They’re a major growth area but bi-folding door installation can be full of pitfalls for the unwary.
“Most of the time the problems tend to come up where the door has been sold on to a third-party either a builder or someone fitting the doors themselves”, says Barry Pease, Regional Technical Manager, Sliders UK. “Installers are generally pretty good”, he continues, “the benefit to them is that the support is there if and when or even before they need it.”
Bi-folding doors have been a massive growth area for the window and door industry. According to the latest market report from D&G Consulting, this growth topped 20 per cent in the last two years, with forecasts of 14 per cent growth this year and 12 and eight per cent respectively through to 2018.
“It’s difficult to overstate bi-fold appeal”, says Steve Mines, Sales Director, Sliders UK, “as a fabricator we have seen great growth on the back of our aluminium and PVC-U bi-fold ranges as have our customers.
“They’re in theory straight forward to fit but as we know sometimes theory and practice don’t always align so it’s useful for our customers to know the support is there if they need it and if it’s a manufacturing issue, we’ll put it right under warranty.”
Sliders UK launched its Technical Support Service last year. Team members include Regional Technical Managers Ian Bartam, Cliff Thomas, Barry Pease and Lee Handley [pictured], who tot-up well over 100 years of collective experience in window and door installation and manufacture.
In addition to the expertise that they bring to the role, each went through several weeks of extensive training in the factory before heading out onto the road, manufacturing Sliders UK’s full range of ALUK, Distinction, Duraflex, Eurocell, Kommerling and Veka, bi-fold, inline sliding and composite doors.
“All of us have been doing this for a long time, either manufacturing or fitting windows and doors”, says Lee Handley. He continues: “There’s the experience that you have from general window and door manufacture and fitting but in spending time fabricating doors from across the range, you get additional understanding.
“Each door will have slightly different characteristics and knowing what they are can make installation a lot easier.
“But it’s definitely bi-folds that we get most call-outs to.”
As part of its quality control process each bi-fold door supplied by Sliders UK goes through a full operational testing programme in a rig before supply. “The testing in the rig shows that the door does what it’s meant to do – as long as it goes in square, it’s packed correctly, toed and heeled correctly, there shouldn’t be a problem”, says Barry.
“On the rare occasion that it’s a manufacturing fault, we’ll come out and fix it under warranty but problems tend to come up where it’s not been quite fitted right.”
Sliders UK ‘sinful six’ bifold installation errors:
- Not using enough or too many packers to level under the cill properly
- No hinge locking screws – make sure locking screws are in place before the glazing goes in!
- Lubrication – make sure anti-friction sprays are applied to rollers, hinges and gaskets after installation
- Not enough fixings/packers used in establishing fix to walls, leading to movement/out of square
- Toe & Heeling errors – always start at the bottom of the hinge side of the door, pack it square and then toe and heel to the opposite corner
- Cutting gaskets too short – allow additional length for expansion and contraction
Sliders UK’s bi-folding door range includes the Ultimate Aluminium Bi-folding Door and PVC-U systems, the Ultimate Aspect from Eurocell and Ultimate Imagine, from Veka, with Duraflex’s new offering following soon. “It’s not about aluminium being better than PVC-U to fit or the other way around” says Barry. “It’s about the tolerances and the size of the door.”
He argues that this is more of a challenge in aluminium installations, purely because they tend to be specified for larger openings. the Ultimate Aluminium bi-fold door – the UK’s first Secured by Design accredited aluminium bifold door – for example is available in two to seven panel configurations, with inward or outward opening and traffic door options.
But capable of spanning distances of up to 6000mm by 3000mm in height, it delivers critical extra distance and importantly greater structural integrity and flexibility, where larger weights and spans are part of the requirement. This, however, creates potential pitfalls.
“If you’re just a mm out along the length of a six panel door, you’re significantly out by the end of it and if you’re not square it’s going to be a problem”, says Barry.
He suggests that one of the biggest challenges that the industry faces is, in common with other areas of the construction, the skills set. “You get subbies on jobs, they aren’t always confident or competent to do the job because they haven’t had the training.
“They may only last a few months, get the the push and move onto the next job so don’t get the time to develop and end up repeating the same mistakes elsewhere.”
This is in part something that Sliders UK is attempting to address through its assisted fit programme. The specialist fabricator’s technical team will go out with fitting teams, the first time they carry-out a new product installation, taking them through product characteristics and fast-tracking learning.
“It accelerates the process”, says Steve. “Fit a product a couple of times and you know it but when you start out for the first time, there’s a learning curve for anyone. This speeds up the process and avoids the costs associated with call backs.
“A lot of our customers see real value in it because time in call-backs can quickly make a job unprofitable. But they also see value in having that technical support there in general at the end of the phone or out on site, when and if it’s required”, he concludes.
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