When selecting your new doors and windows, they should look good, be functional, durable, provide good insulation and security and, when the time comes to sell, enhance your chances of selling quickly for a good price. Here are some aspects to consider before you buy.
External doors for access to the garden or balcony are no longer restricted to sliding panels and double doors.
French doors are traditionally wooden but are also available in PVC-u and aluminium, and can open inward or outwards.
Patio doors, traditionally, have consisted of two or more large panes of glass with PVC-u or aluminium frames, where one or more door can slide across to provide a walk-through opening. Wide doors can offer unrivalled views from the house but sliding panels restrict access by at least 50% of the potential opening.
The sliding method has been prone to eventual operational difficulties, giving rise to the rolling patio door mechanism – a series of rollers (like miniature in-line skates) are fitted to the bottom of the door panels so that the doors glide open and close easily. The rollers are usually made from steel or nylon; steel wheels may eventually cause wear to the runners whereas nylon runners may be the casualty against harder (e.g. aluminium) runners. Note that the wheels are easier and cheaper to replace than the runners.
Bi-folding or concertina-style patio doors armored door lock cylinder are becoming increasingly popular. Optionally made from hardwood, PVC-u or aluminium, with a number of different folding options available, virtually the whole of the aperture gives access between indoors and outside – or between the house and conservatory, providing one big bright party room! The doors fold in half and the edges on the runners are pivotal, top and bottom. Advantages of aluminium over PVC are the lower threshold (better for access) and narrower frames (less interruption to the views); aluminium has a much smaller profile than wooden frames, meaning that the doors push back into a smaller space for a wider aperture.
Usually made from wood (softwood or hardwood), plastic (PVC-u) or metal-aluminium.
The low budget option is to use softwood; it looks good when new and can be stained or painted to suit individual tastes. The disadvantages are that it soon deteriorates if not re-coated regularly and it has a tendency to warp with changes of temperature and humidity, making closing them a chore. Hardwood, whilst more expensive, has the same good qualities, is far more durable and offers good thermal insulation. Wooden frames exposed to harsh weather (including sunshine!) may need to be treated every year.
Plastic/PVC frames usually come in white, sometimes brown and wood-grain finishes. Prices vary with quality, the cheaper ones costing little more than softwood and the stronger ones comparable with hardwood. Better quality pvc doors are often reinforced with metal inside the frames; cheaper frames may be prone to movement resulting in cracks to the frame or glass. A major drawback is that pvc frames tend to be much wider than either wooden or metal frames, therefore the view through the glass is more restricted.
Aluminium is the strongest material and is maintenance-free. On its own, it would look ugly and be a bad insulator but most manufacturers incorporate a thermal barrier and provide a powder-coated finish, usually standard white but often a choice of industry standard colours, e.g. silver, green, blue, grey.
British Standards-compliant double-glazing can help reduce heat loss and improve energy efficiency. The air between the two glass panes in standard double-glazing acts as an insulator. Suppliers who manufacture to order may have options to increase thermal performance by replacing the cavity air with an insulating gas and/or coating the glass facing inside the house with a reflective coating. Reflective coating is also useful for south-facing patio doors and windows, to reflect the sun and keep temperatures down in summer. The most popular standard is Pilkington’s K-glass.
The glass cavity has other uses: it may be increased to minimise sound or it could enclose window blinds, usually horizontal slats or pleated, that will never need dusting and are less prone to damage from everyday wear and tear. Essential in south-facing doors and operated by magnets on the surface of the glazing, the integral blinds are never in the way when the doors are opened.
Choosing your supplier
Factors to consider are: price, quality, frame and glass options, finish options, flexibility of service, delivery dates, stock size or made to measure, installation fitting service, guarantees, warranties, locally (UK) sourced, manufacturer or agent reputation and after-sales service. Ask to visit an installation and beware the hard-sell! If you are offered huge discounts to sign up immediately, they were probably trying to cheat you in the first place.