Aluminium has enjoyed what appears an unrivalled ascendency in the bi-folding door market but can it be sustained?
It’s been called the ‘Grand Designs factor’: Kevin McCloud (other home improvement shows are also available!) has transmitted the virtue of slim sightlines alongside the aspirational appeal of products that connect indoor and outdoor ‘spaces’, into our homes – and bi-fold doors have benefitted.
Recently tweeted by McCloud as one of the programme’s ‘greatest legacies’, bi-fold doors – and aluminium bi-folding doors specifically – have achieved a level of aspirational appeal unparalleled by any other fenestration product.
But while McCloud’s eulogizing about aluminium’s architectural merit, may have hit home with consumers, there is a growing challenge from a new generation of PVC-U bi-folds.
“Aluminium delivers incredible structural flexibility and great sightlines”, says Steve Mines, Sales and Marketing Director, Sliders UK. “But it comes at a price and there is clearly always going to be a strata of the market where affordability is the primary driver of sales.”
According to Palmer Market Research, aluminium bi-folding doors will retain the lion’s share of the market for the foreseeable future. Positively, the 2015 Window, Door and Conservatory Markets report forecasts sustained growth for bi-fold door sales across the board through to 2019 – up from a forecast installed value this year of £84million to £111million.
It’s worth nothing that this represents a 32% increase in installed value, compared to the three per cent increase in installed values forecast by Palmer for inline sliding door sales. This is offset by volume, where Palmer forecasts sales of inline sliding doors will remain significantly higher – almost double those of bi-folding doors.
But it’s Palmer’s forecasts on material type that are perhaps most significant, suggesting a 36% increase in aluminium bi-fold door sales between 2016 and 2019 to 26,500 door sets. Palmer goes as far as predicticting a slight fall in PVC-U bifold sales for the same period to 4,400 units, from a forecast 5,100 this year. He suggest timber bi-fold sales will grow from 5,700 to 7,600 units.
Mines continues: “The growth that we have seen in aluminium bi-fold sales has been absolutely exceptional over the past couple of years, whether that will slow a little now with Brexit is difficult to assess but we believe aluminium bi-fold sales are going to remain strong and investing in our product offering to reflect its end-user appeal.
“But we’re not writing off PVC-U bi-fold sales either. We believe that it remains a growing market and one large enough to accommodate growth for multiple material types.”
Sliders UK announced the launch of the Ultimate Evolution aluminium bi-fold door this summer. The third addition to Sliders UK’s expanding inline sliding, bi-folding and composite door portfolio, it sits alongside its established aluminium bi-fold door offer from ALUK.
The Ultimate Evolution draws on innovation in hardware, combining a ultra-smooth bottom running system with impressively slim sightlines – even compared to other aluminium systems.
With a maximum sash height and width of 3000mm x 1200mm, colour-matched handles and magnetic door holders, a low threshold option and 30mm polyamide thermal break for increased thermal values, it is also fully tested to PAS 24:2012, Part Q approved and BS6375 Part 1 Weather Tested.
This may give it end-user appeal, but it’s an innovative fully adjustable jamb option which dramatically simplifies door squaring and setting and increases tolerances, which is perhaps the biggest single innovation. An easy-adjustment system making if far simpler to align the door even where apertures are out of square.
Mines continues: “We have some really strong products in our range, our established aluminium system, the ALUK Ultimate Aluminium bi-fold and some really innovative PVC-U systems, the Eurocell Ultimate Aspect and the Veka Imagine, which we launched in the Spring.
“But having looked in detail at the retail market, we felt that the Ultimate Evolution, offered our customers something that was different again and with that the new opportunities that go with it.
“The Ultimate Evolution offers a higher margin price point or can be sold as a more competitively priced aluminium system, increasing end-user affordability and with it potential market share.”
Mines also remains confident about the place PVC-U bifolds can hold in the market. “The Ultimate Aspect, built around the Eurocell system and Ultimate Imagine Veka PVC-U bi-folding doors, demonstrate what is being delivered in new generation PVC-U technology.”, he says.
“The slim contemporary sightlines of the Ultimate Aspect door echo those of an aluminium systems. The Ultimate Imagine offers classic sculptured and beveled profile options but again maximizes glass area – a key innovation and answering traditional criticism of PVC-U systems”, Mines argues.
The Ultimate Imagine was launched by Sliders UK in the spring this year. It features the slimline 70mm energy efficient Veka PVC-U system and with 19 different panel configurations to a maximum of seven sashes, spanning up to 6000mm wide and up to 2400mm height, plus a choice of beveled or sculptured sashes and beads, it delivers a high level of flexibility.
PAS24:2012 accredited and Part Q approved it also offers U-values as low as 0.94W/m2k and an indicative DSER rating of A+13.
Mines continues: “The Ultimate Aspect and Imagine are premium PVC-U bi-folds. They deliver on aesthetics and performance and that little more affordable, offer alternate sales opportunities to established aluminium systems.
“That’s really where we find ourselves. It’s not necessarily about aluminium or PVC-U but about offering a high level of flexibility to our customers.
“Whatever the end-user requirement, we’re able to offer them an option to fulfil it and in the pre and post-Brexit era, that flexibility is going to be increasingly important.”
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