With so many folding sliding door companies out there it can be daunting deciding who to place your hard earned cash with. We will place companies 1st 2nd out of 30 companies that we looked at.
This article will simply try and show you what to look for and who is the company that is getting it all right. This is a guide for timber doors so if you definitely want aluminium then this may not be for you. However with timber very much in fashion and much more tactile, energy efficient and made from renewable sources then maybe you want to think again.
Folding sliding doors, or bi fold doors have become the must have item in homes today. They allow the owner to open up a large part of a wall where once may have only had a 2m French door. Now 4m 5m or 6m is not uncommon. Lets look at the bad bits that many manufacturers do:
- Europe is cheap! many companies choose not to produce in the UK and instead use countries such as Poland and Lithuania to keep their costs down. When it comes to folding sliding doors this can be where things go wrong. Doors are mass produced and often sold as standard sizes. If your door goes wrong then you are relying upon a factory 1000s of miles away and often items are delayed, faulty, made incorrectly and very often damaged due to the extensive transport of what is after all a delicate material. (dents, scratches on paint, and crack glass are the many problems people encounter) This you may think is not a problem, but try saying that when the rain is driving in and you are still 3 weeks away from getting your replacement doors as the first set were damaged. There are companies in the UK that do produce here only. Our recommendation is 1st Valdi Beautifully Bespoke – www.valdi.com , 2nd Folding Sliding Door Company foldingslidingdoors.com
- Construction is vital! Construction of your folding sliding doors is probably one of the most important factors. Most of the companies who produce in Europe do not adopt the traditional joinery methods that we would come to expect in the UK. Doors are often butt jointed using dowels. This extract was taken from Google and explains clearly the risks with fitting them to furniture let alone doors:
The technique consists of cutting the members to size and then drilling a series of holes in the joint surface of each member. Holes are often drilled with the assistance of a dowelling jig which aids in accurate hole placement – accuracy is paramount in this technique to ensure members line up perfectly in the completed joint. The holes are drilled such that there are corresponding holes in each member into which short dowels are inserted with some glue. The joint is brought together and clamped until the glue has dried.
This produces a joint which is much stronger than a butt joint without reinforcement. The dowels offer some holding strength even after the glue has deteriorated. Over time, dowels may shrink and become loose. They take on an oval shape in section owing to the different rate at which wood moves with different orientations of the grain. Loose dowels allow the joint to flex, although it may not fall apart. This phenomenon is evident in creaking chairs and wobbling book cases. For this reason, dowel joints are not preferred for high-quality furniture
For that reason we would strongly advise that you use companies that use traditional joinery methods such as mortise and tenon joints or comb joints incorporated in the doors that Valdi and Fairoak use. Our pick would be 1st Valdi – www.valdi.com and 2nd Fairoak – www.fairoak.co.uk
- Glass is not just Glass! When you look at a beautiful set of folding sliding doors you often don’t see what in front of your nose. Yes we all ask what is the U value of the glass because our architect or buildings regulations have told us what it needs to be. However a lot of companies will use different grades of glass. Firstly we would recommend that you always have toughened glass for safety and security and is often something that building regs will look for. Glass Should have a EN number relating to the pendulum impact test, if its laminated glass remember that it is secure against someone smashing the window but the reality of someone targeting your folding doors rather than a small side window are rather low . For companies that produce in Europe the glass may not even meet British standards as they will not come with a Kite mark unless they are etched in the UK once proof is made that they meet the requirements. Glass has been seen in varied thickness even on the same set of doors and with long distance travel the lumps and bumps of the road cause cracks that aren’t always visible straight away. Add a bit of hot sunshine along with a cold night and that crack becomes very noticeable. A lot to choose from but due to their range of choices or an ability to use whatever glass you require we have gone with Valdi and Fairoak top and Dendura- www.valdi.com and wwwfarioak.co.uk
- Hinges and Tracks! Imagine how many times you open and close your back door in the space of a year. Well double the weight and add in the factors such as it is sliding on a track with rollers and you want to make sure your doors work as good as they do today in another 5 years time. Most of the better companies use a hinge manufacturer called Centor. If the doors don’t have these hinges walk away…. Sorry but that counts out a lot of budget doors and also the folding sliding door company. The Centor hinges are tested to 50,000 and some parts to 100,000 cycles, made from high grade stainless steel and come with a 10 year guarantee. PVD Brass is also available for the more traditional look. What more can we say. A lot to choose from but Valdi and Fairoak came out on top again when considering all other factors. Also unless you really can’t do it always go for a top hung system like centor as they will give you that effortless glide. Bottom run systems are best with Coburn Fasarde and are normally used when not lintel can be utilized.
