A tambour door is a door mounted on a set of tracks instead of hinges. While a standard door swings open and closed, tambour doors slide along the track. The traditional tambour door is made from thin slats of material, which provide enough flexibility for the door to feature a curved profile. A basic example of this door type is the curved wooden door found on the classic rolltop desk. Modern tambour doors are found on kitchen cabinets, food service windows, and even garages.
The slats that make up a tambour door allow it to curve or coil. This means that the door can slide up along the tracks and remain tucked away and out of site. To understand how this works, one can picture a wooden bread box with a rolled front. If a solid wooden door was used, it could not curve in the same way as one made from many slats. A solid door could be lifted up or down, but would not fit inside the breadbox like a tambour door, which rolls up to fit under the top of the unit.
Tambour doors may be designed to roll up and down or side to side. Those found on a desk or food service window typically roll up and down, with the tracks positioned perpendicular to the ground. Doors used on kitchen cabinets or certain types of furniture may be designed to open to one side, with the tracks positioned parallel to the ground.
Low-grade tambour doors are made using individual slats of wood fastened to some form of backing material. They may be glued to a piece of fabric, or attached with wire or staples. High quality versions require the work of skilled craftsmen. They feature individual slats that lock together, eliminating the need for a fabric or canvas backing. This type of tambour door is very difficult to make and requires special tools.
Wooden tambour doors have traditionally been found in rolltop desks, breadboxes and other types of furniture. They are also used on many modern kitchen cabinets. Homeowners can even purchase a tambour door kit to transform an existing cabinet into one with a sliding or rolling door.
Metal can sometimes be used in place of wood when making these doors, particularly when they are used in commercial applications. For example, garage and loading dock doors feature a tambour design, and are generally made from aluminum or steel. The same is true of food service windows, such as those used above a lunch counter to secure the kitchen and sales area during off hours.