IDSystems’ David Clarke explains why self-builders should look beyond bi-fold doors when choosing a glazing option for a large opening.
When discussing the strengths of and demand for glazing solutions it’s important to remain unbiased, as all options have their own merit. At IDSystems, what we have witnessed over the last three to four years is a change in the market for glazing to
fill large openings on extensions, renovations and self-build homes – and slim framed sliding doors have been at the heart of the change.
Where once upon a time bi-fold doors were a must have for any aperture of over four metres, now those embarking on major projects are faced with a decision to make. Historically bi-fold or folding doors have been a more prevalent product in Europe. The appeal of bi-fold doors comes from the ability to completely open an aperture, creating a seamless link between house and garden. It is therefore easy to understand why they have more of a heritage in Europe where the summer weather is generally warmer.
With the weather we have in the UK being more mixed, any glazing option that is incorporated into a design is likely to spend far more time each year closed than open, and as such bi-fold doors are not always the ideal solution.
With significantly narrower frames and the possibility to include larger panes of glass within each panel of the door, sliding doors have the appeal of looking better closed, making them more suited to the British climate, especially where the size of the opening is even wider and even more so where the home enjoys the benefit of a particularly appealing view.
Traditionally the issue has been finding the compromise between appearance and performance, but thanks to developments in technology it is now possible to have larger (and therefore heavier) sealed glass units of up to three metres wide while still ensuring the doors are easy to move.
Architects and homeowners have embraced the developments in door technology to create stunning, innovative and eye-catching projects with larger and larger openings. These projects have made their way into magazines and TV programmes, which in turn has driven further demand. This demand has brought new suppliers and manufacturers into the market that has driven the rate of product development even further.
With sliding doors perfect for maximising the views out of a home and flooding rooms with natural light, there is a temptation to think they are the perfect solution to any design dilemma. However, as with any product they do come with compromises.
The biggest trade-off with sliding doors is that unless you are going to fit the doors on an extended track to open into a pocket, you are always going to lose an element of the opening to the fixed panel behind which the remaining panels slide.
This trade-off is most keenly felt when the openings are smaller and it is why there will always be a place for bi-fold doors or French doors for smaller openings. The cut-off point between sizes is not set in stone, but in our experience the larger the opening is beyond four metres, the more sliding doors with narrower frames come into their own, while the smaller the opening the more bi-fold doors or French doors are chosen.
One element that needs to be considered that is not always clear at the point of specification is the logistics and costs involved in installations. With sliding doors featuring larger panels the likelihood of lifting equipment or additional manpower being required on site increases which can push up the costs involved. With smaller more manageable panel sizes, logistics are always more straight forward with bi-fold doors. The most important piece of advice we offer customers, whichever system they are considering is to see the doors in person and to try them out for themselves. The old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ could not be more true in the glazing industry, and whether you opt for a sliding door or bi-fold door you want to ensure the system you have installed in your home doesn’t just look good, it also works perfectly time after time, year after year.
David Clarke is marketing coordinator at IDSystems