Architecture: What to Consider When Planning Bifold Doors
Thinking of fitting folding doors in your home? Read on for the lowdown on this beautiful, flexible glazing and plenty of expert advice, too
Bifold doors are a superb way to bring the outdoors in, helping exterior space function as an additional room that flows off the interior. They also work beautifully when closed, offering big views of the outside and pulling in lots of light, thanks to their full-height and width glazing.
It’s easy to see the appeal of the bifold, but, when it comes to choosing and installing them, a little research and some expert advice goes a long way. Read on for tips and insight into sourcing the right doors for your home.
Professional advice from:
Chris Chapman, project architect at Dyer Grimes Architecture
James Bernard, project consultant at Plus Rooms
There are many benefits to installing bifold doors. ‘You get a lot of glazing for your money,’ says Chris Chapman. ‘They allow you to open up the space for that inside-outside connection, with a level threshold, and are more affordable than top-end, super-slick sliding doors.’
In addition, the quality of bifold doors has risen markedly in recent years. ‘The systems are very advanced and lightweight now,’ says Chris. ‘They are light touch and extremely draughtproof and strong.’
The benefits for small spaces are a particular positive of bifold doors. ‘They offer great visual aspect to the outside and, if you’re short on room indoors, they help create the illusion of space,’ says James Bernard.
The cleaner and wider the view onto the outside, the bigger your space inside will feel. ‘French doors or double doors and a window all clutter up the back wall and miss the opportunity to show off space,’ says James. ‘But bifolds offer a good view. Even if your garden is not that big, the fact that your eye continues beyond the back of the house and out into the exterior really boosts the sense of space.’
Doors are typically made in aluminium, timber or a combination of both. Purely timber frames are a little heavier because they are solid wood, while aluminium systems are lighter.
‘Aluminium doors are made to a standard frame profile with precision engineering,’ says Chris. ‘They are very high performance and thermally efficient.’
Anthracite grey is a popular colour choice for aluminium doors. ‘Beware of white or black-framed doors, though,’ says James. ‘They can look a little like UPVC, which may not be the effect you’re after when investing in high-quality doors.’
‘Corner systems are another innovation,’ says Chris. ‘They involve two sets of doors that meet at a corner.’ In this house, a supporting column remains in place where the two windows meet. ‘But it is possible to have a completely open corner, as long as you have the steelwork and right structure in place,’ Chris adds.
Bifold doors are quick to install. Either the builder creates the opening, and then a door company measures up before building the frames to fit. Or, for a fast turn around, the builder commits to creating an opening of a set size and the frame arrives designed to fit it, either made to measure or off the peg. ‘The doors can be installed in one day,’ says Chris. ‘The frame is fitted and then the windows simply slot in.’
Tour other innovative extensions
‘It’s worth thinking about the frame thickness when you are choosing bifold doors,’ says Chris. ‘So get your hands on some frame samples for an idea.’
The reason most people opt for these doors is to get the maximum view into the garden. ‘But when you have a big opening with perhaps five leaves in the door, each with its own frame, that can add up to a lot of solid material blocking the view,’ warns Chris. ‘In that case, consider having bigger leaves and choosing a design with just three or four of them.’
Think about the number of leaves in your folding doors, too. ‘With an odd number, you can open the first leaf like a conventional door, so if you just want to pop into the garden, it’s easy,’ says Chris. ‘With an even number, to open one you are beginning to move the first two leaves and starting to shift the whole glazed wall.’
It’s also important to consider how thick all those leaves will look once stacked up on one side, with the doors fully open. ‘On a typical opening, when the doors are pushed open, the stack on one side will be 40-50cm thick,’ says James.
Gen up on key things to consider when planning an extension
It’s hard to generalise about cost, as materials, size and installation all come into play, but expect to pay around £2,000-£3,000 for a four-leaf system of doors.
Sliding doors are a sleek, high-end alternative to bifold doors, but they cost slightly more. It can be worth it, though. ‘For 90% of the year, your view is going to be of those doors shut,’ says James. ‘When we see images of open folding doors, it’s easy to think, “I want that,” but remember we don’t live in Barbados! The view of the doors when they’re shut is more relevant.’
Sliding doors usually comprise two or three panes, with one fixed in place. ‘They simply run along a track,’ adds Chris, ‘so you don’t have to worry about how they concertina up at one end.’
Do you have bifold doors in your home? Share your photos and thoughts on them in the Comments below.