As Californians’ passion for outdoor living continues to grow, many homeowners crave a stronger integration of their indoor and outdoor spaces.
Magazines and websites like Houzz and Pinterest have plenty of stunning photographs to entice readers with living environments that blur those lines.
With the many older ranch homes in the area that were built before this trend became widespread, what should a homeowner consider to achieve a satisfying result? Adding a room to the house may offer maximum flexibility, but many homeowners are challenged to achieve a more seamless integration within their home’s existing footprint.
Sliding glass doors
Some homeowners looking to remodel start with a home in which the main living room or family room features an existing passage door or a 5- to 6-foot-wide sliding glass door.
Sliding glass doors certainly remain a common solution, as the individual panels slide in one plane and do not disrupt the usable floor inside or out. Wider sliding panels can transform an ordinary wall into an impressive expanse of glass. The ease or complexity of achieving this depends on whether load-bearing walls are affected and how close light switches and electrical outlets are located.
Bear in mind that bypass sliding glass doors limit the actual opening, as the panels travel along two tracks and half of the panels remain fixed. If the wall is wide enough, it is possible to slide the panels all the way into the walls on either side like a pocket door. Again, creating a pocket opening in an existing room may require addressing a load-bearing wall or electrical services.
Also near the top of many wish lists is to have the flooring surface inside more or less even with the outside so that the entire space feels more cohesive. An older home with a sliding glass door or passage door might require the landing outside to be replaced to achieve this effect. Some city building departments require structural engineering for decks taller than a certain height, so be certain to investigate during the planning stages.
Folding glass walls
Folding glass walls with panels that stack to one or both sides are not new; the German manufacturer NanaWall led the way with a well-engineered top-hung system that lends itself to numerous configurations, though it is not the only brand available.
Also known as accordion-style doors, the ability to stack the panels resolves the barrier of the fixed panel of the sliding glass door. It becomes even more important to consider the height of the landing outside, whether a wooden deck, stone patio or concrete surface, as it should span the entire width of the opening. Some floor space, whether inside the room or outside, must remain clear for the panels to stack.
Slide and pivot systems
A more recent innovation is a product by Panoramic Doors that consists of individual panels that travel along a top and bottom track, pivot individually and stack at one or both ends of the opening. Because the panels are not connected to one another, there are no hinges and the panels can swing in or out. The only visible hardware is the door handle used for the "master panel" to open and close the system. With approximately 40 percent less hardware than similar folding glass wall systems, and the fact that they are manufactured in California, they can be a less expensive option.
Keeping out insects
Just as there have been advances in glass wall systems, several options enable homeowners to mount an insect screen that does not interfere with the span of glass. There are products that retract into a housing at either end, with the two screens held together in the center with a magnet. Centaur products can span up to 24 feet in width. Brio offers a retractable pleated screen that can span up to 32 feet.
The mild climate on the Peninsula makes indoor-outdoor living attractive. Local window and door showrooms have some of these systems installed so that homeowners can get a feel for how the options operate. Innovations in sliding glass doors and movable glass walls are blurring the line between what used to be easily identifiable as a door, window or wall.
Lisa Parramore is a Certified Professional Landscape Designer with Harrell Remodeling Inc. For more information, visit harrell-remodeling.com. n