We speak to Michelle Bestwick-Walters, Technical Office Manager at Eurocell, to get an insight into all things bi-fold.
If you’re a lover of wide open spaces or simply love natural light, then bi-fold doors can open up a huge array of possibilities for your home. A relatively recent addition to the world of doors and windows, this very modern alternative to traditional French or patio doors solves an age-old puzzle – how to bring more light and space into a home without resorting to expensive building work or costly extensions.
To bi or not to bi?
So you’ve fallen for the beauty and functionality of bi-fold. Well, you won’t be the first. They’re taking pride of place in more and more homes across the land and becoming a talking point in style magazines and a priority on interior designers’ lists of must-haves. But although bi-fold doors offer bright benefits in terms of looks and versatility, are they a sensible addition for your home? Here’s a quick round up of all the issues to help you decide…
Does the style suit?
With their clean, smooth lines and larger, taller glass panels, bi-fold doors naturally lend themselves to modern houses and new builds. Indeed, their many configuration options and ease of installation (including corners) mean they feature on the blueprints of many new developments and bespoke commissions.
But when it comes to older homes they’re surprisingly versatile too. Their modern lines provide a pleasing counterpoint to the aesthetics of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian properties. Plus, panel and frame widths, colours and finishes can be cleverly designed to complement frame styles on a home’s existing doors and windows.
A word about using bi-fold doors on older properties in conservation areas, though. All councils have different regulations when it comes to conservation, so your first port of call should be your council Planning Department. They can advise you on what’s acceptable in terms bi-fold frame colours and finishes, site lines and so forth, saving a you a good deal of expense and heartache later on
Sizing up the possibilities
Next, the small matter of size. The popular appeal of the bi-fold look is the archetypal ‘glass wall’ stretching across the entire back width of the house. With most systems spanning apertures of up to 6 metres, there’s usually no problem in achieving that beyond ensuring that the lintels over the opening are adequate to support the structure above.
Don’t discount the bi-fold option if you don’t have the space for such a ‘grand design’ gesture, however. Most smaller properties, given a little thought, will be able to accommodate bi-fold doors, and the advantages of all that additional light and space make just as big a difference to a standard terrace house as they do to a larger property. In some ways, an even bigger one.
To explore how flexible bi-fold doors can be for smaller properties, we asked Michelle Bestwick-Walters, Technical Office Manager at Eurocell, how the company approaches requests for smaller configurations of their Aspect bi-fold system. She told us:
“The way Aspect is engineered, it can be used to create openings right down to window size, but generally the smallest bi-fold system we get asked for is a two pane version that measures 185 cm – that’s about 6 feet from outer frame to outer frame. The minimum width per frame we recommend is 60cms, but we can make them as narrow as 30cm if the job warrants it.”
Even if you’re simply replacing older doors windows without changing the width or height, bi-fold is still very much a viable option. But remember, you’ll still need to check this is up to building regulatory standards, so ask a builder or your local building officer to give it the thumbs up before installing your new bi-folds.
Fail to plan…
If you’re planning to extend the aperture – as most people will be – and make structural alterations, you’ll definitely need to enlist the services of an accredited builder and, depending on the extent of the project, a structural engineer. They’ll ensure the integrity of your home’s structure is not affected and your chosen unit will fit smoothly and easily into the new aperture.
You may also need to get building regs approval from your local authority by giving a building notice. Don’t worry; plans are not required with this process so it’s quicker and less detailed than the full plans application.
What’s the damage?
Your final question should be one of cost. Just how much can you expect to pay for bi-fold doors? Obviously, with such a wide range of variables in terms of materials and finishes, not to mention building work prior to installation, prices vary. Many installers will recommend using a general rule of thumb of £1000 per metre. This figure can obviously be refined for a detailed quote taking into account your precise requirements.
A final word comes from Michelle Bestwick-Walters at Eurocell: “Bi-fold doors are the perfect way to bring the outside in to most homes, providing a really stylish alternative to French windows and patio doors.
“In recent years, advances in slimmer frames and secure designs have brought the ‘glass wall’ concept within reach of more and more households, as has the higher than average thermal performance that most bi-folds now deliver.
“At Eurocell, we took a deliberate decision to engineer Aspect so it could take triple glazing, giving it a U-value as low as 0.9 W/m2 – which means, while they’re adding the ‘wow factor’ their property with bi-fold doors, homeowners don’t have to worry about adding to their energy bills.”
For more information, you can download Eurocell’s guide, How To Choose The Right Bi-fold Doors.