Every selfbuilder or home improver has their dream home pictured in their mind long before their final plans are submitted – maximising the outside space into the inside living area ‘bringing the outside in’ has now become a desirable and almost essential ingredient to any newbuild making folding sliding doors a main feature in the design.
Folding sliding doors allow a 90% opening as opposed to 40% with conventional systems, creating light and space giving more flexibility to living and garden areas.
Specialist folding sliding door companies now provide specifically designed and guaranteed hinge mechanisms along with sleek design options. This has raised both the quality and confidence in folding sliding doors since they first appeared in the marketplace making them a reliable option for giving properties the ‘wow’ factor.
When choosing your folding sliding doors the following questions are probably the most frequently asked and relevant to your decision:
Top-hung or bottom rolling?
A top-hung system will generally give a smoother glide for your doors. Check with your supplier what requirements are needed as a load-bearing lintel is essential for a top-hung system. If in any doubt discuss with your structural engineer who will be able to advise the viability for your build.
If a top-hung system is not suitable, bottom rolling systems are available. Do bear in mind that these may be higher maintenance, as the track will need to be regularly cleaned to stop any debris affecting the mechanism.
For externally opening doors a flush sill is often the first choice for selfbuilders so that they can have the same flooring both inside and outside the property or to comply with disabled access. This is achievable but do check that the sill type comes with adequate drainage. It may be advisable to opt for a system with a small weather stop to guarantee water will not enter your property. If you are having a step down to your patio or decking then a standard sill will be necessary.
Folding sliding doors can also be used as room dividers to maximise space and give flexible living solutions. If your doors are between a conservatory and the main part of the house then a slightly different threshold will be required to cover the necessary building regulations. Do check with your folding sliding door supplier that their sill complies with these regulations.
In any property where large areas of glazing are to be used check that the glazing complies with Building Regulations and that the U-value is compatible for your build. Argon-filled glazed panels will help keep rooms cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Internal beading is also advised for additional security.
Inward or outward opening doors?
The majority of builds suit outward opening doors although where space is limited on the outside of the property or there is a Juliet balcony, inward opening doors may be your only option. If you have the choice of either opening options do bear in mind that inward opening doors will take up valuable space inside your property and may restrict the use of curtains.
Extensive opening configuration options allow the doors to glide open all to one side or split two ways dependent on how the space is to be utilised. For heavy traffic areas, choose an opening configuration with the option of a single opening door. This will give you the same access as a normal door when you do not wish to fold and slide the remainder of the doors back. Also think about where you are placing furniture when the project is finished or where kitchen cabinets will be as this may affect the configuration you choose.
Timber has a higher thermal capacity and life expectancy than aluminium but will require regular maintenance. Aluminium folding sliding doors generally have a thinner frame and require less maintenance. Choose a manufacturer who offer a fully factory finished product and check the durability of the finish.
The finished product will very much dictate the look and feel of your build. In addition to the widely available traditional stained finishes, painted doors are now available in any RAL colour giving the option for a very contemporary look and feel.
For any selfbuilder or home improver, opting for folding sliding doors will be a major part of their budget. It is highly recommended that you view your chosen product first hand with any questions you may have. Not all folding sliding doors are the same and asking key questions could save disappointment in the long term. Ultimately the decision is yours but there is no substitute for seeing the product first hand to compare the different systems and feeling how they glide. Do take time to visit your supplier’s showroom and see the doors for yourself before making that important purchase.