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From the ground up

A modernist home short on square footage relies heavily on sliding pocket doors

A sliding pocket door typically frees up about nine square feet of floor space compared with a conventional door.

Snap quiz: Do you know how many doors you have in your home?

Most people probably couldn't pull that number out of the air. But for Tory Crowder and Shawn Thomas, the figure looms large: 31, all but two of which will be sliding or pocket doors.

Twenty-nine of the 31 doors in the Etobicoke house will be sliding or pocket doors. Tory Crowder

Yet the task of installing them in the 2,700 sq.-ft home they're building in Etobicoke has hardly been, well, an open-and-shut case.

When the couple began designing the house with the help of an architect, they already knew they'd likely rely heavily on sliding pocket doors.

For budget reasons, their modernist home was to be smaller than the typical new build, so space was at a premium. Every sliding or pocket door typically frees up about nine square feet of floor space that would otherwise be dedicated solely to the swing radius of a conventional door.

The decision to go almost exclusively with this type of door allowed them to come up with a more space efficient template. "The floor plans are built around the doors," Ms. Crowder said.

Beyond those architectural considerations, Crowder's family has long owned K.N. Crowder Manufacturing, a 69-year-old Burlington firm that specializes in the mechanical elements of doors and customized sliding models. Contractors can use Crowder's fixtures on a range of doors, but the company often finds its products paired with customized doors made by Portes Baillergeon, a 32-year-old Quebec manufacturer that was acquired by Masonite in 2012.

Examples of some of the types of doors being installed at the Crowder-Thomas home, all from K.N. Crowder Manufacturing.

While the decision to go with specialized sliding doors will save space and thus, over the long-run, heating and cooling outlays, it's not inexpensive, particularly on a project that has seen a steady escalation of unanticipated cost. The retail price for the 31 doors is about $46,100, and that's before installation. With a bulk discount, they will pay about $40,000.

Jeremy Crowder, Tory's elder brother and the firm's vice-president, pointed out that his sales team has seen a sharp spike in demand in the past decade for sliding and pocket doors in a wide range of applications, including office buildings, hotels and condo apartments. "It's all about saving space," he says. If developers can save space, Mr. Crowder added, they can add more units per floor.

K.N. Crowder Manufacturing has seen high demand for exposed runners for barn-style doors. Tessa Linden Photography

With the increase in demand (K.N. Crowder's end customers are primarily developers, contractors and architects), the company has ramped up its investment in new product development. The firm is doing a brisk business in exposed runners for barn-door style doors, as well as a specialized mechanical "catch and close" system that prevents slams, and prefabricated pocket door frames meant to make installation straightforward for contractors. Crowder also has developed hidden guiding tracks so there's no hardware embedded in the floor at the threshold.

Despite the investment in new product lines and engineered technical systems, sliding doors nonetheless pose their own challenges, especially in a new build project where settling could affect the integrity of the sliding mechanisms (as opposed to the snug fit of the door in a door jam that has gone a bit wonky).

In the case of the Crowder-Thomas project, the matter of doors has been, well, an open and active file since as far back as May – an element that involved the full engagement of both the project architect as well as K.N. Crowder's product manager Greg Paron, who prepared detailed installation blue prints for each door.

Sliding doors can pose challenges in a new build project, where settling can affect the integrity of the sliding mechanisms. Tory Crowder

Many are destined for the second floor, which will have three bedrooms each equipped with spacious closets, private access to either communal or en suite bathrooms and a laundry room. Ms. Crowder points out that the pocket door means there's enough room that she won't require a stacked washer-drier, as is typical in many such upstairs spaces.

The doors to the children's bedrooms and bathrooms will come equipped with specially designed privacy locks that can be disengaged from the outside if one of their kids, or their kids' friends, accidentally lock themselves inside.

In the downstairs den/family room area, but also in the master, Ms. Crowder and Mr. Thomas wanted three- or four-panel "come along systems" configured to allow only a portion of the closet or shelving units to be exposed at one time. In the den, the sliding door's role is to cover a TV/desk nook when it's not in use.

As for the finishes, the choice, said Ms. Crowder, has been driven by the flooring, as well as the overall aesthetic of the entire project. Mr. Crowder recommended Baillergeon as a supplier because the firm has a wide range of resilient veneers that range from the vibrant colours the couple wanted for the children's bedroom to lighter wood treatments more suited for the main floor zones.

"We wanted something cool and modern looking," as Crowder said. "I also wanted a uniform look that's going to be the same throughout the house."

Globe Real Estate is following the construction of a 2,700 sq.-ft home in an Etobicoke neighbourhood that's become, as with many Toronto residential enclaves, a hotbed of demolition and rebuilding activity.

More in this series

The first stages of an Etobicoke home rebuild

Etobicoke home rebuild delivers modernist look with low-slope roof

HVAC and plumbing installs complicate Etobicoke home rebuild

Etobicoke home rebuild faces a dilemma: take a wall down or leave it up?