You don’t have to undergo a Grand Designs style renovation to significantly enhance your home. And what better way to do that, than with having an entire section of your home opening up to the outdoors. There’s no doubt that Bifold, French and Sliding doors undoubtedly offer a better view of the garden when compared to windows, so these are often the most popular choices.
But which option is best for you?
Modern bi-fold? Humble sliding doors? Or maybe elegant french doors?
And what should you pay attention to when choosing perfect doors for your home project?
If panoramic views and perfect combination of indoor/outdoor living appeal to you, then read on to learn which type of door is best for your home and lifestyle, and discover some practical tips worth knowing when weighing up your choices.
What kind of outdoor access fits your lifestyle?
They generally hang from the top track and slide in a concertina fashion along concealed floor tracks, which means all of the leaves can be folded to one side, almost entirely opening up one wall to your garden.
They can open inwards or outwards to suit the space in which they sit. However they require a meter or more of space left clear all the time for folding panels. Go for an odd number of door leaves! That way when folding you have your daily door on one side.
Sliding doors tend to be made up of two or more large panes of glass, which slide sideways along a track and stack at the end of the frame.
This offers greater control, allowing you to vary the opening more easily: open them an inch for a fresh light breeze, a couple of feet to nip outside, or open them all the way to let the outside in. Usually they open at about 65%. Site conditions or location may prevent large panes being installed. If you have a large opening you might also consider a sliding door variation - a very practical Lift & Slide doors.
If you have enough wall, speak to your architect about planning for a pocket to slide panels away into the wall cavity, creating a wide opening with no space lost!
Otherwise known as double door, these are a perfect fit when you don’t have a big opening or you're looking for a solution best fitting your period property. They usually comprise of two doors which both open either inwards or outwards. As they're hinged they can open full 180 degrees (depending on your walls and brickwork).
To further customise design and style of your French doors, you can add fixed panes on either side (known as ‘flags’ or side frames). That way they can be fitted into bigger apertures.
How about opening corners of your home?
How about a moving corner post set so you can enjoy a full 90 degree view across your garden?
A supporting column is not always needed for this style of doors. The integrity and supports can be all in the roof. Your builder or structural engineer can advise you further. There’s even more opportunities to get creative with your space!
Check this amazing, space expanding example of large open corner solution installed by our team in, so called, British Miami!
Any space can be enhanced, opened up and its potential realised with the correct know how. And if you can build sliding pockets in your walls - sliding doors can give an additional advantage of delivering undisturbed views and a full opening into your garden.
What should the door frames be made of?
Don’t choose your materials lightly!
It’s vital to understand the impact they will have on overall use, design, maintenance and durability of your doors.
It can be a good low cost and low maintenance material for smaller windows and doors, though it is less suitable for larger openings. As it’s weaker, frames need to be thicker to have structural integrity. It can also expand and contracts by as much as 3mm per metre with changes in the ambient temperature. So if you want big glass panels for better view, this isn’t the best choice.
Gives you more traditional, softer appearance and great for character properties. As the frames are usually given a painted or stained finish, the colour options are almost infinite. Wood does however require regular maintenance to keep them looking good and to make them last as long as they should. Choose hardwood as it is more resilient.
Lightweight, low maintenance and able to bear a large load, aluminium is a great choice for contemporary homes. Its strength means you can install very thin frames on your doors, allowing a greater glazed area and making the doors easier to open. 100% recyclable with no loss of quality and expands just 1mm per metre. Comes in a variety of powder coat finishes with the possibility to specify a different colour inside and out.
If you’re choosing aluminium doors, check that the frame has been designed to be thermally broken, which will combat heat loss and condensation problems.
Clean Lines & Undisturbed Views
When it comes to style, slim sliding doors definitely outperform other door options!
Bi-fold door panels can’t be too wide, so they will require a larger number of door leaves to fill an opening. Therefore when closed there is a lot more frame and less daylight than in a sliding door system.
You can find slimmer aluminium frame options for bi-folds, but when you have wide opening do you want to have a five section bi-fold, with four double frames spoiling that view? With the higher end aluminium sliding doors you could fit a quite visually impressive two section door, giving you maximum glass, almost uninterrupted views and still a big opening space with it. Seeing that there are more days of the year when the doors are closed it is important to consider what view you’d like to have.
For bespoke advice on the best design for your property
contact our glazing experts
or visit us in our West London Showroom.
Level Threshold in patio doors
Think safety first: a level threshold avoids creating a trip hazard!
Most bi-folding and sliding door systems have flush low threshold options, which allow for the bottom of the doors to be completely sunk down into the floor to provide a seamless transition from inside and outside. A level threshold (where the floor track that the doors run on is flush with the floor and the internal and external floor levels are the same height) might require a little bit more building work but allows your children to run free and eliminates trip hazard.
In order for it to work successfully, the space must remain watertight and so good drainage must be incorporated into the design. The floor in front of the threshold should slope gently away so that water cannot pool in front of the doors. Another option is to build up the external floor level with a timber deck, that gives the appearance of a level threshold without the risk of water ingress. If you are exposed to the elements you will need a slightly raised threshold or go to the extra expense of installing a small drainage channel just outside the doors otherwise rain will get in.
