How to divide and conquer (your space)

By RaeAnn Slaybaugh

Room dividers at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, GA, make the worship space truly multifunctional.
Room dividers at New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, GA, make the worship space truly multifunctional.

Not all expansion needs are the same. For some churches, maximizing the space they have is the most sensible option.

To this end, Rich Maas, vice president of Lake Zurich, IL-based Screenflex, acknowledges that room dividers are a big investment — but, as he points out, not nearly as expensive as breaking ground and building new.

“We’re really good at knowing how to maximize space,” Maas adds. “We’re architects.”

And, like architects, Maas and his team emphasize that there’s no one-size-fits-all room divider; the ideal height and finish will vary by the space. “Lots of churches outgrow their sanctuaries and repurpose them as multipurpose spaces,” he offers by way of example. “They often take out the pews and use these facilities as ‘sanctoriums.’” Many of these spaces come complete with exceptionally high, sloped ceilings — not, as one might assume, a significant issue when considering room dividers.

When asked how tall room dividers can conceivably be, Maas replies: “I’ll give you the practical answer first: They can be as high as a church wants them to be. But, even with a 20-foot ceiling, why go taller than the maximum height of 8 feet? We say, ‘Save yourself some money.’ Even a 6-foot, or 6-foot-8-inch, divider is plenty high — and, typically, easy to store.”

He explains the troubled physics of choosing a super tall, custom-designed room divider: It requires a bigger base. A divider beyond the largest standard-size model offered by Screenflex — 8 feet high x 24 feet wide — would require a larger end frame (the depth of the divider when folded up) than the standard 29-inch one. “Doorways are only so wide and tall,” he explains. “So, getting extra-tall dividers in and out of a space, or storage, can become a challenge.”

Realistically, Maas contends that an 8’ divider is as high as any church would need. “Eight feet accommodates tall people just fine,” he says.

Or, if the space has 8-foot ceilings, a 7-foot-4-inch unit would work better. “That accommodates room for lighting, ventilation and so on,” Maas says. “And, it’s still high enough that people feel like they’re in their own dedicated rooms.”

Consider your surroundings
Most of the dividers Maas offers are fabric-covered, but that doesn’t mean they’re ideal for every space. “In a food-service area, food mess dictates a different kind of covering,” he explains. “Vinyl is a good option there. Aside from churches, hospitality is a big market for us, and they like variety. We offer eight to 10 different vinyl colors and about 25 different colors of fabric.”


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