When choosing new doors and windows, the right choice will not only look good but will be functional, durable, provide good insulation and security and, if the time comes to sell, enhance your chances of selling quickly for a good price.
Frames are generally made from wood (softwood or hardwood), plastic (PVC-u) or aluminium.
The low budget option is to use softwood; it looks good when new and can be stained or painted to suit your taste. The disadvantages are that it soon deteriorates if not painted regularly and it has a tendency to warp with changes of temperature. Hardwood, whilst more expensive, has the same good qualities, is far more durable and offers good thermal insulation. Both softwood and hardwood surfaces, especially those exposed to harsh weather (such as all-day sunshine!) may need to be treated every year.
PVC-u frames usually come in white, brown and in wood-grain finish. Prices vary with quality, the cheaper ones costing little more than softwood and the stronger ones comparable with hardwood. Maintenance does not include painting but cheaper frames may be prone to twisting, particularly on opening patio doors, rendering them difficult to use.
Aluminium is the strongest material and is maintenance-free. On its own, it would look ugly and be a bad insulator but most manufacturers incorporate a thermal barrier and provide a powder-coated finish, usually basic white but often a choice of industry standard colours, e.g. silver, green, blue.
Glass can also help reduce heat loss and improve energy efficiency. The air between the two glass panes in standard double-glazing acts as an insulator. Suppliers who manufacture to order may have options to increase thermal performance by replacing the cavity air with an insulating gas and/or coating the glass facing inside the house with a reflective coating. Reflective coating is also useful for south-facing patio doors and windows, to reflect the sun and keep temperatures down in summer.
The glass cavity has many uses: it may be increased to minimise sound or it could house window blinds, usually horizontal slats or pleated, which would never need dusting and would be less prone to damage from everyday wear and tear.
Doors to the garden or balcony are no longer restricted to sliding panels and double doors (aka French doors).
French doors are traditionally wooden but are also available in PVC-u and aluminium, with the same benefits and drawbacks as listed above.
Patio doors, traditionally, have comprised of at least two large panes of glass with PVC-u or aluminium frames, where one or more door can slide across to provide a walk-through opening. Wide doors can offer unrivalled views from the house but sliding panels restrict access by at least 50% of the potential opening.
The sliding method has been prone to eventual operational difficulties, giving rise to the rolling patio door mechanism – a series of rollers (like miniature in-line skates) are fitted to the bottom of the door panels so that the doors glide open and close easily. The rollers are usually made from steel or nylon; steel wheels may eventually cause wear to the runners whereas nylon runners may be the casualty against harder (e.g. aluminium) runners. Note that the wheels are easier and cheaper to replace than the runners.
Folding-sliding or concertina-style patio doors are becoming increasingly popular. Optionally made from hardwood, PVC-u or aluminium, with a number of different folding options available, virtually the whole of the aperture gives access between indoors and outside – or between the house and conservatory, providing one big bright party room! Additional advantages of aluminium over even the best quality PVC-u are the lower threshold and narrower frames.
Finally, when choosing your supplier, factors to consider are: price, quality, glass options, finish options, flexibility, delivery dates, stock size or made to measure, fitting service, guarantees, locally (UK) sourced, manufacturer or agent reputation and after-sales service. Beware the hard-sell!
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