- What is best? French Doors, a patio door or bifolding doors?
We are often contacted by people who are unsure what kind of doors to have for the back of the house. In this article we will give you some information about the door choices available to you.
What is best? French Doors, a patio door or bifolding doors?
If you are constructing a new extension you will obviously have more flexibility as your builder or architect can create larger structural openings and this will of course widen your choice of door options.
If you are replacing old doors in existing openings then you may be limited by the size of the old doors but you still have a number of options as most aluminium door types available today can accommodate both large and small openings.
French doors will probably be the ideal choice for typical smaller openings and bifolding doors or patio doors for the larger ones. There are several things to consider with all three but particularly patio doors versus bifolding doors.
French doors you may know as a set of double doors that most people choose to open outwards although of course they can open in if you wish.
French Doors will be more suitable to the smaller structural openings but aluminium french doors are better than PVCu French Doors because they can be made taller and wider. This is good news if you have a typical 2400×2300 structural opening that PVCu doors can only go into when coupled to sidelights and toplights. This means more bulky PVCu sections, less glass and a smaller door area. Don’t forget that the sidelights and toplights add to the cost of a set of doors as well.
In aluminium however, French Doors can be manufactured at maximum sizes of 1260mm wide for a single door and at least 2460mm wide for french doors. Aluminium French Doors can also be made substantially taller than most PVCu doors at 2400mm high negating the need and the additional cost of a toplight. Some other doors can also be made taller than this if needed.
French doors with most quality systems will meet high security using multipoint locking and many have passed the latest PAS024 security tests. Additionally with aluminium french doors you will get substantially thinner profiles than any PVCu door meaning more glass area and less aluminium.
The advantage of french doors over patio doors is that if they are your only access door into your garden you can use only the one leaf instead of both. In the summer you have the option of opening both door leaves and if needed these can be fitted with integral door restrictors.
The Patio Door
The biggest advantage of patio doors and sliding doors, is that because they slide on one track they take up less space when open than French Doors or bifolding doors. If you have a very small patio or even a balcony, patio doors will make more sense. Additionally they will not be prone to blowing open or closed on very windy days like any swing type door.
Modern patio doors in aluminium can now be made at substantial sizes typical of the big glass sliding doors that you will have seen on Grand Designs.
Patio door technology has advanced quite significantly in recent years with sliding patios now having one, two or three tracks that enable the various door leaves to slide independently and give you various options on how you open you doors. This is a big advantage of older doors on a single track where you were limited in how the doors opened.
Patio doors are generally available as two, three or four pane sliders although custom doors with more panels are available. The slim aluminium profiles now mean that even two pane patio doors can be fitted to structural openings 5metres wide giving you an expansive glass area with just one or two sliding panels. If you are looking for maximum glass then this will be your best option.
Sophisticated hardware and rollers in modern aluminium patio doors means that whilst some very large patio door leaves can weight several hundred kilos, they remain remarkably light to use and slide day to day.
Some patio door systems can go up to three metres in height as well giving you truly large doors if you are building a bespoke opening.
Patio doors also have sophisticated security built in with protection where the door panels overlap and excellent multi point locking systems.
Air sliding doors manufactured by Everglade Windows are one example of highly engineered and very well made doors that can be made as either inline doors on a single track or multi-track sliding doors.
Bifolding doors are to many the ultimate door for the back of the house and obviously offer features that the other two types of doors cannot. The biggest advantage is when fully open they open up the entire building opening to create a fantastic open space and a seamless transition between the inside and the outside of the house.
There are now many configurations of bifolding doors giving you flexibility in how they open. If you have a simple 2 metre wide opening and wish to replace old french doors or an old two pane patio door, you can have two pane bifolding doors that concertina open. But on a two pane door when they are open they won’t give you a much bigger clear opening than two french doors fully open. The advantage is that you will only have open doors on the one side instead of both sides with french doors. You will also lose the flexibility of only opening one door as you can with French Doors.
Again if your bifolds are the only access door into your garden, we strongly recommend one swinging access leaf opening on the one side with the rest of the bifolding doors sliding open on the other side. This will enable you to simply swing open one door if you wish to take the rubbish out or on winter days without having to slide every door open.
Bifolding doors provide the best of all worlds when configured and designed correctly but are ideal where the open doors won’t encroach on the outside space and where the structural opening is big enough to accommodate them. If you have an existing opening of 2700mm or more there is no reason why you cannot have bifolding doors.
So which is best? A patio door, a bifolding door or French Doors?
Ultimately this will be a matter of personal preference as to what best suits your home. If you are on a budget for aluminium doors, then French doors will be the cheapest option. Patio doors will be a little less than bifolding doors and bifolding doors the most expensive option.
If budget was not a deciding factor then bifolding doors are the most desirable. However if you want maximum size possible glass panels then patio doors are recommended.
Regardless of choice, aluminium doors offer you many advantages.
Regardless of what you choose and when compared directly to their PVCu counterparts, all door types will offer you much slimmer profiles than plastic doors. PVCu is a much weaker material than aluminium and has therefore has to be made much thicker and with internal reinforcing to give it the strength. Therefore you will have much thicker doors if you opt for PVCu.
The finishing of aluminium is another huge advantage to aluminium doors. Not only have you got a massive colour choice open to you with several hundred possible colours available, but if your budget stretches to it you can have doors with different colour inside and out as well as matching the doors to internal paints like Farrow and Ball.
If your doors are located in a very exposed location or even near a swimming pool with a chlorine environment you can even have extended guarantees on the polyester powder coated aluminium to protect the doors against contaminants.
What you may also not know is there is now sophisticated woodgrain technology for aluminium doors that gives you authentic looking wood doors that are far superior in appearance to PVCu woodgrain foils. And this coating technology can coat every surface of the profile, even the invisible ones whereas the foils used in PVCu doors cannot.
With all quality aluminium doors now having passed or exceeded British or European standards for security and weather performance you also have peace of mind that your aluminium doors no matter how large or small will be secure and highly weather resistant.
Will you be able to match bifolding doors to patio doors or French Doors?
The design of all three products is different going back to basics in how they open, slide or fold. Therefore it is unlikely you will be able to match your doors to all look the same. This should not be a major concern to you though as the sight lines of aluminium products generally tend to be consistent and similar in width, but you will not have matching doors. For example French doors are available in flat, chamfered or ovolo profiles whereas patio doors generally are flat in their appearance. Bifolding doors can vary on the profiles with flat contemporary looking products available as well as those with more rounded frames and doors.
If the back of your house or your new extension is large enough to accommodate bifolding doors and french doors, then you will have ultimate flexibility in how you access your garden and you have a wide choice of products available to you.
If you need further information on the various door products available such as those manufactured by KAT, and other companies, please contact us and we can help you find the right product for your home.