- Locks Although most doors will have some sort of dead bolt system, nowadays insurance companies are asking for a multipoint or multi leaver locking system. This surprisingly was and area where many fell up. Dendura, Fairoak and Valdi, Carey Fox all offer a multipoint lock so well done!
You will probably have many other questions but we hope that this gives you the main points to look for. Our top picks as you can see are 1st Valdi 2nd Fairoak and 3rd Dendura
Our reasons for choosing Valdi Beautifully Bespoke Folding Sliding Doors – are as follows.
1) Great products built using traditional mortise and tenon and comb joints so you know that your doors will look just as good in years to come.
2) They produce in the UK and for us that is great. Being able to go and look at the doors in production (not that you probably will) is a reassuring prospect. It also is a thumbs up for commitment to manufacture in the UK when much is going aboard to be made cheaply… sorry China!
3) Choice of 6 sill types only 1 of which adds any real cost (the flush patio sill). Apparently this is due to it being custom made using stainless steel and they say can be made to varied specification.
4) They don’t rip you off. We asked them about the cost of taller doors and while others charge per mm higher you go, Valdi simply add in the cost of the timber and glass, stating that it cost them the same to make a small door as it does to make a bigger one! Makes sense to me.
5) As their name suggests they are bespoke and as such say that they will try at all times to accommodate peoples wishes such as blinds in the glass, half glazed doors, and dual colour so you can match old UPVC doors or patio doors while still keeping the oak on the inside. When your spending the money why shouldn’t you have the choice!
6) They don’t mass produce so your doors get the care they deserve.
7) Price was good… in fact we found that they were very good. Although not the cheapest, in our book this is a plus as most of the cheap ones we found faults galore! Having said all that they are by no means the most expensive and when considering everything they are great value for a truly crafted product.
8) They can deliver and fit if needed, however we think that this is where most buyers can save. Get a good joiner to fit them and you shouldn’t go wrong. If your concerned about warranties then leave it to the company you buy from.
9) They said that they are a bespoke joinery so they can produce windows, single doors, French doors, big glazed panels and so on.
10) Ultimately we felt that Valdi give a great choice at good value. If you can’t stretch the budget to Oak then try the Idigbo that looks like oak and is a cheaper hardwood. Otherwise softwood it is, but this we would suggest is much better painted than stained.
Remember that this is a key feature to you home and one that will definitely add value. I know its easy to say if I’m not spending the money but please make sure you follow our advice, we have seen laminated sill sections that have cracked and delaminated, doors that have opened up due to poor construction and water and heat causing them to separate, glass that is of poor quality and even people who 1 or 2 years after they have put in cheap door are now spending even more to have them removed and better ones put in. Don’t get caught out…. Good luck and enjoy the weather with your new doors.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this survey and the time taken to quiz all the 30 companies.
Since this was first written we have heard that Cerey Fox and Valdi have both decided to have some products made in Europe. Valdi stated that “Not all of our products are made in Europe it is really only our Professional Range that is aimed purely at the trade customers where cost is much more of an issue. We have not allowed our quality to be compromised and the fact that we have a UK workshop means that we can rectify any problems quickly if the ever occur. We also have found that European winters can be much colder than the UK and as such this is why we have used their expertise to create our 3G range of triple glazed windows with U values of aprox 0.7” Cerey Fox offer some products from Italy.
We still prefer to support UK products but also understand that companies have to offer the public what they want and in tough times it obviously shows that we are all a little price sensitive. If any other companies have had recent changes or updates do let us know.