In the past 12-18 months there appears to have been somewhat of a resurgence in the popularity of sliding patio doors. Once relegated below French doors and bi-folding doors, the popularity of sliding patios has been on a bit of a tear recently.

If you went to the FIT Show last week, it could not have escaped your attention the sheer number of sliding patio doors on display from exhibitors over the three days. There was new products from the likes of Synseal and AluK, or already established products being shown off with new features and some at truly gargantuan sizes.

If you’re looking for the new growth market in the industry, it is most certainly the humble patio door.

Glazed area versus opening space

When you look logically at the popularity of bi-folding doors in the UK, you might wonder why they have taken off so strongly in this country over the last ten years or so. We don’t have the weather. We don’t have the housing stock. We’re more concerned about price than premium features on our home improvement products. There are many reasons why they shouldn’t have become this popular, but they did.

That tide though appears to be turning, and turning back to a product we could be forgiven for thinking might have been consigned to the history books. The patio slider.

Honestly, I can see why. Imagine the scenario. A home owner has a 4m wide opening on the back of their house that overlooks their garden and view beyond. They need to replace the product that is there. They have two viable options. The first is bi-folds. If it’s PVCu the 900mm sash limitations means it will have to be a 5-section bi-fold with four uprights blocking the view. If it’s aluminium they can have a 4-section bi-fold but will still have three uprights to block the view.

The second option is a patio slider, either in PVCu or aluminium. Both can be made at 4 metres as a double pane set up, meaning the view outside is only broken up once by a single vertical. The bonus, they’re probably a bit cheaper too!

The argument here then becomes glazed area versus opening space. With patio sliders you can have much bigger sashes, ensuring the view out is maximised, but you can only move one half of the door across, limiting the available opening space. With bi-folds, you can move the whole thing across, taking advantage of the whole opening size. But you do lose a lot more of your view and glazed area.

Given the rise in popularity of patio sliders in recent months, I believe that the glazed area argument is winning out over usable area. Given that we don’t have the ideal climate for bi-folds, perhaps home owners are now seeing that point of view.

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Getting bigger

Manufacturers are ready to cash in on this growing trend, that was obvious to see at the FIT Show last week. Pretty much every major supplier, be it in PVCu or aluminium, had a patio slider on display at the exhibition. Suppliers are well and truly gearing up to make the most of the rise in popularity of patio sliders.

They’re also getting juiced. There were some mammoth sliding doors on display last week. Check these four out just as an example:

Credit: Kommerling

Credit: AluK

Credit: Luxal

Credit: Arkay Windows

Staggering sizes, particularly the one on the Luxal stand. You’re looking at a good six or seven metres tall there. I don’t envy the people who had to put that up and get it working on time!

Realistically, these sorts of sizes of patios are never going to be sold in the normal residential market place. On the super-homes maybe, but these won’t be being sold in any sort of decent number. But, that wasn’t the point of these massive doors. The point was to inspire and show off the versatility of patio sliding doors. If they managed to nudge a few installers in the side to push patio sliders a bit more, then it was job done.

The question I guess is how strong will this renaissance be? The rise in popularity of patio sliders this past year or so may have caught us out a little bit. But I think there could be a bigger swing towards sliders than we think, and that could spell problems for the bi-fold market. If home owners have decided to put glazed area over opening space, knowing our weather won’t always allow them to open bi-folds fully anyway, we could see a serious rise in the sales of sliders and a serious drop in the sales of bi-folds.

Interesting times ahead in the door market indeed.

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