Volume 40,   Issue 7                                  July 2005

The Farnady Files

Behind the Glass Door

Who's Designing all These Glass Doors?
by Dez Farnady

If you think this is going to be some sort of exotic thriller you might as well stop reading now. The only mystery you are going to find behind the door here is one we are going to acknowledge, but not pursue. The mystery is that no one seems to know who actually designs glass doors. This has always been of some interest to me, even more so now since they seem to be coming back into style. 

My irresistible need to categorize everything forces me to divide doors for our current purposes into three categories. 

Sneak a Peek
The first, and the one we care the least about, are the doors with the tiny little windows that allow you to inspect the visitor at the door and little else. That’s exactly what my ancient front door is like.

The only memorable thought I have about doors such as these is that they are a part of my history in the glass business. The first glass job I ever had was working for a tempering company. Since I was in the business, I thought that I could solve the problem of the little panels of glass in my front door. The first question I asked my new boss is one I have been asked a million times since: Can I replace my peep-hole windows with one way glass? I wanted the same as everyone else. I wanted to see who was outside the door and not be seen while peeking. I have learned a few things about both glass and the principles of physics since then. 

Full Door Glass Panels
A second and more interesting version of the glass panels in entrance doors is one that has been around for ages, but may now be getting a fresh look: the full door glass panel. The old art glass or leaded glass doors with lots of small colored or beveled pieces have been around forever. Double glass doors with fancy all-glass sidelites still fetch a pretty penny.

They are a bit too busy for my taste, but I did see one recently with rectangular multi-colored leaded pattern glass, reminiscent of a Frank Lloyd Wright type design, which fit very nicely with the Craftsman style of the house. 

A fresh version of the glass panel door is appearing, with one single large glass panel surrounded by about 4 inches of head and jamb and maybe an 18-inch bottom rail. While the completely clear panel versions of these types of doors leave some privacy questions unanswered, I have seen some of these full panels with some pretty attractive etched or sandblasted patterns. 

The third type of glass door, and one I have never seen in a residential application, is the half inch heavy glass door that came to the business many years ago when PPG and the then-LOF were making them under the Herculite and Tufflex labels. This basic, all glass door has been a commercial staple for grand entrances for well over a half a century, but its residential version is nearly non-existent. 

Knowing Our Limits
I suppose the biggest limitation on the use of an all glass door in residential applications is due to the difficulty of insulating it. I am not sure that’s a valid reason any more, considering what is being done with the full glass panel door with the wood sash. 

The one glass door that seems to be missing from the U.S. market altogether is one that has been popular in Europe for decades. This is the butt-hinged interior glass door with regular latch and lock hardware usually designed for 3/8-inch tempered glass panels. This is an interior “dry” version of the heavy glass shower doors. These doors are available with a variety of classic and modern lever or knob hardware options. Three-eighth inch glass is available in several colors, some obscure patterns and can certainly be etched, beveled, carved or decorated in an unlimited number of ways. 

So where are the guys who design these? 

The Author:
Dez Farnady serves as general manager of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His column appears monthly.

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