveable, with the ability to stack to either side; a fixed panel at each end, with central panels opening from the middle; or a fixed panel in the middle, with operational panels on either side.
Today’s long-span sliders, such as the Siteline® Multi-Slide wood system, offer as many as six panels in one direction or 12 panels in a bi-parting direction that creates an opening up to 57’ wide.
For a seamless look, JELD-WEN’s Premium™ Vinyl Multi-Slide system offers pocketing applications, allowing doors to slide into the wall completely out of view.
Panel sizes are also growing: While most sliders have average panel sizes of 4 feet wide by 10 feet tall, long-span innovations such as the Siteline® Low-Friction Glider™ offer panel sizes up to 7 feet wide by 10 feet tall. Special rollers let the active panels shift outward and glide effortlessly, opening fully with just an initial nudge. When closing, each active panel is drawn back toward the frame for a superior seal. The Low-Friction Glider can be configured up to four panels (bi-parting in the middle), delivering an abundance of natural light and a generous opening span.
Innovation at Work
Other features that make big sliders with multiple panels more practical include the use of aluminum-reinforced vinyl panel frames, which are lighter than wood, and high-end rollers that have been engineered to minimize friction.
Ease of use doesn’t mean less weather resistance. JELD-WEN’s Premium™ Vinyl Multi-Slide has such good resistance to air infiltration that, when fitted with impact glass, it meets the code requirements for South Florida’s High Velocity Hurricane Zone (HVHZ).
With more choices, better performance and lower pricing, the market for long-span sliders will likely continue to expand.
For assistance with window and door specification or installation, visit JELD-WEN’s professional portal.