By Wojciech Brożyna – MD of Aluprof UK
There are many options available today when it comes to deciding what door system should be chosen when opening up the rear of a home onto the garden. Not only are customers faced with different system materials, but also what type of opening style should be chosen? As a home improvement specialist, what should you be offering to your customers and why?
Looking at the material choice, two framing materials are predominantly being used today to form large openings between the inside and outside of a property, that of aluminium and PVC, both of which have their own benefits. Other frame materials include timber, steel and some composite materials often made up of aluminium and timber. PVC is seen as a cost-effective choice, one that is corrosion resistant which can now be provided in a range of colours. PVC relies on a steel or aluminium core to give it structural rigidity and to help reduce thermal expansion. The only real downside of PVC is that of its wide profiles compared to the option of aluminium or steel.
Aluminium, once the only material of choice for replacement windows, doors and sliding doors in the early 1980’s, lost a huge amount of ground to the more ‘timber-like’ PVC in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, which then became a firmly favourite with homeowners as a near perfect replacement for rotting timber windows at the time.
Today, whilst PVC still has a huge market share of the new house build and home improvement sectors, aluminium framed systems have been taking a small year on year increase of the market for well over a decade. Seen as an ‘aspirational’ material, its additional cost brings with it an ‘engineered’ feel and the knowledge that aluminium can simply be recycled back into another aluminium door in the future, indeed many times over, with no loss of its characteristics. Would it surprise you to know that of all the aluminium ever produced since its commercialisation in the 1880’s, that over 75% of all production is still in use today?
Aluminium thermal breaks have become very sophisticated and aluminium systems can easily compete on thermal insulation properties against other materials. Where aluminium does score highly is its life expectancy. Given minimum maintenance and cleaning, aluminium system can last upward of thirty years and beyond. If you look round our towns and villages you will still see an odd house or two that has timber framed anodised aluminium windows still performing and looking well, that’s almost forty years!
Given that aluminium is the aspirational choice today for homeowners, let us look at the style of openings that can be achieved, there are basically three types. We can specify sliding, sliding folding or an open out ‘French door’ style, with or without side screens. So, which to choose?
Let us first consider the visual aspect. This is a feature of ‘what is seen’ something that the client will have to live with for the majority of the time as large opening doors in the UK are only opened infrequently in summer. If an open aspect is wanted, year-round vision, then a sliding door could possibly offer the best option with less ‘visible’ aluminium in the ‘sightline’ between the inside and the outside. For large sliding doors today, the ‘lift and slide’ is the best option as these doors offer the smoothest and easiest of opening as they lift off their weather seals when open. The only downside is that you will only ever get a part opening, as the opening panel or panels will stack behind each other within the opening. To enable to have a full width clear opening, where a door system is to be fully open, then the sliding folding option should be chosen, allowing all the panels to concertina to one or both sides of the opening.
The next crucial decision for the customer would be the threshold detail. For many customers, wishing the ‘bring the outside inside’, would opt for a flush threshold with the outside of the property. This is often quite a detail to achieve depending on the construction of the property. Not only will the door frame need to be fitted below the inside floor level, often below the DPC line, the outside detail should contain a drainage detail such as a channel draining arrangement to ensure that in heavy weather rainwater is quickly drained from the threshold area. Whilst sliding and folding doors can be provided with a flush threshold detail, a better weather rating will normally be obtained with a lift and slide door where the weight of the door in the closed position effectively seals the door to the threshold.
Moving a little further into the design and structure of the building when choosing a door, the structure of the head of the opening should be considered carefully. Deflection in the structure, particularly on large openings, will have a detrimental effect on the operation of the door. If the opening in the property has been in place for some time, any settlement of the structure should have already taken place, which will allow the surveyor to cater for the head deflection in the final size of the door to be made. With a new installation, settlement can take place over a period of time and it is worthwhile to allow for this potential settlement in the door size and the fixings at the head of the door. On any wide door, and in particular sliding folding doors, any deflection at the head of the door can cause issues with the operation of the door, so with some adjustment built in that can be accessed during a maintenance visit will ensure that doors can easily be maintained for many years.
Given the customer choices, the property survey needs to be carefully undertaken with someone who understands building structures and importantly the requirements of the door chosen to be installed. The need to understand the threshold detail and the structure above the door and the reveals should also be carefully considered. Older properties will have a brick or block cavity closure with a vertical DPC, even older properties will likely have solid walls. In order to minimise cold bridging, it may be necessary to incorporate a thermal cavity closer or alternative method of insulation to the reveal. Of course, buildings are built of other materials as well as brick, so the surveyor needs to know what to look for and what can be fixed to.
Regular yearly maintenance of doors is something that should be considered. As many doors are built to last, the cleaning, lubrication and adjustment will ensure not only an extended service life but also continued ease of use.
Aluprof offer a very wide range of products and within each of the product ranges options exist to change profile sizes and frame conditions to meet customers’ expectations. Using the same high-quality systems specified by architects, Aluprof’s products are now widely use on homeowners ‘grand designs’. With extensive growth across Europe spreading into the Middle East and with firm roots already in the East of the USA, the company is becoming a global player in new build and home improvement supply. Further information is available on the company’s website at aluprof.co.uk or direct from their UK office in Altrincham on 0161 941 4005.