What is a pivot door?

12 May 2021

Pivot doors explained

A pivot door is a swinging door that rotates on a vertical axis, a spindle. This is different from regular hinged doors, where the hinges are attached to the side of the door and the adjacent wall.

The difference between a pivot door and a regular hinged door.

Table of contents

Origin of the pivot door

The technology of the pivot door is simple and goes back many centuries. An example of very early pivot doors can be found in the ancient city of Persepolis, in modern Iran. Various indications of pivot doors were found in the Gate of All Nations, a grand hall which build was ordered by Achaemenid king Xerxes I, between 486 and 465 BC.

One of the sockets that were found in the ancient city of Persepolis, modern Iran, was used for the bottom pivot of an ancient pivoting portal.

These early pivot doors were hung by pivots that rotated in holes in the sill and lintel. A great example is the stone doors in Hampi, India.

Two massive stone pivot doors in Hampi, India, where the spindles are still clearly visible. Image courtesy of Shriram Swaminathan

An old pivot door where the vertical axis in the sill and lintel are clearly visible

What components make up a pivot door?

A pivot door is basically a pivoting panel that can take any type of design and measurement. It exists of the door, a pivot system, a top pivot, a floor plate, and a ceiling plate.

Contrary to the ancient pivot doors, modern-day pivot doors do not rotate on an extension of the vertical axis but a pivot hinge system and a top pivot. The pivot hinge system is mortised inside the bottom of the door, and the top pivot is mortised inside the top of the door. Both are invisible on the finished door.

These pivot hinges are placed at any desired position in the door. This determines the location of the vertical axis – the spindle – on which the door pivots.

Pivot hinge inside pivot door x-ray

The components of a pivot hinge

What’s the advantage of a pivot door?

A pivot door is visually very different from a regular hinged door. When the hinge is placed 4“ from the side of the door, these 4“ create the pivot door’s ‘tail.’ This tail will swing inward for an outward swinging door and outward for an inward swinging door. This allows for beautiful, elegant door movement.

The unique closing movement of a pivot door

A pivot door can deviate from the measurements of regular doors. A pivot door can simply be much larger. They allow for higher but also wider doors than traditional hinged doors. There are examples of pivot doors over 13 feet wide and 23 feet tall. It’s all possible with the right, high-quality pivot hinge.

6-meter-tall entrance pivot door with FritsJurgens System M pivot hinge – Designed by Gavin Maddock

Pivot doors can take any type of measurement, but with the proper pivot hinge, these doors can also become very heavy without any issues. This means you have the design freedom to design your dream door without worrying about the execution.

With a regular hinged door, all the door’s weight is ‘hanging’ from the door frame. Thanks to its spindle, a pivot door can easily carry much larger weights which it disposes of through the floor. With the right hinge, your pivot door can weigh up to 1100 lbs.

When applying the correct type of pivot hinge, the hinges are invisible on the finished door, contrary to the hinges of a regular hinged door. This means there are no distractions, and the focus remains on the door’s design.

Close up of a FritsJurgens floor plate

A pivot door can be made from any type of material. The only requirement is that the hinges can be mortised inside the door, which is possible for almost any thinkable material, from wood to glass and steel and from marble to copper.

Marble pivot door in a marble bathroom – Designed by Exceptis Interior Design

A pivot door is suitable for countless types of placements for both interior, and exterior situations. From grand entrances to bathroom doors, pivoting walls, double doors, cupboard doors, even windows.

A pivot door with the proper pivot hinges is very easy to install in new and existing situations. When the hinges are integrated into the door, there is barely any work left to do on-site. Only the floor- and ceiling plates must be mortised. Then the door can simply be lifted into place.

Installing a pivot door with FritsJurgens pivot hinges can be done quickly and easily

Pivot doors can be frameless. Because of the pivot hardware placement inside the door, there is no need for door frames. This makes it possible for a pivot door to submerge in the interior or exterior.

This pivot door disappears in the wall – Designed by Taouk Architects

This pivot door disappears in the wall – Designed by Taouk Architects

The frameless nature of pivot doors also allows you to place multiple pivot doors side by side to create or double doors or even pivoting walls.

Pivot doors can be double-acting. Depending on the placement of the door, the functionalities that the door should have, and whether or not door frames are applied, pivot doors can rotate in one direction, both directions, and even 360°.

A pivot door is a hands-free type of door. Of course, you can decide to add a latching bolt and door handles, but these aren’t necessary. With the right pivot hinge the pivot door can be opened and closed with the touch of a finger, shoulder, or hip. This makes the doors suitable for restaurants where waiters walk with trays, but it also makes them very hygienic because they can be operated without touching them with your hands.

A pivot door can be used hands-free

What types of pivot doors are there?

