In the Frame; Selecting doors and windows


In the Frame; Selecting doors and windows Selecting doors and windows is no longer and open and shut case. There is now an enormous array of options from which to choose. The right choices will add greatly to the functionality and aesthetic appeal of your property. Investing wisely is all about doing your homework; adhering to building regulations; buying the best quality within budget; and ensuring correct installation.

Words: Caroline Allen. While the economic downturn is forcing many of us to make cutbacks in new builds, renovations or extensions, skimping on window and door systems is false economy and can leave you wide open to problems in the future, counsels architect Sterrin O’Shea. She advises;

  • To spend money on a good window and door system, irrespective of the size of the project,
  • Leaving the decision up to your builder is not always a good idea – recommended that homeowners do their own research.
  • Spend that little bit extra on a quality system. “A mid-range sliding door system can really enhance even a modest single storey extension and also improve the room beyond that. It is relatively easy to update your kitchen or finishes such as flooring, but you expect your windows and doors to be long-lasting.”
  • Ensure that your windows and doors are properly fitted and sealed correctly. “Everyone is currently focused on sustainable design and green thinking but the key is with the installation. How a window is sealed is critical.”
  • Always try to get the sub contractor to supply and fit. “That way, they can stand over the window and how it is fitted meaning there is also one point of call if there is a problem“. Fire safety is a hugely important consideration and care should be taken to ensure that windows and doors comply with building regulations.


Advance planning
Many embarking on new builds or extensions have design details planned before the foundations have been laid, and joinery items such as internal doors, architraves and skirting now fall into this category, according to Anastasia McCann of Doras Distributors Ltd. “Customers have realised that a door is as much a piece of furniture as it is a draught excluder. As a result, the variation in design and type of product we keep in stock has increased far beyond even our expectations,” she says. “To keep up with our customers’ needs we have recently introduced the country style Pippy Oak range as well as the very modern Icon range. Even though the door style and colour are often chosen at an early stage, the finer technical details are often left to the last minute. Customers are often surprised at the variety of styles of ironmongery and glass available and are unaware that a bathroom lock is different from a standard lock or latch,” says McCann.

“It is also quite common to find that the variation in frame size and type required has not been considered along with the continuous issue of the opening swing of the door. It is quite normal to find that the opening swing and position of a door has been changed during a project but has not been updated on the plans. Thankfully all of these issues have solutions and with a little help from the experts, the desired result is usually achieved.”

While McCann contends that it is best practice to stick to standard sizes that are available throughout the industry, ensuring availability and keeping a cap on costs, sometimes however there is no other option than off-standard sizes, she says. “This issue can also be overcome as many of our products can be tailor made to suit project requirements.” Not alone has the range of products on the market increased enormously, you can now buy on-line. Marston & Langinger ( offers 17 interior and exterior door designs that can be individually made to specification.



  • Timber: Painted timber has always been a strong favourite, with hardwoods such as mahogany or iroko sealed with Danish oil common options. Timber, O’Shea points out, can also be left untreated, left to weather naturally, for example, cedar or iroko. However, this aesthetic decision may not be wise for the timber, she says. There are also sliding sash windows for period houses. “There can be a planning condition to refurbish or reinstate and these windows are often single glazed but once well fitted and sealed, there is not a huge concern with heat loss,” says O’Shea.
  • Aluminum: While you don’t necessarily get as big spans achieved with timber, you can still install large sliding doors in aluminum, O’Shea says. Different finishes are available. They can be naturally anodised, giving a silver colour – or powder coated to any ral colour. This can be a hardwearing option as in they are relatively maintenance-free. “However, you should ensure the sections are thermally broken or there will be issues with heat loss,” warns O’Shea.
  • PVC: While some homeowners opt for PVC because it is maintenance-free, it is not a material favoured by architects and some believe it is dated.
  • Alu-clad/composites: Imported from countries such as Germany and Denmark, this material is very popular as it allows the comfort and warmth of wood in an interior with little or no maintenance externally. “The big advantage is you can choose any colour for inside or outside or alternatively decide to leave exposed timber on the inside for a Scandinavian look,” remarks O’Shea.
  • Steel: More reminiscent of industrial buildings, the beauty of this material, according to O’Shea, is that large spans of glass can be achieved with very thin profiles. The downside, the Dublin-based architect points out, is that there are issues with heat loss as the section is not usually thermally broken.
  • Structural frameless glass/glass: The main advantage with structural glass used for double height spaces or modern day conservatories is that you don’t have window mullins obstructing the view of gardens or other vistas, O’Shea finds. However, this system can be expensive.

“There are pros and cons to all possibilities – timber will go that bit further than aluminum but it generally does require maintenance,” she observes. “It used to be a case of choosing between wood or PVC,” observes Ann Mooney of Marvin Architectural.” However, in the past ten to fifteen years new technology and innovations in manufacturing have given the ‘window shopper’ a much greater choice which can sometimes be bewildering.”

Despite the array of offerings, Mooney maintains there is no substitute for natural wood both from an aesthetic point of view and as an energy-efficient material. “With cladding on the outside it now is available as a maintenance-free product,” she says.

