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Choosing the best type of bifold door

Bifold doors, also known as folding doors, are those where panels concertina together when they open.
Bi-folding units can have doors that open inwards or outwards, and they can include a standard door at one end that can be used without folding the panels.
Bifold doors allow homeowners to flood interior spaces with natural light, making rooms feel much bigger. They also offer panoramic views and a smooth transition from inside to outside areas.
Bifold door systems can be a significant investment. With many manufacturers and options, finding the right bifold door system for your home or commercial property can be daunting.
Making the right choice can create a beautiful and practical addition to your home or office. Bi-fold doors can be fitted as part of a self-build scheme, a renovation project, or installation experts like Select Windows Systems.
To help you make the right decision, we have compiled a small guide on the basics of bi-fold windows. We hope you find it helpful in choosing the right bi-fold door system for you.

Bifold door material types

Three basic materials--timber, uPVC, and aluminium -- are used to construct bifold doors, and each has unique qualities.

Timber bifolds
Wood is the classic option for traditional buildings and period properties. Although timber is naturally the most thermally efficient, it is prone to a contraction in colder weather, which may cause draughts. We prefer hardwood for timber bi-folds as they are longer-lasting, need less maintenance and are less prone to warping than cheaper softwoods. Timber bifold doors will need regular painting or varnishing to maintain their appearance.
uPVC bifolds
Bifold doors manufactured from uPVC are similar in strength to timber. They may also warp in extreme weather and may expand and contract as the temperature shifts. While uPVC is a low-maintenance material, it can suffer slight colouration from the sun and is scratched relatively easily. Generally, uPVC is very low maintenance and needs cleaning once a year with warm, soapy water.
Aluminium bifolds
Aluminium is the most robust material and less liable to flex or warp, accommodating larger panes of glass. Aluminium is also unlikely to expand or contract with temperature changes. Although it is not as good an insulator, heat loss can be reduced by including 'thermal breaks' in the cavities. Aluminium bifold doors use thinner frames. The process of powder coating can give a durable finish in almost any colour, and finishes can be matched to most traditional homes

Investing in quality bi-folds

Bifold doors are costly, and it can be tempting to cut corners to reduce the overall installation price. However, the design, manufacture and installation of bifold doors can greatly impact performance and durability. An inferior product could result in cold draughts, poor operational performance and lower security. After all, bifold doors will end up replacing a large wall area of your property with fitted panes of glass. Modern manufacturers must meet basic quality standards on security, insulation, glazing and performance, but many will exceed the basics and provide a better lasting product for customers.

Here are a few quality issues to look out for:

Manufacturers may use remoulded scrap aluminium, which is cheaper but can have surface imperfections that affect powder coating performance, resulting in paint bubbles. Quality aluminium is made from prime billets sourced from high-end suppliers and has a completely smooth surface. The powder coating needs to be hard-wearing and should come with a 20-year guarantee.
Manufacturers may offer low or standard quality industry weathering standards, which are sufficient for average weather conditions but are more likely to leak or produce draughts in poor weather. Weather-rated thresholds, also called rebated thresholds, ensure your doors are fully watertight.
Look for window companies that offer higher than basic standards for air permeability, wind resistance, and thermal ratings. Thermal efficiency, measured in U values, will help reduce long-term fuel bills. The lower the value, the better, with the government standard for replacement doors or windows no higher than 1.8W.

Getting the accessories right

Accessories can significantly impact the final finish and performance of the bifold door systems. Items such as the running mechanism, the hinges and the locking components should meet high enough standards to add to the overall look and performance. Handles should not only be stylish, but they should also be ergonomic, robust and easy to use. The locking mechanisms should conform to PAS 24 standards, although many companies offer high-security locking systems with their products. Many manufacturers boast of good 'sightlines' for their products, but there is no standard measure for a sightline, and they are often measured differently. Slim sightlines are more desirable, and aluminium offers the best compared to uPVC and timber. However, take note that thicker sightlines can mean better security and greater durability. The bifold door profile should be as slim as possible while maintaining strength, durability and protection.

The price of bifold doors

As with all window and door products, the price depends on various factors. These can include size, the number of doors, the material quality, and the standard of accessories. Aluminium bifold doors are the most expensive, but you must set the outlay against the longer lifespan and low-cost maintenance. The cost of a timber bifold depends on the quality of the wood.
Solid and composite timbers are more expensive, and although they can last several decades, they do need to be adequately maintained. Mass-produced uPVC bi-folds are the cheapest option, but the thick frames are not to everyone's taste, and they can discolour with age.

More on bi-folding doors

Sliding doors versus bi-folding
Colours for aluminium bi-folds
Differing types of folding door
Window and door security

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