Wood-framed French doors will enhance a cottage in keeping with its origins and are loved by traditionalists. Styles vary from plain glass or half-glazed to Georgian panes, Victorian decorative glass panels and leaded-light. The wood itself can be softwood, such as pine, or hardwood, such as oak. Wood-framed French doors are available 'off the shelf' for d.i.y or professional installation. They are usually unfinished, which means that they can be stained or painted to suit.
In the UK, French doors usually open outwards, away from the house. Whilst this helps rainwater run off rather than run in, it makes the use of outside shutters very difficult. In France, for example, the doors open inwards so that shutters can then be accessed from the inside to open outwards. Shutters are better at keeping out hot sun and bright light than curtains, they can even be kept securely closed on hot nights with the doors wide open on the inside, allowing air to circulate. The downside of this arrangement is that on dull winter days, the doors have to be opened despite the cold, in order to open and close the shutters each morning and evening.
French doors need not be quaint and made of wood. There are modern 20th Century PVC versions, usually in white, often with a choice of plain or paneled glazing, which are still popular today because they can be produced very cheaply and are seen to require less maintenance than wood. There used to a 'Crittal' style metal version of French doors, popular in the 1960s but, though sturdy, these were very bad insulators with single glazing and appalling condensation problems.
During the late 20th Century, a better solution emerged, using powder-coated aluminium. Today's 'metal' French doors are manufactured using thermally broken architectural aluminium and K-glass double-glazed units for with high insulation properties. The powder-coating comes in a range of more than 40 colour options although white is the general standard. In addition to the tradtional centre opening French doors, these can be ordered as bi-folding doors with a side opening to the right or left and folding inwards or outwards.
This begins to open up possibilities of having much wider openings for French doors. For example, a single door of a standard pair would be straining the hinges at three feet wide but a pair of bi-folding doors could easily be in excess of twelve feet wide. And why stop there?
The 1970s saw the popularity of sliding patio doors. A great idea at the time but the eventual wrestling match to slide the doors open or closed dampened the thrill of having so much light flooding into the room. Improvements were made to the sliding or gliding mechanism over time but for every three feet of open doorway there was another three feet of double-double-glazed barrier as half the patio door became a patio window.
Very popular today, bifolding doors are available with wooden, plastic or metal frames. Bifolding doors combine the best of French doors with the best of patio doors to create a product that is better than the sum of its parts. A metal-framed bifolding door can span an opening of six or seven metres, most of it totally accessible when all the doors are open.
Think of bifolding doors as a set of multiple-fold French doors. When open, there is nothing obstructing the view or the access from inside to outside. When closed, the door panels form a virtual glass wall. Aluminium frames give the best view because the strength of the metal enables the frame width and profile to be considerably slimmer than either plastic or wooden frames, therefore allowing a higher percentage of glass for your viewing pleasure and, of course, for maximum natural light flow. Each of the aluminium door panels can be up to one metre wide.
Whilst an abundance of natural light is wonderful most of the time, consideration needs to be given to those times when curtains, shutters or blinds are desirable. Externally, traditional wooden shutters are not feasible for wide spans of bifolding doors but it may be possible to have roller (security) shutters fitted to the outside wall above the doors. These would be effective against light (and vandalism) but could be considered ugly and put off prospective future buyers.
Inside the home, seven metres of curtain material can be very heavy to hang and to open fully to the sides. Alternatives may include vertical blinds on custom-made long tracks for wide openings, a series of Venetian, pleated or roller blinds on the ceiling or wall above the doors, or sliding blinds. Sliding blinds are panels of celing-to-floor fabric blinds that are fixed to a ceiling-mounted channel. Typically, a pack of sliding blinds has a maximum total width of 4.5 metres, half of which may be blocked by the stacked blinds so there could be considerable access problems.
The most convenient option is to order integral blinds with the doors. A choice of pleated or Venetian blinds can be sealed inside the sealed double-glazed unit. Using an electronic remote control or the cheaper option of magnetic manual pull-string, the blinds are operated in the normal way. They can be fully retracted upwards for an open view or dropped down to a fully closed position. Integral Venetian blinds can also be slanted in any direction, as usual, so that the amount of sunlight can be controlled whilst retaining some of the view.
And finally, another new product has been launched for the 21st Century, enabling even more glass-to-frame ratio and allowing more flexibility in terms of maximum width (theoretically, none) and where to open up the doors. Even with bifolding doors, there has to be an opening - a defined point where doors meet each other or the wall. With Glass Curtains, however, concepts have changed.
There are two categories of Glass Curtains. The original is a toughened glass, single-glazed, totally frameless option that is suitable as a room divider or as an enclosure for balconies or covered areas where thermal compliance is unnecessary. The latest version is double-glazed with a very small frame, necessary to hold the two panels of the glazed unit together. Both versions of the product operate in the same way.
Each glass panel can unlock, open, slide and turn individually. This means that they can all be stacked to one side of the aperture or spaced out with walk-through gaps wherever they are required. The effect can be stunning.
Which doors are right for your home?
- French doors,
- Patio doors,
- Bifolding doors or
- Glass curtains?
What frames are in or out of the shortlist?
- Hardwood/softwood frames,
- Plastic/PVC frames or
When making your decision, consider:
- Your budget,
- Total price of purchase, delivery, installation and any decorating
- Durability/longevity of the product,
- Visual appeal and liveability,
- Investment value/saleability,
- Future maintenance (eg. re-varnishing wood)
Make the right choice for your lifestyle.
SunSeeker Doors manufactures aluminium-framed Bifolding doors and French doors, with optional integral blinds, can also supply patio doors and windows to complement, and is the sole UK distributor for Clear Glass Curtains.
Enquiries are welcome and may be followed up with a courtesy call if you have no objection. Further information is available on http://www.sunseekerdoors.co.uk