Purchasing a bifold door system is a big investment which means taking the time to weigh up the various pros and cons involved. Many buyers overlook the importance of things like security, energy efficiency and the common problems experienced with bifold doors. Yet, as the system is used on a daily basis all of these factors need to be reviewed in full to ensure true value for money.
Read our Ultimate Guide To Bifold Doors to get the full lowdown on the best system to suit your home.
Choosing The Right Material
Bifold Door Alternatives
Bifold Door Cost Considerations
Corner Bifold Doors
Bifold Door Accessories: Blinds and Shutters
Cleaning Your Bifold Doors
Choosing The Right Bifold Door Company
Bifold Door Glazing Options
Bifold Door Security
Common Issues With Bifold Doors.
Changing the appearance of your property, whether it is an interior refurbishment or an alteration to outside aesthetic, is not a decision to be rushed into. This is especially true when it comes to purchasing and installing bifold doors which add a long list of benefits for homeowners. These stunning design features not only increase the natural light arriving inside but add value to the property in both the short and long term.
This comprehensive guide is designed to help you deal with many of the issues that need to be considered when purchasing bifold doors. We cover everything from the best type of materials, to the various glazing options and the all important aftercare that is needed to keep them in perfect working condition for years to come.
Choosing The Right Material
With so many decisions to make about your bifold doors one of the most important will be the type of material you choose. There are three main types – aluminium, timber and uPVC – but which one will suit your home best?
To help you get a clearer idea of the pros and cons of each one, we compare each one below to ensure you get the most from your investment.
uPVC Bifold Doors
uPVC has become one of the most popular materials used for window frames but it is still relatively new to the bifold door industry. One of the biggest advantages uPVC bifold doors offer is their cost effectiveness, which ensures they are a cheaper alternative compared to aluminium bifold doors or timber bifold doors.
In many cases homeowners choose uPVC bifold doors to match their existing windows, maintaining the aesthetic of their interior design. In years past the thickness of the material meant they were not a popular choice due to the wide, chucky profiles they were manufactured from, which lead to poor security. However, new slim-line options are now available that have rectified these problems. Another great plus about uPVC bifold doors is the range of colours available which is often far wider than aluminium bifold doors and timber bifold doors.
Timber Bifold Doors
The natural appeal of timber is hard to beat, whether it is for bifold doors or for anything other household fixture. Not only does it look great in almost every style of property but timber is an extremely durable material that will add a host of benefits to any home, although it can be damaged more easily compared to alternatives.
Opting for timber bifold doors made from engineered timber will help to avoid any twisting or warping that may occur on bifold doors made from cheaper wood. Engineered timber is also stronger than standard solid wood options. The main concern with timber bifold doors is over where there is an exposure to moisture which can lead to long term damage and expensive repairs. The local environment is something to take into consideration and those who experience high rain levels may want to look at other options.
Aluminium Bifold Doors
The price can often prove prohibitive for buyers when it comes to aluminium bifold doors but the value you get in return makes them stand apart. It is a more durable option than either timber bifold doors or uPVC bifold doors which means the high level of investment guarantees real quality.
Due to being finished with powder coating, aluminium bifold doors can be purchased in a huge range of colours which makes it easy to match to either modern or traditional interiors. The material is also extremely low maintenance which is another reason it proves to be such a popular choice for so many. Aluminium bifold doors will not rot, warp or corrode and offer strong resistance against exposure to sunlight. They are not the most thermally efficient option but do a good enough job of managing heat loss in most instances.
Bi-fold Door Alternatives
Bi-fold doors are the perfect way to open up both the inside and outside of a property with a low threshold design that doesn’t create a barrier. However, you may also be considering the alternatives available on the market and in need of advice on which one will suit your needs best.
The opening created by a bifold door is larger than any other alternative but in order for you to see the full advantages of what they can provide, we have gone into more detail below about the advantages and disadvantages of the other types of doors currently available.
French doors offer a good comparison against bifold doors in terms of the size of opening that can be created. They also make it easy to walk in and out of the garden as a whole run of glazing doesn’t have to be opened every time. However, one of the biggest drawbacks is they do not allow enough light into the room compared to other door systems.
The reason sliding doors have remained so popular is due to the fact there are no sections of the door to fold back. Visually they look very clean and aesthetically pleasing and the design allows for a good amount of light to enter. The biggest problem is the size of the clear opening is far smaller than bifold doors, sometimes even under 50% of the total width.
While pocket doors can provide a completely clear space once opened fully, there are a number of other problems that occur after installation. They do not sit as tightly as bifold doors which means they do not offer a good barrier against outside sound sources. Pocket doors are also known for falling off their tracks and for being difficult to lock, which poses a significant security issue.
