Bi-fold doors offer a classic way to integrate your home and garden – but what should you know before you call in the builders?
Firstly, there are four main materials to choose from. ‘Most popular is powder-coated aluminium, which is low maintenance, strong, light and allows for slim frames that give a modern feel and an almost uninterrupted view,’ advises Matt Higgs, sales director and co-owner of Klöeber. ‘Sturdy and secure, engineered timber is also a good choice as it doesn’t transfer cold from the exterior to the interior, and therefore provides great insulation.’
Offering the best of both worlds, composite doors combine a strong, heat-retaining timber inside with a durable powder-coated aluminium exterior – the downside being that they are considerably more expensive.
Finally, PVC doors are cheaper, but frames are thicker and colour options limited. They’re also susceptible to movement, meaning the doors can stick or become draughty. Aluminium, composite and timber doors can be matched to any colour, with a different shade inside and out. Timber is the only option that can be repainted.
Bi-fold doors also need to comply with thermal performance regulations, known as a U Value (the lower the value, the better insulated the doors are). These rules are more stringent in extensions and alterations than in new builds – a manufacturer will be able to advise. With large panels of glass, where heat loss is potentially an issue, triple glazing may be a wise choice.
The maximum width of individual panels will depend on the height of your doors, their weight and what the frames are made of, but on average an aluminium or timber panel can be up to 1,200mm wide.
The best bi-fold door brands
These are the companies with the know-how, whatever your style
Best for composite
Suppliers and installers of award-winning, high-performance bi-fold doors, which are designed and manufactured in Germany by Sunflex GmbH, an innovative, industry-leading company. Its timber-clad aluminium doors are available in a choice of woods, profiles and finishes, and with double or triple glazing. idsystems.co.uk
Best for aluminium
Experts in the field of architectural glazing for more than 12 years, IQ Glass offers a wide range of configurations, all with slim frames (powder coated in any RAL colour) that aim to maximise your view. A full selection of thermal-control glass options is available to ensure cosy rooms whatever the weather. iqglassuk.com
Best for timber
Cambridgeshire-based Klöeber is an independent company that provides both budget-friendly bi-fold doors and bespoke folding and sliding doors in solid engineered soft and hard woods, all with your choice of paint and stain finishes. It can even add bespoke electronic roller blinds, if required. kloeber.co.uk
Beyond bi-fold: big ideas for indoor/outdoor living
Bi-fold doors aren’t the only option. Be inspired by these showstopping ideas…
Glazed sectional rolling doors, such as this beautiful version in French photographer Jean-Marc Lederman’s villa in South Africa, are typically found in warehouses and factories, but their unique opening action can add serious drama to any living space. As the door slides vertically, resting flush with the ceiling when open, this design is surprisingly space-saving, leaving an unobstructed view of the outdoors. The Crittall-style frame of this door is especially stylish.
A wall of steel-framed windows with a floor-to-ceiling door on one side is an easy alternative to the trend for bi-folds. There’s no need to hang the glass panels from the ceiling or attach them to runners on the ground, as they are fitted just like normal glazing. This sleek example in an Australian home, the result of a collaboration between architecture firm Robson Rak and interior design company Made by Cohen, shows how effective the simple approach can be.
Designed to mimic the original arch at the entrance to this Georgian home in Melbourne, Australia, this door is a bespoke take on the trend for central pivoting designs. The aim of local interior architecture firm Shareen Joel Design was to make the most of the light in this home, so the door’s frame is gracefully minimal. For this style to work you will need space to accommodate the door’s sweeping opening action. For modern pivoting doors in the UK, try Urban Front.
Take the idea of the pivoting patio door to fantastical new heights with a supersized version. This home in Santa Barbara, USA, created by local architecture practice DesignArc, features an entire double-height wall of glass, encased in a pivoting aged-steel frame. The statement door is a bespoke design constructed by skilled homeowners. However, once you have the help of an architect, who will be able to draw up detailed plans and locate specialist manufacturers, you can realise even the most adventurous of projects.
This article appeared in the June 2018 issue of ELLE Decoration.
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