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Choosing the best type of bifold door

Aluminium bifold doors with patio table
Aluminium bifold doors and garden

Bifold doors, also known as folding doors, are those where panels concertina together when they are opened.

Bi-folding units can have doors that open inwards or outwards and they can include a standard door at one end to use without having to fold the panels.

Bifold doors allow homeowners to flood interior spaces with natural light, making rooms feel much bigger, offering panoramic views and a smooth transition from inside to outside spaces.

Bifold door systems can be a major investment and with so many manufacturers and systems, finding the right bifold door system for your home or commercial property can be a daunting task.

Making the right choice can result in a beautiful and practical addition to your home or office whether as part of a self-build scheme, a building renovation project or when installed for you by bifold door installation experts like Select Windows Systems.

The help you reach the right decision we have put together a small guide on bifold windows basics and hope you find it useful choosing the right b-fold door system for you.

Bifold door material types

There are three basic materials used in the construction top bifold doors - timber, uPVC and aluminium - and all have their special qualities.

Timber Bifolds
There are the classic option for traditional buildings and period properties. We prefer hardwood for timber bifold as they are longer lasting, need less maintenance and are less prone to warping than cheaper softwoods.
Although timber is naturally the most thermaly efficient but they are prone to contraction in colder weather and this may cause draughts.
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 and 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 just need cleaning once a year with warm soapy water.

Aluminium bifold
Aluminium is the strongest material and less liable to flex or warp so it can accommodate larger panes of glass.
Aluminium is also unlikely to expand or contract with temperatures changes and, although it is not as good an insulator, heat loss can be reduced with 'thermal breaks' in the cavities.
Aluminium bifold use thinner frames and powder coating can give a durable finish in almost any colour and finished can be matched to most traditional homes

Investing in quality bifolds

Bifold doors are not cheap and it can be tempting to cut corners to bring down the overall price of installation.
But the design, manufacture and installation of bifold doors can have a huge impact on performance and durability. After all bifold doors will end up replacing a large wall area of your property with fitted panes of glass and a poor quality product could result in cold draughts, poor operational performance and lower security.
Modern manufacturers must meet basic quality standards on security, insulation, glazing and performance but many will exceed the basics to provide a better lasting product for customers.
Here are a few quality issues to look out for:
Manufacturers one aluminium bifold doors may use remoulded scrap aluminium which is cheaper but can come with surface imperfections that affect the performance of powder coating resulting in bubbles in the paint. Quality aluminium is made from prime billets sourced from high-end suppliers and comes with 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 weather standards, sufficient for normal weather conditions but more likely to leak or produce draughts in bad 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 fuel bills long term and 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 have a big impact on the final finish and performance of the bifold doors 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 only be stylish, they should also be ergonomic, robust and easy to use which locking mechanisms should conform to PAS 24 standards but 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 but take note that thicker sightlines can offer higher security and greater durability. The bifold door profile should be as slim as possible while maintaining the strength, durability and security.

The price of bifold doors

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