Bi-fold doors have revolutionised the way we use the living, social and outdoor spaces in our homes. Through simple yet innovative design, these doors create a seamless indoor-outdoor space perfect for entertaining, family life and getting the most from your garden.
If you’re currently looking to fit bi-fold doors in your property, it’s crucial to know what to look for.
Aluminium, wood or uPVC?
One of the first and most important decisions to make when shopping for bi-fold doors is which material to choose. These doors come in many different materials, including aluminium, timber and uPVC. When deciding between these materials, you need to think about:
• Durability – how long will the material last before it needs replacing or repairing, and how well will it withstand the elements? The cheapest material may not end up being the most cost-effective, as it may not last as long.
• Maintenance – will you need to do anything to the bi-fold doors to keep them in good condition?
• Strength – before installing bi-fold doors, you should consult a professional for advice on how much weight the doors will need to support, and what material is strong enough to comfortably withstand it.
• Price – a durable, strong and maintenance-free set of bi-fold doors is a worthwhile investment that can transform your home, but your budget will always be a consideration. Make sure to factor in installation and future maintenance as well as the cost of the doors themselves.
• The look – just like choosing window frames, external doors or masonry/cladding, your new bi-fold doors will affect the look of your house from the street. Choose a material that either matches or complements what you already have.
You might also want to think about the eco-friendliness of the material you choose for your bi-fold doors, from the carbon footprint created when making them to their thermal efficiency.
A closer look at each material
To help you decide which material to choose for your bi-fold doors, from aluminium, wood and uPVC, let’s take a more in-depth look at the advantages and drawbacks of each.
Aluminium bi-fold doors
Aluminium is one of the most popular choices for bi-fold doors for a number of important reasons. Firstly, they are cheaper than timber and require almost no maintenance. Aluminium bi-folds do not discolour, rot, warp, flake or deteriorate, so you will never need to worry about their appearance or stability once installed.
Aluminium is also the strongest of all materials used to make bi-fold doors, so is an ideal choice for properties where bi-folds need to support extra weight. As it is so strong, it can also be used to make thinner frames while still supporting even heavy glass panes. This results in slimmer sightlines, so you get a better view of the garden and more modern finish.
Many people love aluminium because of its striking contemporary look. It may not have the traditional warmth of wood – although you can get aluminium bi-folds which are coloured to give a very convincing timber effect – but it is a very popular choice among those who favour a clean, modern style. It used to be mainly used in the commercial sector, but is now undergoing a major revival in the domestic market.
Perhaps most importantly for many people, aluminium is an eco-friendly material. This is because not only does it have a longer lifespan than uPVC or timber, but it is also recyclable. It is estimated that around 70% of the aluminium ever made remains in use to this day, while recycled aluminium requires just 5% of the total energy used to make it from raw materials.
But what about thermal efficiency? Aluminium is one of the best conductors of heat, so you may think that bi-folds made from this material will lose heat through the frames. However, manufacturers of modern aluminium bi-fold doors now put in a thermal break, which prevents this from happening. When used with high-performance glazing, these doors now score highly on thermal efficiency.
Some people may choose timber bi-fold doors because of their natural look. Wood frames can offer a traditional, authentic appearance to your home, and they can also be painted or stained to suit your requirements.
However, with this also comes a significant amount of maintenance. Timber doors will need to be re-treated or re-painted regularly to keep them in good, weatherproof condition.
Timber frames are also much more expensive than uPVC and aluminium, although the material is a natural insulator so it can help to keep your property slightly warmer. This does depend on the property and the thermal efficiency of the glass you choose too.
Bi-fold doors made from uPVC tend to be the cheapest option available, which is why they remain a popular choice in the domestic market. Like aluminium, uPVC is low maintenance, but it does not have anywhere near as long a lifespan so you may end up replacing it sooner than with aluminium.
uPVC is not as strong as other materials, so frames tend to be quite chunky in order to support the glass – resulting in thick sightlines that not everyone would find aesthetically pleasing. If you’re looking for a stylish or a modern, sleek look, this is perhaps not the best material to choose. However, these frames tend to be good insulators so they do offer impressive thermal efficiency when used with the right glass.
It’s decision time…
Bearing all of these factors in mind and the pros and cons of each material, it’s time to choose which bi-fold doors are the right ones for your home. It’s important to remember that bi-fold doors are an investment, so opting for quality, durability and strength over a very cheap price could be a very sensible decision indeed. You may only have one chance to get it right when installing bi-fold doors in your current home, so take your time over the decision and speak to a specialist if you need expert advice.