The Sliding System Sweet Spot: Managing Trends, Heavy Glass and Hardware

By Travis Rains

As the world and glass industry continue to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, one byproduct hardware professionals expect to continue is the use of sliding systems or moving glass walls in construction. But as glass gets heavier, the challenge becomes incorporating accompanying hardware without adding too much weight.

Those systems not only open up space within a room but also conjoin the outdoors and the indoors, allowing an increase in natural light and mental health benefits.

“Everything goes toward minimizing metal, aluminum framing and maximizing the glass,” says Mirjana Komadina, vice president of product design and development at C.R. Laurence based in Los Angeles. “That’s why they’re no longer called simple windows and doors because the size is getting bigger. Now, they’re moving glass walls.”

She says those systems allow for unobstructed views, resulting in the interior and exterior merging to become one. They can be used in new construction but Komadina says that they’re more applicable in renovations. For new construction, preference is swinging toward a feature she calls “disappearing wall systems” where panels slide all the way into the wall.

“Because so many options have been added every day and every year, those systems are here to stay and be upgraded,” Komadina says. “They’ve found a place in the market and now it’s taking them to the next level.”

Eric Miller, chairperson and CEO of Bohle America in Charlotte, N.C., is seeing similartrends commercially, as well as in the home as people continue to work remotely.

“The idea is coming up with ways to make [the systems] more attractive and have a lower profile, and also offer them in the finishes that match the rest of the area,” Miller says, adding that matte and brush finishes are making a comeback in hardware.

He says the trend, at least in part, comes from people wanting to use spaces more efficiently.

“I think it’s something that will continue in the future,” he says. “You see more sliding systems in Europe and Asia because of the space constraints. I think what’s going to happen is as long as people continue to work from home, which I think is going to continue for the foreseeable future, they’re going to want the capability to block off parts of their home or office in unobtrusive ways. Sliding systems make a lot of sense in that case.”

But aesthetics is only half the battle. Performance requirements also increase with the size of glass.

Gustavo Henao is CEO and co-founder of IGT Glass Hardware in Miami Gardens, Fla. He says increased interest in sliding systems is paired with the challenge of incorporating hardware on already heavy glass.

“The hardware needs to hold more weight,” he says. “So accommodating the hardware to fit that frame, is a little bit harder. But the end look is amazing.”

That challenge was worth addressing for his company, which recently revamped its sliding systems due to renewed interest. By improving the tracks, rollers and more, the systems can now hold heavier glass. Henao spoke specifically about how the improvements are making a difference with respect to shower door installation.

“It gives installers the ability to do installations with heavier glass panels and accomplish the same goal,” Henao says. “The sliding system that was designed is now able to be installed in a big shower door without any problems.”

Staying current on industry developments and preferences is important for the success of a product. For example, in addition to the emerging trend with sliding systems, Komadina says C.R. Laurence is receiving more and more requests for automatic products.

“You have to have a solid product that will last and perform for a long time. These days, the sizes are getting bigger so performance requirements are increasing,” Komadina says. “And nowadays we’re seeing more and more requests for product automation. Manual is fine. It’s here and it will stay. But everyone should at least have an option for a product to be automatic.”

All three industry professionals expect these trends to continue and even expand into the future.

“I think these trends will continue. I really believe they are here to stay,” Komadina says. “They’ve been on the market already for a few years and that product category has expanded every year. [Customers] are always looking for a bigger product or more features.”

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