“People are very keen on sliding doors or bifold where the entire back of the house can open up to the garden,” observes O’Shea. The classic French double door is still a firm favourite with the homeowner, according to Mooney. “Outswing is best if you wish to open up the interior space to the outside. Inswing is the preferred option if you are opening onto a very exposed area. When combined with windows on either side of the door you can create a very dramatic feature. ”

Bifold doors have shown strong appeal this year in confined urban gardens such as at Leinster Road, Rathmines, where a number have been installed by Marvin Architectural, according to Mooney. While O’Shea too is a fan of bifold doors, she queries how often we realistically get to throw open the doors into our outdoor areas in Ireland.  If the budget is tight, she suggests this as an area that could take a cut. “It may be that you only need one point of opening. Having a large sliding door and a bifold can be a great feature in a room but it will be expensive. It may be that you don’t need as much openings as you think, especially when you consider the summer we’ve had this year,” she remarks.


Matching house type to windows and doors
“With Marvin Architectural no two projects are alike as the product has unlimited custom capability,” says Mooney. “Clients come to us with a view to personalising their home and through a process of consultation, decide on a style that complements the feel and overall look of the house. “A number of considerations will be common to all builds such as orientation, site layout, room layout, maximising the use of natural light, maintenance issues, energy efficiency and lifestyle. The latter is sometimes overlooked but in our experience is critical to the overall, longterm, successful functioning of the home,” Mooney says. “A surprising number of young couples building their first home are preferring traditional sliding sash windows to the front but being experimental with window design at the back, incorporating large glazed areas which tend to integrate the garden spaces and skyscapes where possible. In our experience a period house can be given a whole new facelift by replacing inappropriate windows with units that have authentic wood profiles,” she outlines. Marvin Architectural has a replacement division specialising in replicating the style of window that was originally in the home, such as Georgian sliding sash and in redesign of windows in remodelling projects with the emphasis, Mooney says, on authenticity and aesthetics.


Measurements and sizes
In the case of new builds, homeowners should discuss their window and door needs with the supplier before any window openings are made, Mooney recommends. ” In the case of Marvin for example, the company has 11,000 standard sizes and by building to the nearest Marvin standard size you can save yourself as much as 30% in overall investment in the windows and doors.” When replacing units in existing openings, Mooney says it is best to use customized sizes, as this will cause minimum disruption to your interior space. “I would caution however that the window company should include in their contract to made good the interior and include for removal and recycling of old units where possible. Unfortunately PVC cannot be recycled,” she says.


Making an entrance
Your front door gives that all important first impression and a well chosen and maintained one can make a home stand out from the crowd as well as providing insulation and security. Architect Stirren O’Shea has observed that there appears to be move from completely solid doors to solid styles with clear or opaque glass panels either side. She recommends simple and classic ironmongery. “Stainless steel offers more weight than aluminum. For a period house, it is nice to get something from a salvage yard. In some cases, it will be the only part of the house that retains features from the time the house was built.”

The furniture on your front door – as well as on your guest WC door – comes under a lot of scrutiny, according to Niall McDonagh, founder of The choice is vast, from keyhole covers to pushplates, knobs and lever handles. Materials range from brass to cast iron and chrome. Many people, McDonagh says, opt to make their decision based on seeing a few samples from the website. Samples returned within 14 days get a full refund, minus postage costs. There is also a Dublin showroom.


Internal doors
Internal doors have really advanced in the style stakes. Archtect Sterrin O’Shea comments;

  • As well as wood, they can be made of glass or steel, with sliding doors adding to the sense of seamlessness in many dwellings.
  • Solid core painted styles can be fine if you have nice ironmongery and are a cheap option.
  • A heavy hardwood door, although more expensive, will last longer. It will be notably hard to justify painting hardwood though it looks great exposed.
  • Pivot doors are popular where the aim is to have rooms flowing into one another. They are ideal for open plan areas as usually there is no frame or saddle board and the floor can continue through, allowing the door to feel more like a piece of furniture. – Sliding panels provide a similar effect.

According to Mark McDonagh of Victorian Salvage, when opting for salvaged doors, it is cheaper and quicker to buy them first and build frames around it. “If the original frames are still there, it’s a matter of trawling through doors and finding some to fit. If you can’t find them, you can get identical doors made.

While original four panel Victorian doors were in demand a decade ago, these days most people want to get them made so that they are perfect, McDonagh says. Expect to pay around €390 including VAT per door at Victorian Salvage where you can also get the architraves and skirting to match.

Get clued in on colour: Crown colour consultant Neville Knott shares his secrets:

  • Wooden frames on windows: Wooden frames on doors and windows that have been treated and appear as dark brown / orange colour can really overpower a room and take away from a space. To tone them down, use an off-white colour such as Crown’s Milk White Liquid Gloss. This will really add to the over all atmosphere in the room and will allow the main feature to pop.
  • Door colours: For doors in modern homes, subtle or neutral colours are fantastic. Again, try creams and off-whites but ensure that they’re kept neutral. Doorframes should be painted in a brilliant white to highlight the subtly of the other hues. However, for period houses, the doorframe should be painted the same colour as the door to keep with the traditional look.
  • Front doors: Remember to check any preservation orders on period homes if you’re thinking of changing the colour on the front door, as there may be a specific colour that you must use here. In a mock Georgian or Regency home, use a soft cream on the exterior frame. This is because it will work beautifully against the stonewalling. For a modern home don’t be afraid of muted grays or soft mocha colours. They will work fantastically well here.

Source: House & Home

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Paul at 7:57 am

    First of all love the pun “open and shut case”. I am looking at replacing my UPVC windows and the article helps with my choice. I am looking into Alu-cald has anyone out there had experience with this type? I would love to know.

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