Who would have thought that at least a decade on from the boom in the bi-folding door market we would be talking about sliding patio doors in such a big way? Not me. Very few of us I bet. Yet, here we are in 2019 and the humble sliding patio door is very much back in the ascendency. Why? You can pin it’s roots back to success with the bi-folding door.

This is how the sliding patio door made it’s triumphant return.

The ali bi-fold

It has always amazed me how many bi-folding doors we acutally sell in this country. Its rarely sustainably warm during the summer. Not all of us live in areas where the view is that nice we want to be able to see more of it.

Yet, here we are, churning out bi-folding doors on a big enough scale for it to be its own micro-industry within fenestration. And the king of the materials in this niche is most certainly aluminium.

Slimmer sightlines, better looks, more thermally efficient than first generation aluminium, and able to span crazy lengths of houses if a particular property has got width to burn. Its easy to see why a bi-folding door would work so well in aluminium. Then there’s that grand entrance feel when you physically open the door up and slide it across. It looks epic the bigger the bi-fold door.

Its because of the aluminium bi-fold that we have the wider aluminium renaissance we have now, but I’ll cover that in another post. Whilst aluminium bi-folds are all well and good, there is one down side to them, and that includes their timber and PVCu counterparts as well. And that is you have to split the opening up every 1000mm. It means, if you’re lucky enough to have a 6m wide opening, you’re going to have 5 vertical lengths of profile splitting up what could potentially be a stunning view.

So why would a home owner want to do that? Yes obviously the view would become unobstructed once the doors are fully open, but in the middle of winter, on a nice sunny day, I don’t think you’d want to be opening the whole of the back of the house up just to see a bit more of your garden.

This is where the patio slider comes in.

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Same material, same door

Thanks to improvements in product and technical ability, through the prism of modern aluminium, the patio slider has been able to find its way back. Its the same type of door, in the same type of material, just much improved.

Go back to that 6m wide opening. You can now have two section patio sliding door that has 3m spans to each leaf. It means a home owner can enjoy a much less interrupted view of their garden and take advantage of much larger glazed areas. This is what modern fenestration technology has allowed us to make, and is a clear advantage of bi-folding doors. Why split up that view so many times when you can only do it once and retain much more view?

Not only that, product variants like triple track sliders or double-sliders allow you to get more than half of that aperture as opening space. One of the big downsides to older patios was that you could only have roughly half the door open. But with a triple-track slider you’re able to slide two of the three sections across to get two thirds of the whole thing open. And you still have less vertical profile sections than a bi-fold door gives you.

We’re not just talking about wide spans from aluminium here. The door in the featured image at the top of this page is Camden’s wide span PVCu slider. Look at it, its huge. Not that long ago you wouldn’t have been able to have something like this. But after R&D and testing, they have been able to bring it to market, and will likely be a more cost effective option than aluminium.

Then there is the cost. A good aluminium bi-folding door won’t be cheap, and quite rightly. You get what you pay for. But some home owners won’t have the budget to throw at good aluminium bi-folding doors. They may however be able to afford more easily a patio slider, especially in the PVCu variety, and they would still get more glass and more view for less money.

Finally, operation. With a slider you have the ability to slide open the door partially and leave it open. When the weather has been as warm as it has been recently, this is useful to people. With an odd-numbered bi-fold you have a hinged leaf and cannot do the same. Its either open or its shut, no inbetween. If you have an even-numbered bi-fold you can do that, but then you lose the hinged door leaf which allows you to open just one section rather than the whole thing. From an operational point of view sliders are simpler to use, which some home owners will consider when choosing their product of choice.

All of these advantages to patio sliders never went away. Bi-folding doors didn’t really provide better options, but they grew because they look spectacular and do give a home owner that option to open up whole spaces in their house. Home renovation shows on TV helped as well, and inspired the public with amazing homes which incorporated bi-folds.

If you cut through the buzz though, patio sliders definitely have their place within the industry, and I suspect sales of the product will continue to rise in the coming years.

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