Modern Doors

Sliding Hardware Systems: An Essential Tool for Saving Space in Commercial and Residential Spaces

In the never-ending pursuit of efficiency in design, space continues to be one of the most valuable assets in the built environment, putting a premium importance on the tools and techniques that enable the design community to make the most out of every square foot. Beyond simply offering building systems, furniture, and technology in more compact models, today’s product innovations are flipping the traditional methodologies on their heads, finding new ways to accomplish design objectives that make better use of space.

One of the most established and egregious space wasters is the door hinge, requiring that a significant amount of space remain free and clear, so that the door may swing open and closed. A solution that eliminates the wasted space, without sacrificing the ability for a person to enter or exit an area, is a sliding hardware system.

Sliding hardware systems are not a new concept. For years, sliding doors have been used in residential and commercial applications. However, the sliding doors of yesterday often failed to work well or reliably. The doors would regularly fall off of the tracks or rattle uncontrollably.

Technological, material, and manufacturing advancements have dramatically improved the sliding systems of today over the sliding door solutions that worked so poorly years ago. Today these systems are aesthetically appealing, reliably smooth and silent, and still space saving.

Today’s Architectural Sliding Hardware Systems

Today, sliding architectural hardware provides doors, walls, exterior shutters, and furniture panels that are a dynamic, space-saving alternative to the traditional hinged door or immovable wall. These new system solutions slide, fold, and stack and can be used with a variety of materials: glass, wood, metal, a manufactured material, or in any combination of the above. The new architectural sliding hardware systems provide the design community with endless opportunities to make their favorite dividing or partitioning material more space savvy.

Today’s sliding hardware systems offer designers a partitioning solution that delivers aesthetic appeal, reliably smooth and silent motion, and significant space savings over the traditional hinged or pivot doors.Image courtesy Hawa Americas Inc.



Sliding Doors

Sliding doors can be used in place of hinged or pivot doors, providing the same space division and functionality with a much smaller operational footprint. These doors can slide into recessed pockets to be concealed from view when open, or simply slide out of the way, remaining visible in both open and closed positions.

Any number of configurations and types of panel movement are possible to create with sliding doors simply by adding additional door panels or tracks. A single panel on a single track will slide in a straight or curvilinear path. Two panels on a single track can create a bi-parting system where the two doors open from the middle like a theater curtain. Bi-directional, also referred to as bi-passing, systems are created with the use of two or more tracks, allowing the doors to slide fully back and forth along their own track, without the risk of bumping into another panel.

Sliding hardware systems can also be designed to provide symmetric and telescopic sliding movement. Symmetric movement describes a system where two panels always open or close together. The two panels will simultaneously open or close when only one is operated. Telescopic movement also describes two or more panels being moved simultaneously, but with telescopic movement the panels move in the same direction, so two or more panels would move to the right or to the left when opening or closing. This type of movement can be particularly useful when the opening is larger than the available panel parking area.

Folding Walls

Folding walls offer a dynamic alternative to standard stationary walls. Folding wall systems combine as many hardware panels as necessary to create a structure that is the right size to provide subdivisions or window fronts within a space and then retract by folding accordion style, leaving an open space for larger meetings or receptions.

Stacking Walls

Stacking wall systems also subdivide a space by combining multiple hardware panels. The fundamental difference between folding walls and stacking walls is that while folding walls retract with an accordion-like fold, stacking walls retract along a curvilinear track that parks the individual panels to one side or another, like closely stacked dominos, in an orientation that is either parallel or perpendicular to the stacking wall when it is deployed. The ability to precision-park the individual panels, when not in use, creates significant space savings when storing these sizeable and dynamic partitioning walls.

When retracting, stacking wall systems park individual panels in an orientation that is either perpendicular (shown in image 2a) or parallel (shown in image 2b) to the deployed stacking wall.Image courtesy Hawa Americas Inc.


