French Doors vs in-Line Sliding vs Bi Folding vs Slide-And-Turn Patio Doors
With the introduction of Slide and Turn Patio Doors in 2010, there are now four basic options to choose from when upgrading your home
For centuries, French Doors were the default wider access doors for access to private gardens, accommodating openings from approximately four feet to six feet wide. Originally constructed from wood with glass panes, they consist of a pair of hinged panels that meet in the centre of the opening. Now also available in a choice of pvc, aluminium or composite frames, French doors are still popular today, particularly for smaller new-build homes.
In-line sliding doors became popular about fifty years ago. The main advantage was the additional width of the glass panels for viewing out and for allowing natural sunlight in. There is generally no additional access benefit as one panel slides behind the other on a two-door system; three glass panes on three tracks would afford greater access. Occasionally, sliding glass would be installed as 'pocket doors' that could slide inside the cavity walls. Over the decades, there have been numerous improvements, from single to double glazing and to the quality of the sliding track gear. It is now possible to install sliding doors with glazed panels of up to six metre widths.
Bi Folding Doors.
Around the turn of the century, home-owners became interested in bi folding doors, also known as sliding-folding, concertina or accordion doors, to describe the zig-zag folds. Primarily, patio bi folds comprise a set of double-glazed doors with timber, metal, plastic or composite frames onto which hinges are mounted to facilitate a folding action as the panels slide along the top and bottom guide rails. Bi folding doors have grown in popularity during the past ten years as more people have replaced old sliding patio doors or built new extensions with almost full walls of glass, as six or seven metres of bi folds can easily be incorporated.
Almost the whole width of the installed door-set can provide walk-through access as the bi folds are fully retractable. Panoramic views are better with slimmer aluminium frames than with clumsy-looking pvc as there is more glass and less frame. Aluminium frames are also available in more colours as they can be powder-coated in white, grey, black, silver, blue, green, sepia or over a hundred other options.
Most recently, a newer innovation in retractable doors was launched. At the time of writing, only two or three British companies manufacture and install slide-and-turn or slide-and-pivot doors, as others are still in development. Slide-and-Turn doors are a hybrid of sliding, pivot and bi folding doors.
All the doors in the set are able to pivot and will also slide along top and floor guides; like bi folds, they are fully retractable for maximum width access. One of the features of the slide-and-turn system is that there are no hinges necessary for folding the doors which means that the width and strength required of the side frames can be minimised. The benefits of less frame and more glass are: increased natural light and wider views between the slim frames.
Slide-and-turn doors do not necessarily need frames; there are frameless versions available but double glazed units have a thermal seal around the cavity, which can look 'ugly' and the frames will cover it. This style of door is installed with at least one conventional pivot door that may be opened inwards or outwards by ninety degrees (at right-angles to the closed position), leaving a space into which the adjacent door can slide so that the opening is further along the track. Alternatively, the second door can then be opened alongside the first door, leaving a two-door gap, and so on, until all the doors have been opened or spaced as required.
British door manufacturer, SunSeeker Doors, were one of the first companies to develop the double-glazed slide-and-turn door. In the four years since its launch, annual sales of UltraSlim patio doors have overtaken annual sales of their standard bi folding door, introduced over ten years ago. Product details and image galleries on www.sunseekerdoors.co.uk
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