Pivot doors come in many different shapes and sizes. Pivot doors can be large or small, heavy or light, and applied in the interior or the exterior. Another distinction that can be made is commercial versus residential pivot doors, whereas commercial pivot doors can be as tall as 20 feet.

Exterior pivot doors

Exterior pivot doors are a great way to make a grand entrance. The entrance door is the first tangible element that you encounter when entering a building. Due to the endless design possibilities, a pivoting entry can genuinely set the tone for the rest of the house.

Exterior pivot doors can take any shape and size. There are countless possible materials to work with. Glass and steel, glass and aluminum, full steel or aluminum, or a distinct type of wood are popular materials for entrances. However, copper-clad doors are also gaining popularity.

Copper pivoting entrance door with FritsJurgens System M pivot hinge – Designed by Porebski Architects, made by Cumberland Building, photographed by Peter Bennetts

There are also various ways to make this type of door weatherproof. Draft- and moist-repellant details such as drop seals ensure that the pivot door lacks nothing in both design and comfort.

Interior pivot doors

Interior pivot doors can be placed in every indoor situation. Both in new and in existing situations, a pivot door can easily be implemented. A pivot door is suitable for bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, studies, room dividers, and many other indoor applications.

Steel and glass interior pivot door – Designed by Linox by Jens Lammers, photographed Bert Demasure

When you choose a pivot door for your interior, materials can vary from glas and steel to wood, marble, and any other type of application imaginable. The doors can be frameless or with door frames, single or double, large or small, light or heavy. Even pivoting bookcases and pivoting walls are possibilities.

Even pivoting bookcases are a possibility for pivot ‘doors’ – Designed by Standard Studio

Commercial pivot door applications

Pivot doors are not only great for homes but also for commercial properties. They can be implemented in offices, spas, public buildings such as libraries, restaurants, shops, et cetera.

Commercial pivot door applications
7-meter-tall pivoting wall in Atrium Amsterdam – Designed by MVSA Architecten, built by Harryvan Interieurbouw
Commercial pivot door applications
Pivot door in a church – Designed by Synecdoche Design, built by PLY+
Commercial pivot door applications
Pivot door from perforated steel in office building – Designed by Architectural Elements
Commercial pivot door applications
Pivot door with historic image in office building – Designed by BuroBulder

How to install a pivot door

First, you mount the pivot system and top pivot inside the top and bottom of the door. On location, you place the floor and ceiling plate. Then, you lift the door into place and fine-tune the placement and movement.

Mounting the pivot system and top pivot in the door is a process that depends on the door material you work with. The right shapes are milled out of wood doors according to a milling manual. When working with aluminum or steel, the systems are often fitted into profiles inside the door.

On-site, the floor plate and ceiling plate are mounted. The placement of these plates is calculated on forehand.

Then the door is lifted into place. The pin of the system on the door’s bottom side is placed in the floor plate, and the pin in the top pivot is turned upward into the ceiling plate to secure the door.

Part of the placement of the door is the adjustment of the positioning that allows you to move the door slightly to perfect its location.

The last part of the pivot door’s installation is the fine-tuning of the door’s movement. High-quality pivot hinges offer various ways to fine-tune the movement to your own preferences, from soft-close to opening damping and closing speed.

In our installation video below you can see the process and the ease of installation.

FritsJurgens pivot door installation and System M mounting video

Additional pivot door features

As opposed to regular hinged doors, the hinges inside pivot doors can give the door various extra features that allow you to determine the door’s movement.

Some of these features are:

  • Soft-close
  • Hold positions
  • Adjustable opening damping
  • Adjustable closing speed
  • Latch control

These features are dependent on the pivot hinge’s brand and the type of pivot hinge system you choose.

I want a pivot door—where do I start?

If you want to integrate a pivot door, it is important to consider the type of pivot door you want. Since almost everything is possible, it can be helpful to find an architect or interior architect with experience in designing pivot doors to assist you.

There are also countless professional pivot door manufacturers all over the world. Many have their own specialties, such as timber doors or steel doors. If you already know what type of pivot door you want, you can consider contacting a door manufacturer. If you’re not sure yet, it can be helpful to take a look at the many fantastic pivot door projects that are already out there.

There are many brands of pivot door hardware available worldwide. It is helpful to consider the fact that a pivot door is a design investment you make for the long term. It is therefore very important that you choose pivot hardware of high quality to prevent maintenance, or even worse, malfunctioning. Especially since pivot doors are often large, heavy doors, safety should be considered.

If you need some assistance or are looking to find the right partner for your pivot door project, FritsJurgens can assist you. Feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

FritsJurgens also has an extensive network of trusted dealers and partners worldwide that can help you find the right pivot door manufacturer near you.

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