Folding and Stacking Wall Systems

It should be mentioned that folding wall systems and stacking wall systems are both capable of incorporating a pivot door. With a stacking system, a pivot door can be incorporated in a variety of places along the wall in either a central location or at either side. While a folding wall offers slightly fewer placement options, a pivot door is still easily incorporated at either end of the system.

Sliding Exterior Shutters

Sliding exterior shutters provide daylight and thermal control in a way that can also add an interesting aesthetic element to the exterior of a building. These shutter systems can be designed to park adjacent to the opening, fold closed in the same way a closet door folds closed, or slide from view into a recessed parking area.

Exterior shutter systems can be designed to park adjacent to the opening, fold closed in the same way a closet door folds closed, or slide from view into a recessed parking area.Image courtesy Hawa Americas Inc.


Sliding Furniture Panels

Sliding furniture panels can be used to replace traditional cupboard, pantry or closet doors with an interesting and aesthetic solution that saves space. Cabinet fronts that fold away, panels that gently roll aside, or scissor-hinged doors that pivot and slide out of sight in one smooth sweep are just three examples of how sliding furniture panels can enhance a space.


The Benefits of Architectural Sliding Hardware Systems

Architectural sliding hardware systems can deliver space savings that translates into real cost savings and improve the accessibility, flexibility, and aesthetics of a space.

Significant Space Savings

A traditional hinge-and-pivot door requires that a space accommodate not only the door, but also the swing that the door makes as it transitions from open to close. Consider that an average interior door in the United States is approximately 32-in. wide by 80-in.tall. The swing space required to accommodate a door of this size is significantly larger than the physical door itself. In a scenario where the average-size door makes a full 180 degree swing on its hinge from open to closed, that door requires that 2048 square inches (over 14 square feet) be left free and clear just to ensure that the door has the space to function properly.

In stark contrast, a sliding door eliminates the need to reserve swing space in the design footprint. For the sliding door to fully move from the open to closed position, the door must be able to slide into an adjacent space that is the same size as the door. If the average door size is 32-in. wide by 80-in. tall by 2-in. thick, the space that must be reserved for deployment is an additional 32-in. wide by 80-in. tall by 2-in. thick and this space most often is reserved along an existing wall or inside an existing wall, if the sliding door is recessed.

As this example illustrates, a sliding hardware door requires a fraction of the space to operate when compared to a hinge-and-pivot door and there is a much smaller opportunity for the door to be impeded if the area is obstructed in any way.

Cost Savings

The significant space savings created by switching from a traditional pivot door to a sliding hardware system can translate into real cost savings for building owners. Imagine being able to design office spaces without being required to set aside a sizeable square footage to accommodate the swing of the hinged door. Eliminating the reserved door space from the typical 10-ft by 15-ft office with the use of a sliding door enables a floor plan to yield substantially the same usable office space in a 10-ft by 12-ft footprint instead. That returns 30 square feet per office to the floor plan to be able to be used for something else. That represents 20 percent of the initial 10-ft by 15-ft office space.

With this more efficient use of office space, building owners may be able to meet their office needs with a smaller, less costly space or turn the saved space into a conference area or common area that would add value to the work space.

Improve Accessibility

The ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG), section 4.13.11 regarding door opening force, mandates that the maximum force for pushing or pulling open an interior hinged door shall be 5 lbf (22.2N) and that the maximum force for pushing or pulling open a sliding or folding door shall also be 5 lbf (22.2N). Many sliding systems on the market today satisfy these ADA requirements and improve the overall accessibility of the space for people with disabilities. Today’s hardware requires very little force to operate, but the most fundamental improvement offered by a sliding system is that there is no pivoting door to maneuver around, a movement that can be cumbersome for a person in a wheelchair or with limited mobility. Instead of trying to accommodate the door’s range of motion, which may require a person to back out of the way while the door swings open or awkwardly navigate out of the arc of motion in order for the door to close, a sliding door simply slides open, allows a person to enter a space as if they are walking through an arch, and then closes behind them.

