Are bifold doors the best way to bring the great outdoors into your garden office?

New research into an area called Attention Restoration Theory (ART) at the University of Michigan is starting to prove the benefits of working in a garden office.

I'm going to bore you with academic talk for the next paragraph

'nature is filled with intriguing stimuli, (that) modestly grabs attention in a bottom-up fashion, allowing top-down directed-attention abilities a chance to replenish.'

This contrasts with urban and office environments that are 'filled with stimulation that capture attention dramatically and additionally require directed attention (e.g., to avoid being hit by a car), making them less restorative.'

So what was all academic stuff all about?

What those boffins are saying is that working in a more natural environment is relaxing and good for you.

How can you make the most of this research in your garden office?

One of the most common ways that people maximize the benefit of the garden office location is through the use of large areas of glass and wide opening doors to really make the most of the garden.

There are three types of door that can help to maximize views of the garden;

  • French doors

  • Sliding doors

  • Bifold doors

You are probably most familiar with French doors

This type of glazed double door is common in houses. One of the doors has a bolt top and bottom that fixes into the door frame and the other door locks into this one in the closed position. The locking door is most frequently used but on nice sunny days both doors can be opened to let in twice the amount of fresh air and sunshine.

Traditionally the doors are made up of many small panes of glass, but more modern doors have a single large pane of glass in each door. There is nothing high tech about these doors they just use hinges and bolts in similar ways to normal doors. There is a limitation on the amount of opening that can be made though and that is the width of two doors (about 1.5m).

Sliding doors can give a great view of the garden and are space-saving

Sliding doors can create greater opening width than standard French doors and are more flexible in where that opening is. The main benefit of sliding doors is that they save on space. Because the door just slides and parks parallel to the fixed pane of glass there is no space requirement for the door to swing.

Despite the great characteristics of both French doors and sliding doors they both have a drawback in that the maximum opening width is limited to about half of the wall space.

Bifold doors overcome this drawback.

Bifold doors are the most recent addition

The big benefit of bifold doors (which are also known as sliding folding doors) is that they fold and slide so that the door can be folded almost completely out of the way. This means that you can really get in touch with the garden.

Bifold doors consist of between 2 and 8 doors that are joined by hinges and run in tracks at the top and bottom of the door opening. To get in and out during regular use one door can be opened but on warm days the whole line of doors can be unbolted and slid along the tracks to one end so that almost the full length of wall opening is free and clear.

This clear opening is what creates the 'wow' factor for bifold doors

These 'sliding folding' doors come in a variety of materials the best are made of aluminium or hardwood, though the benefits of each material is the subject of another article. What is important to consider at this point is whether to have 'top hung' or 'bottom running' doors. Both systems have their own particular pros and cons.

Bottom running doors are supported by a roller fixed to the bottom edge of the door

Bottom running doors are a good 'retrofit' option in that they do not require any structural modifications. They do have one disadvantage though, if a small piece of gravel or stone gets into the running track at the bottom of the door then they can jam. This is inconvenient and will result in a time spent on your knees with a bit of wire trying to fish out the offending article.

There is a way to avoid this problem with the bottom running bifold door and that is to use top hung bifold doors. With top hung doors there is space below the bottom rollers so that they are more tolerant to ingress of gritty objects.

Top hung doors need to have a strong support beam

The weight of the doors is supported by rollers fixed to the hinges at the top of the doors and into a running track. This track needs to be supported by a very 'stiff' beam. By 'stiff' I mean that it should not deflect excessively under the weight of the doors as they are moved. If the beam is does deflect too much the doors can stick and that is not satisfactory at all.

In a purpose made garden office a beam of the required strength and stiffness should not be a problem. As the builder will have selected a suitable beam that will only deflect a small amount and allow the door to move smoothly without jamming.

The problem with doors jamming will most likely occur if you are trying to 'retrofit' a bifold door to an existing structure where the support beam has not been designed to carry the load of several glass doors without deflecting too much.

With a bit of care in selecting the right system your sliding folding doors should function perfectly and enable you to make the most of your office location.

To make the most of Attention Restoration Theory you need bifold doors

French doors and sliding glass doors will get you some of the way, but only those sliding folding bifold doors will give you the full uninterrupted view of your garden.

It is the views and sounds of birdsong that will give your creative abilities time to replenish and enable you to do your best work surrounded by nature.

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