Britain’s temperate climate is a plus if you’re averse to weather extremes, a minus if you’re looking for any degree of reliability in it. Its tendency to be temperamental makes it difficult to capitalise on the outdoor experience.
But the British stiff upper lip and eternal optimism about the weather outlook has helped to drive the popularity of indoor/outdoor living as never before. This manifests itself in rising sales, despite the current economic climate, of outdoor furniture, decking, summer houses, and that medium between the indoors and outdoors – patio doors.
Patio doors have evolved from the mid 1900s from fully-glazed but basic sliding or opening doors whose construction was sometimes questionable to cleverly designed, beautifully made and exquisitely finished bi-fold doors.
Bi-fold doors were traditionally the preserve of the luxury end of the market and although they retain this exclusivity to some degree, technical innovations mean they have become more accessible to homeowners with aspirations but not necessarily the budget to match.
The advantages of bi-fold doors over traditional sliding patio doors is that unlike the latter that typically only open up half of the available opening, bi-fold doors fold back to just a few inches of the opening so considerably more of the outside can come in.
Their folding format, which typically means there are several, smaller door units to an opening compared to just two for a traditional sliding patio door, makes them particularly suitable for renovations.
Where external access to the back of the property may be restricted, bi-fold doors can be carried through the house to where they are needed which is sometimes a problem with larger panels of sliding or French patio doors.
And with more and more houseowners choosing to improve their properties rather than move home during a depressed housing market, bi-fold doors give them the opportunity to extend living space into the garden in a way that is stunning in itself.
Let’s not forget that bi-fold doors’ capability of opening into or out of a room and folding to the left or right can also bring the same benefits to the interiors of houses, enabling more flexible use of inside space by separating rooms with minimal disruption to their proportions and availability of natural light.
Whether used outside or inside, they are also incredibly easy to use. Free-glide running systems using near-frictionless, maintenance-free needle roller bearings ensure that no matter the number of doors in the set, they are a breeze to open and close.
The proliference of colours and finishes available now, including metallics and wood-effects, also means they are capable of blending into or contrasting with even the most colourful of backgrounds regardless of whether it’s outside or inside.
And given that one reason for opening up a house to the outside is to give children access to fresh air, many bi-fold doors are now manufactured with finger-safe gaskets as standard, to protect inquisitive little fingers.
Features such as multi-point locking systems, internally beaded frames, high-security hinges and anti-drill key cylinders also help to ensure that patio doors are no longer the easiest point of entry for a potential burglar.
Although bi-fold doors can be made from a variety of materials, those manufactured from aluminium are particularly lightweight and maintenance-free. An aluminium frame will not warp or rot and its powder-coated finish will never need varnishing.
And given that bi-fold doors may represent a larger investment than initially planned, it is comforting to know that guarantees of up to 20 years are available.