Improve Space Flexibility

Sliding doors and wall systems help create flexible spaces that can be easily rearranged to accommodate different uses of a space. A large room can be subdivided into conference rooms and reception areas and then opened up for a larger office-wide meeting or presentation. Traditional doors and walls leave little wiggle room for easy space shifting. The walls in particular typically require a sledgehammer to remove and drywall, a contractor, and time to replace.

This combination glass and wood sliding wall deploys to create a conference room, when needed, and then retracts to open up the space for common use.Image courtesy Hawa Americas Inc.


Minimize Safety Hazards

There are a variety of potential safety hazards in a bustling commercial and institutional setting. While hot coffee, slippery floors, and stairwells may be the most infamous, pivot doors can cause a problem when they are pushed open into an unsuspecting person on the other side. Add hot coffee, a slippery floor, or a stairwell and the potential problem quickly gets exponentially worse. Sliding hardware systems minimize this potential safety hazard, simply sliding out of the way, instead of swinging into a colleague or coffee-carrying co-worker.

Add Architectural Interest

The wide range of panel materials and the smooth motion of the sliding hardware systems can be used to create a space that looks and feels very different from the traditional wall and pivot door solution. Sliding systems with glass, wood, or metal panels can create a flowing and modern aesthetic to an otherwise traditional office or residential space.

Improved Daylight Control and Curb Appeal

Sliding exterior shutters help prevent glare and thermal heat gain by controlling the daylight that enters the interior space. They also provide better aesthetic control for designers trying to avoid the pitfalls that can be experienced after specifying interior shading systems. Exterior shutters offer a more consistent look by eliminating the opportunity for individual building occupants to modify the position of the shutter. Interior shades are often manipulated by different individuals who can cause one interior shade to be open, the next to be closed, the next to be deployed half-way, etc. This inconsistency can create a messy façade. Exterior shutters provide a more universal solution that protects the aesthetic integrity of the building’s exterior.



Applications for Sliding Hardware Systems

Create More Flexible Office Spaces with Sliding Systems

A common application for sliding hardware systems is to use these systems to separate a larger office area into a combination of conference rooms and common areas that can then be opened up to accommodate a larger reception or office-wide meeting. In these settings, using a sliding hardware system instead of stationary walls enables the office space to easily morph to accommodate the changing needs of the company and to maximize the potential of the facility’s square-footage. Storage space is minimal with the sliding and stacking systems, keeping the majority of the floor plan available for whatever customer demands and organizational innovation may arise.

Sliding office doors require a fraction of the footprint used by the traditional pivot door, making them a wonderful solution for architects trying to do more with less space.Image courtesy Hawa Americas Inc.

Sliding Doors Replace Pivoting Doors

In private offices, conference rooms, break rooms, and bathrooms, the traditional hinge-and-pivot door is being replaced by the more space conscious sliding door. There are a number of reasons that these slide-for-pivot swaps are occurring. Companies are looking to squeeze every last drop of efficiency from their resources, including their office space. Sliding doors need a fraction of the functional footprint required by a hinged door to open and close appropriately. Companies can use the newfound square footage to address a competitive need that better enables them to deliver value to their customers or improve the work environment for their employees. Architects are using sliding doors to fit more office space into a smaller footprint, saving their customers money as they rent or purchase the necessary real estate.

Sliding Hardware in Hospitality Applications

Sliding doors have proven to be a particularly good solution for separating the bathroom from the main guest room in a hotel. The sliding doors provide the same privacy and sound barrier that a pivot door provides, with the additional benefit of space savings that can be quite noticeable in the small footprint of a guest room. The pivot doors require that a significant amount of space be left free and clear, just so the bathroom door may open and close correctly. Sliding doors do not require the same reserved space, freeing up guest room space and, overall, improving the guest experience.

Sliding hardware systems are also frequently used to separate common areas in hospitality applications, providing a facility with the ability to easily manipulate a space to accommodate a larger number of events with various square footage needs. The sliding systems can be deployed to divide a large area into smaller areas enabling the facility to meet the space and budgetary needs of smaller events and then easily retract to open the larger space up for conventions or corporate conferences.