Design Options and Configurations of Sliding and Bifold Doors
When it comes to design and configurations, bi-folding and sliding doors come with a number of options, covering the amount of doors (depending on the size of aperture) and how they open.Bi-folding and French doors have visible framing, so make the most of the opportunity to complement both the external and internal appearance of your home. It’s becoming more common for homeowners to paint or powder-coat their patio sets in a feature colour. Anthracite grey became can be a great choice for aluminium frames and will subtly accentuate most colour schemes both inside and out.
Bear in mind that the colour may have an impact on your choice of material, for example, a dark paint will make the timber doors that open onto a south-facing garden, absorb a lot of heat during sunny days. This can cause issues with bowing and warping. A glazing supplier will provide you with the choice of finishes, colours and styling and allow full customisation of handles, hinges and colour matched gaskets to create a perfectly integrated look for your home. And for added privacy you can even have your doors fitted with blinds inside.
Sliding doors offer big glass surfaces (even 3mx3m!) and can come in a choice of configurations, different number of sliding tracks or even lift and slide variation for ease of operation.
French doors, on the other hand, are limited because of the two-door design. Once you go beyond 1.8m supporting the extra-large leaves becomes incredibly difficult. French sets can be extended with sidelights, but these are fixed, so you can’t open them up.
Bi-fold doors can open in one direction, in the middle or in multiple other configurations to suit your preference.You can choose whether they fold inwards or outwards and where the lead door -the panel which opens first and which contains the locking system - will be positioned.
7 Practical Tips when choosing new patio doors:
Check if your new doors require planning permission - most installations like these are classed as permitted developments (PDs), and don’t require planning permission. However, check with your council, or when your home is in a National Park, as different restrictions might apply.
Survey your property to highlight any potential structural issues - once the wall is removed, the weight of the roof and any floors above don’t have anything to support them so if it’s not done correctly, this can put pressure on the remainder of the wall and even cause it to collapse.
Remember that the amazing view is the most important feature of your home and can significantly improve value of your property.
Extend the same style and colour of flooring used in the kitchen out onto the patio or decking area - lay the flooring both inside and outside in the same direction, or in the same pattern, which draws the eyes inside.
Ensure that your decking and the floor inside are exactly the same level as this not only makes the area feel more united, but also safer and more convenient.
You don’t have to extend your kitchen by much - even adding one metre and fitting bi-folding doors can make it feel much larger.
Plan for enhancing your designs even further with roof lights or glass panels above your bifolds or around the french doors to uplift your home even further!
Security and Safety
All gearing on the sliding and bi-folding doors are completely concealed, and aluminium is extremely strong by nature meaning it cannot be forced or prised open. However, door systems like this can be potential area of weakness from a security point of view, so you should ensure that the doors have at least a three-point (preferably five) stainless steel lock. Always choose a set with a multi-point locking system and dead bolts, and all glazing should come toughened to British standards. This combination of all three will stop any would-be intruders. Make sure that any hinges are extruded aluminium or stainless steel, as these are much harder to prise apart. French doors are internally glazed as standard and framing usually accepts enhanced security glazing options.
Remember that when an even number of panels in bi-fold doors is configured to all slide open in one direction, it is not possible to have lead doors. And this can create a disadvantage, as the doors can’t have a multipoint locking system, which means they are not as secure as a system with a lead. Lead doors should also have strong magnets to prevent them slamming shut in the wind and finally roller systems should be encased to prevent trapped fingers, and dusty mechanisms.
Cleaning and Maintenance
Quick wipe with a non-abrasive cloth or sponge soaked in warm water and a mild detergent.
No heavy-duty household cleaners, as you could cause damage to the frames or powder coat finish.
For any stubborn stains try using an ink rubber to lift the mark, but don’t keep scrubbing away if you can’t see an initial change.
Ensure that the tracks at the bottom of the doors are clean and free from large stones and debris. Any large objects can impede the smooth running of the doors and potentially cause damage.
Run your vacuum cleaner nozzle along the tracks to remove any debris that has collected inside.
Some doors might require you to lubricate the tracks and mechanisms with a silicon spray every few months. Focus on the area where the wheel and guide disks connect with the tracks to ensure smooth running.
Read more on maintenance tips and instructions to keep your windows and doors in perfect condition for years!
With the trend towards minimal sightlines, the performance of the glazing becomes increasingly important. Large area of glazing doesn’t necessarily mean potential heat loss. These days patio doors can help in reducing energy bills. Standard double glazing is commonly 24mm or 28mm thick. Part L of the Building Regulations states that any glazed doors must achieve a minimum U value of 1.6. Triple-glazed doors will reduce the U value even further.
Make sure you look for E-coated glazing to maximise the energy efficiency of your glazed doors. Low-emissivity glass (known as E-coated glass) is a term that refers to glazing covered with an invisible film that dramatically reduces heat loss, no matter how cold it is outside. It can also ‘bounce’ the heat back into your rooms.
The gaskets between the doors should be tight enough to provide sufficient weather protection. However, as the folding doors can be a trapping hazard, it should also be soft enough to prevent serious injury, in case anyone gets their finger stuck.
When choosing a sliding patio door, especially slim-framed systems, check the thermal performance and whether the frames are thermally broken. And if you live in coastal areas check for additional protection available against salty conditions allowing your doors to last and perform year after year.
For bespoke advice on the best design for your property
contact our glazing experts
or schedule a visit in our Park Royal Showroom on 0208 963 9700
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