Guide to Glazed Door Design

When it comes to connecting home and garden, choosing the right door design is essential. Sofia Delgado highlights the key glazing options
by Sofia Delgado
30th March 2018

With design at the forefront of our dream home’s layout, we tend to envision a sun-bathed, modern dwelling with calming views.

For this reason, glazed doors have become increasingly popular – they provide a seamless connection between house and garden, while allowing plenty of daylight to flood into rooms. However, looking at the practical considerations, not every type of door will suit your project, location and lifestyle needs.

Before you can select the best glazed entryways, you need to think about how you’ll be using your space – both indoors and out – and whether the local climate will have an impact on this.

“Weather conditions can be a real factor in determining your choice,” says Matt Higgs from Kloeber. “If you’re in a very exposed area then you should go for a low maintenance material with good air permeability ratings. Consider the thickness of the frame, too, and how this will affect the view when doors are closed.”

There’s a wealth of design options available to suit different needs. Here’s what you need to consider before buying to make sure your ideal door is compatible not only with your architectural taste but also your lifestyle.

French doors

This style comprises two panels hinged on opposite sides of the frame that lock at the middle of the aperture. French doors are the preferred look in traditional properties that don’t feature large expanses of glazing.

“The size of the opening can determine which type of glazed doors will be best for the scheme,” says Rebecca Clayton from IQ Glass. “French options are better for smaller doorways.”

These pocket doors from IQ Glass have been installed to glide back into the adjacent wall cavities to create an open corner
After planners rejected previous plans, Express Bi-Folding Doors designed this glazed gable with adjacent sashes beneath

This design allows for easy access to the outside, but your interiors may not benefit from as much daylight as they would with other choices – the maximum opening for this type of door is 1.8m. However, newer models come with minimal frames, making them a good contender.

You can also add fixed sidelights adjacent to the units to bring in more natural light. Depending on material, off-the-shelf French doors start from £800.

Bifolds

A long-time favourite among self-builders, bifolds offer the maximum inside-outside feel when opened. This system consists of glass panels that concertina back to stack against one another – either inwards or outwards, depending on specification – opening up to 90% of the aperture.

“If the space you have is less than four metres wide, then bifolds might be the best option,” says Steve Bromberg from Express Bi-Folding Doors.

However, you’ll have to think about how much floor space you need on the folding side of the run. For instance, if you are planning an extension into an already small garden, then units opening outwards may not be the best option for you, as you’ll have to keep any furniture  and ornaments well away from the glass.

In windy areas you’ll want to make sure the panels stack on the inside – strong gusts could damage the tracking system. You should also really consider how often you’ll be opening the doors if gales and cold weather are an issue, as panels’ frames obstruct views slightly when closed.

The largest sash width for bifold doors is 1.2m, but the height could be 6m or more. Installing this system can cost between £900 and £1,800 per metre.

Sliders

This style is ideal for looking over stunning views from the comfort of a cosy home, as the thinner frames maximise the view even when your doors are shut.

“Sliding doors often look better than bifolds closed,” says Steve. “The large panels and minimal framework facilitate virtually uninterrupted views.” The downside is the panes will usually block part of the opening – meaning you won’t be able to open the entire run. “A triple track system can give you a clearer aperture. The latest models can even allow your doors to open up to 75%.”

Glazed door by Kloeber
The UberSlide model from Kloeber offers minimal sightlines and unadulterated views towards the garden, while taking up little floor space in this timber clad extension

In terms of performance, both sliders and bifolds are robust and provide similar levels of insulation. “Sliding doors just offer that little extra ease when opening,” says Steve. As with any door, it’s important to do your homework before buying – a cheap product is likely to let you down.

“If you are looking for a large feature door for your home, don’t scrimp and save,” says Matt. “It’s always a good idea to consider triple glazing or a high performing double glazed unit. Thermal and weather testing reports should be available from reputable companies selling glass doors.” You can install sliders from £900 per linear metre.

Pocket doors

Effortless to manoeuvre, these sliding doors recess fully into the wall, practically disappearing from your sight. Each sash needs its own track (60mm deep), meaning your door thickness will change considerably – for a three-panel aperture, you’ll need a pocket of 180mm, which will influence the overall depth of the walls.

The obvious downside with this type is that you are walling up what could have been part of the glazing, so you’ll be drawing less light into your home.

If this is the style for you, then it’s best to plan in advance. Pocket doors are easier to integrate into new walls, but do consider if it’s worth taking up precious floor space. Prices will vary depending on size, spec and whether you are installing them in an existing wall. Expect to pay from £1,000 for the door and mechanism.

Read more: A Self-Builder’s Guide to Pocket Doors

Pivoting doors

A neat alternative for smaller openings, pivot doors can provide a distinguished connection to your garden when open, as well as allowing for great views when closed. The minimal frames will give your home a sleek finish.

However, this may not be your go to design if you’re often in and out of the house. “Most glazed pivoting doors are actually manufactured as windows,” says Rebecca. “They are not tested for high traffic use and, therefore, should not be used as a main entrance to the home.”

When choosing a pivoting design for garden access, ensure it includes a hold-open and self-closing system to allow ease of use. Another key consideration is making sure there is no water ingress.

“This is the least watertight option,” adds Rebecca, who says looking for a retracting magnetic seal at the base could help. “When the door is closed, magnets in the pivot leaf attract the seal upwards, thereby creating a tighter environment.”

Materials

After figuring out which design works best for your scheme, you should think about what the frame is made of, too. This will have an impact in your budget, aesthetics, and overall performance. “Different materials will have different thermal properties,” says Matt.

The main options out there are PVCu, timber, aluminium and composite. The PVCu versions are on the lower end of the price bracket, offering value for money. However, they tend to have thicker frames and less glazing. Aluminium’s strength means these doors are the slimmest – you can choose from a variety of colours and wood effects, too.

Softwood products lie somewhere inbetween, while hardwood is the most expensive. Nonetheless, this material can add character to your build. “Timber is usually a good choice if you’re looking for great thermal performance,” adds Matt. Composite doors don’t come cheap either, but will offer wood’s U-values along with the ease of caring for aluminium external cladding.

Which door should I choose?

Whichever design fits best with your home’s architecture and lifestyle, the addition of glazed doors will dramatically improve your space. Whereas large expanses of glass were once reserved for Grand Designs-style projects, they have become increasingly affordable for the average self-builder and renovator.

“What were once unrealistic designs are now viable prospects,” says Steve. “We’ve noticed a real rise in people turning to these types of products as a way of maximising space.”

Top image: This house extension by Plus Rooms features Art Deco-style steel French doors

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