Sliding Hardware Systems in Healthcare

Hospitals are also recognizing the benefits of using sliding hardware doors for bathroom doors. The sliding door is easier for a person in a wheelchair or a person with limited mobility to navigate. It can be difficult for people trailing medical equipment or in a wheelchair to maneuver around a pivot door as it opens and closes. Sliding doors offer a simplified entrance: sliding open, allowing the patient or visitor to cross the threshold of the bathroom, and then sliding closed behind them.

Residential Applications

Whether it’s a small studio apartment or home that simply lacks a separated dining area, there are many residential spaces that benefit from being able to camouflage the kitchen. A sliding wall can create the desired division between the dining area and the kitchen, enabling hosts to hide the dinner mess when entertaining family and friends, without permanently compartmentalizing a larger residential space.

Sliding architectural systems add value and intrigue to a residential space by customizing open floor plans with dynamic partitioning and providing privacy at bathroom entryways.Image courtesy Hawa Americas Inc.


These sliding systems can also be used to hide away kitchenettes and laundry areas when not being used and allow access to the equipment without filling the space with opened pivot doors that create visual clutter and take up space.

Sliding architectural systems also add value to a residential space by providing privacy at bath entryways, customizing open floor plans with dynamic partitioning, and replacing traditional cupboard, pantry and closet doors with sliding furniture panels.

Control Daylight in Glass Doors or Large Windows

Exterior shutters can be used to control the daylight that streams through glass doors or large windows in commercial or residential applications. These daylight control products are especially important in areas that are prone to the intense, direct light rays that can cause glare and thermal heat gain, making an interior space uncomfortable.

Basic Sliding Hardware System Components

When specifying a sliding hardware system, it is important to understand the various components that will need to be selected. The basic components that comprise a sliding hardware system are: the panels, the track, the trolley, the suspension, the door guide or floor guide, door stop, and auxiliary hardware, if necessary.


Hardware panels are the physical material panels that create the door or wall that will divide the space. These panels are available in a variety of materials including glass, wood, metal, a manufactured material or a combination of any of the aforementioned.

The box type track encloses the trolley and makes it impossible for the system to jump the track.Image courtesy Hawa Americas Inc.


The track for sliding hardware systems today is one of the areas where technology has improved dramatically over the poorly performing systems of the past. Where previous systems were susceptible to jumping the track, causing the door to work incorrectly, a type of track, called a box type, has been developed which makes jumping the track impossible.

Tracks are available in three shapes. The box type safeguards the sliding system from jumping the track. The I shape is used for sliding systems that will slide in a straight and linear path. The C shape is designed to allow for curves and turns in the track path.


The trolley, also referred to as a carrier, is a wheeled carriage device that travels along the track. It was the trolley that would jump the track in those older sliding door models. In the box type track, the trolley is completely enclosed in the box-shaped track eliminating the possibility that it could jump outside of the track and interfere with the functionality of the system.


The suspension connects the individual hardware panels to the trolley and can be visible or concealed, depending upon the specific mounting style selected. It should be noted that the suspension could be incorporated into the trolley, depending upon the manufacturer.

Door Guide or Floor Guide

A door guide, also referred to as a surface guide, is used on straight or curved sliding door systems to keep the sliding door panels from swinging back and forth or rattling in response to vibration in the space or airflow. The door guide provides a barrier-free threshold and could be mounted on the floor or wall.

A floor guide is a physical track in the floor that is required if the hardware panels of the system are heavy enough or large enough to necessitate the additional control mechanism. These floor guides are available for sliding, stacking, and folding systems and should be considered where the panel slides more than its own width or if the height to width ratio of the panel is too large to avoid sway from occurring at the unguided end of the panel.
Hawa Americas Inc is the U.S. subsidiary of Hawa AG, a Swiss company renowned internationally as a specialist and leading manufacturer of innovative sliding hardware.