Capturing Timeless Values with Contemporary Design

Modern multi-panel door systems incorporate aesthetics, efficiency, and performance
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Sponsored by LaCantina Doors
By Amanda Voss, MPP
Aluminum Wood

Better suited to exterior environments than a solid wood door, an aluminum wood system features a low-maintenance aluminum exterior with a natural wood interior. Typically, several wood species options are offered and commonly include vertical grain Douglas fir and mahogany. The exterior aluminum surface can be powder coated to a range of colors or finished for an all-wood look. An engineered aluminum panel construction creates strength and rigidity for panels more than 8 feet tall.

Clad Systems

Made using heavy-gauge extruded aluminum clad as an exterior in combination with a solid laminated wood core construction and a natural wood interior facing, clad systems offer greater durability, efficiency, and ability to withstand the elements. Clad systems typically have the lowest U-factor, offering maximum energy efficiency in all climates. Certain manufacturers offer a newer, contemporary cladding system, which features consistent-width narrow stile and rails, a square profile design, and standard anodized finishes combined with the warmth of a wood interior. Contemporary clad complements more contemporary architectural styles and window packages.


Best for interior space dividers or exterior applications shielded from weather, all wood systems lend a distinctive architectural style to a space. Usually available in a range of wood species, wood finishes may be prepped for or fully finished in factory. The wood surface will require sealing, staining, or painting. Standard wood systems incorporate a 3-inch stile and rail profile with 71/2-inch and 10-inch bottom rail options and can accommodate custom panels from 13/4 inches to 21/4 inches thick. Most manufacturers use a solid laminated veneer lumber (LVL) wood core construction to maintain integrity of the frame. Wood can provide energy efficiency and good thermal performance, and, when FSC certified, earn the project green credits.


Some manufacturers can offer vinyl multi-panel systems, capturing a lower price point while still allowing for a modern, expansive door opening. Energy-efficient, high-quality vinyl systems perform well in all environments and match popular vinyl window packages, making it an ideal solution for home renovations and new construction. Narrow 215/16-inch stile and rail profiles, which allow more glass and light, are highly compatible with contemporary design. No finishing is required, and vinyl offers a low-maintenance finish. Door sizes up to 8 feet tall and 18 feet wide are typical.

Product Applications


Multi-panel door systems offer the ideal solution to create an outdoor living experience for any home. By eliminating a wall or typical patio doors, these systems remove the distinction between the indoors and outdoors, creating a healthier, more comfortable environment with natural light and open air. Entertainment spaces flow naturally between the patio and the living room or kitchen.


Because of their adaptability and design flexibility, multi-panel door systems also can be found throughout commercial architecture, making better use of interior spaces or creating large open spaces by connecting the indoor and outdoor areas of schools, libraries, campuses, and museums.

Here, a seven-pane aluminum folding system extends the interior of the lounge seating outdoors.

Photo courtesy of LaCantina Doors

Multi-panel door systems are a natural fit in many commercial applications as well. Here, a seven-pane aluminum folding system extends the interior of the lounge seating outdoors.

Common commercial applications include:

  • Restaurants and retail storefronts: Multi-panel door systems provide a unique opportunity for restaurants and retailers to attract customers and maximize valuable and costly commercial space. Whether creating a true al fresco dining experience or capturing a shopper’s attention through open-air marketing, multi-panel interior and exterior applications offer a dramatic design element.
  • Resort and hospitality: Multi-panel door systems create large indoor/outdoor spaces that allow guests to enjoy gorgeous scenery and breathtaking sunsets with unobstructed views. The flexibility of these systems can accommodate guest rooms, suites and villas, outdoor cabanas, and high-rise balconies.
Photo of a modern farmhouse.

Photo courtesy of LaCantina Doors

This modern farmhouse features two four-panel aluminum thermally controlled folding systems that open up the entire home to the backyard/outdoor area. The multi-panel system enhances the contemporary aesthetic while providing improved thermal and structural performance.


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Originally published in Architectural Record