Date posted: 26th March 2018

Bi-folding or sliding aluminium patio doors

According to industry figures almost 43,000 bi-folding doors were installed in UK homes last year (Palmer). Their popularity is based on the way in which they provide a house-to-garden connection, folding neatly away to open up entire facades to the world outside.

But if Grand Designs is taken as a barometer for the nation’s tastes, there is perhaps a growing trail of evidence to suggest that there are at the very least a number of challengers for the bi-fold doors place in the affections of UK home owners.

Inline sliding patio doors

Patio doors, or inline sliding doors, to give them their correct name, are enjoying something of a renaissance. They were the big losers to the bi-fold but new and better designs and a wide choice of finish options means that are enjoying new appeal.

With a super-slick no fuss design and operation, they offer a wide expanse of glazing, allowing you to look out onto your garden year round without the interruption of rows of uprights.

They’re also space saving, sliding to stack and overlap on one another to have a minimal presence and without encroaching on space inside, or immediately outside the home.

New finishing options, particularly the highly popular anthracite grey, have given the PVC-U inline sliding patio door a new architectural quality.

But it’s aluminium sliding doors which are seeing the greatest increase in popularity able to span larger distances, offering slim sightlines and enhanced security. If you want really large panes of glass, this is the only option available, that will last!

Pivoting doors

Pivoting doors provide another alternative. They’re high end architectural take on the French door but come with a corresponding price tag. Nonetheless, they’re being specified by architects in growing numbers.

They’re designed to pivot 90 degrees opening up inside to outside spaces.  They’re generally manufactured in slim-sightline aluminium systems, maximising the area of uninterrupted glazing.

But there are a few draw backs. The cost is one but the fact that when opened part of the door protrudes back into the room, while the other end sticks out into the space outside, with a more limited opening, means you need space inside and out for them to work.

French doors

French doors are a timeless way of connecting inside and outside spaces. Elegant and understated, they have appeal across the board, offering a high degree of design flexibility making them suitable for period or more contemporary installations.

They’re also ideal for higher-traffic areas, for example from kitchen to garden offering a simple master and slave-door configuration, which means access is simple and straight forward.

Although not necessarily taking ground from bi-folding and folding sliding doors, they are very much holding their own and remain a classic and timeless choice when connecting your home and outside spaces.

So are bi-folds ‘old hat’ and should I be thinking about a different type of door?

Well despite increased specification of aluminium inline sliding and patio doors, the enduring appeal of French doors and a growing if perhaps smaller market for pivoting doors, bi-folding doors continue to enjoy irrepressible popularity.

That’s because of the benefits that they offer. Aluminium bi-folding doors combine a strong architectural quality with slim sightlines, exceptional functionality and high performance. And most importantly, they remove walls. Think kitchens, open al fresco dining and you need to also be thinking folding sliding doors.

The way in which they connect inside and outside spaces is unique. Bi-fold doors also deliver other benefits. Unlike, for example pivoting doors, individual bifold door panels stack neatly one against each other, which means that there’s nothing to get in the way between your home and outside space when they’re opened. 

Bi-folding doors can also be installed across two aspects of a building to open out two whole sides of a room. This creates an incredible impact in orangery or conservatory design, in this case bringing the ‘outside in’ as much as the ‘inside out’.

What’s the best material for a bi-folding door?

The answer to this question is going to be defined by your budget and willingness to take on maintenance. There are some stunningly crafted wooden bi-folding doors available, the downside is that they require maintenance and natural contraction and expansion of timber can impact on reliable operation.

This is something which has historically been a problem in PVC-U bi-folding doors, particularly in south facing aspects - exactly where you’re probably going to want your bi-fold. Dark colours, uPVC and the sun normally means problems!

That’s because unlike PVC-U sliding doors which operate in a defined frame and track and do so to higher tolerances, bi-folding door tolerances are far narrower.

The expansion and contraction of PVC-U or for that matter timber bi-folding doors, even by just a few millimetres can have a significant impact on the way in which the door operates and ultimately opening, closing and weather sealing.

There are a number of PVC-U systems which have gone a long way to addressing these issues but we would always recommend that if you can afford it, you choose an aluminium system. KJM does not sell uPVC bi-folding doors.

This in KJM’s view combines the best of PVC-U and timber. It delivers slim sightlines and a strong aesthetic and is also low maintenance, requiring minimal care to guarantee reliable through-life performance. 

It also allows you to span larger distances and be confident in performance. It expansion and contraction is an issue in other materials, clearly the larger distance you’re spanning, so you’re increasing and multiplying the risk of problems.

Cutting edge aluminium bi-fold door design

We supply the Visifold aluminium bi-folding door. It’s been designed to deliver ultra-slim sightlines while incorporating the latest polyamide thermal breaking technologies to offer exceptional thermal efficiency. This includes accommodating triple-glazed glass units, maximise the energy efficiency of your new bi-folding doors.

Configurable to open in or out and with traffic door options, the Visifold from KJM Group is available in a wide range of colour polyester powder coated colour finishes and come with a 25-year paint finish guarantee.

Featuring the very latest in multi-point shoot bolt locking and anti-tamper door cylinders, your door also the Visifold also delivers the highest levels in door security.

Closing thoughts – is a bi-fold door the right choice for your home?

What bi-folding doors give you is a unique connection between indoor and outdoor spaces. Aluminium sliding doors come a close second, and if you want to maximise the opportunity to appreciate your garden year round, they may well be your first choice.

For making the most of outside summer living, bi-folds in our view continue to reign supreme.

Find out more about our bi-folding door range by calling 01264 359355 or emailing email sales@kjmgroup.co.uk