Buyers can purchase French or sliding patio doors ready made to suit the dimensions of their property, while bifold doors are typically made to specific measurements. This means prices will vary for bifold doors as they are made on a job-by-job basis.
In general terms, bifold doors are more expensive than French or sliding patio doors as high precision hinges and rollers are used during installation. These are required due to the heavier weight of glass being swung or slid across during use. French doors and sliding patio doors typically feature less glass which means the components bear less weight.
While the cost is higher, bifold doors provide much aesthetic and financial value to the property. The use of precision engineered hardware means they are made to last anywhere between 20-30 years, which is almost double the length of time you can expect from French or sliding patio doors.
This also means bifold doors add value to the price of the property which is great news if you are planning to sell in the near future. This type of additional feature is often a huge plus when marketing the property as it offers extra appeal to potential buyers.
|3 Panel Bifold Doors (2500mm x 2100mm)
|5 Panel Bifold Doors (4600mm x 2100mm)
A basic price guide for installed bifold doors, of course there are many factors that will change this estimate.
Corner bifold doors
While much of this guide is centred on standard bifold doors which are a fantastic feature for any garden space, corner bifold doors are an exciting alternative that can provide even more access by opening up two parts of the property. This section will go into more detail about their suitability and the things to consider before making a financial commitment.
Corner bifold door shape
Because the installation of a corner bifold door requires the additional removal of either one wall or window, this may not be a suitable option for every homeowner. It creates a 90 degree opening in the structure which looks visually stunning but does present one or two other issues that need to be overcome.
Firstly, the positioning of furniture becomes a little trickier as space needs to be left in front of the openings to allow for easier access. In smaller properties this will prove to be more of an issue as it will require the reconfiguration of the layout in the room and potentially lessen space in areas that are frequently used.
Corner bifold doors also reduce overall privacy to neighbours as it opens up the inside to be more easily seen from external view points. The addition of blinds can help remove this problem, although when the bifold doors are in use you may not want extra fixtures restricting access or the view into the garden and vice-versa.
For homeowners who live in suburban spaces this is less of a problem as neighbouring houses will probably be sheltered from view, but for those residing in cities and more built-up areas it can prove to be more of a problem.
Installation within the roof
There are two options when it comes to installing a corner bifold door: one constructed with a corner post and one without. Where possible, property owners tend to opt for one without a post as it enables the widest possible opening. However, it is only possible on buildings that can support this type of construction due to the fact a corner of the roof will be left without any supporting material beneath it.
If you are installing a corner bifold door as part of a new extension then using a cantilever roof will provide enough to support a structure without a corner post. In this scenario, the post is detachable and can be slid to one side along with the glass panes contained in the door unit.
What materials to use
As with standard bifold doors, corner bifold doors can be made from a range of different materials. Timber bifold doors, aluminium bifold doors and uPVC bifold doors all offer similar pros and cons to those explained in our Other Options section, although we would recommend the use of an aluminium bifold door.
Choosing this material not only looks aesthetically pleasing due to its slimmer profile but it can also hold more weight than the alternatives and holds up against a wider variance of temperatures in comparison. Installing sunken tracks on a corner bifold door also creates a better transition when walking from the outside into the property and vice-versa.
Accessories: Blinds and Shutters
While bifold doors create a unique aesthetic feature that links the garden space with the rear entrance to the house, you will also have to consider ways to cover the glazing when they are closed and not in use.
There are generally three options most homeowners choose for window coverings: curtains, blinds or shutters. Curtains are a viable choice but they lack the same level of light control and privacy that blinds and shutters provide for bifold doors. Not only that, but curtains take up more floor and wall space in comparison, so to give you more insight on the best options available, we go into more detail about why blinds and shutters are far more suitable.
The range of blind styles available make it easy to find one to suit your interior design. Here are some of the more popular choices commonly used for bifold doors.
- Roller blinds: The clean, straight lines of roller blinds can also be bought in almost any colour you can think of at an affordable price. They do not dominate the space around bifold doors and fit easily into both contemporary and traditional home styles.
- Venetian blinds: This classic type of blind makes it easy to control the light coming into the room thanks to the horizontal slats. They perfectly complement bifold doors of any size, and instantly improve privacy without completely blocking out the view into the garden.
- Roman blinds: These use a thicker fabric compared to roman blinds and combine the style of curtains with the practicality of blinds. They can be placed onto individual doors, which means not every part of the bifold has to be open or closed at any one time.
- Perfect fit blinds: Designed to sit inside the frame of each section of glazing, these compact blinds are easy to use and blend in perfectly with the design of any bifold door. They help block out light during the day when everyone is at work, keeping sofas and floors protected.
While there are many types of blinds available, plantation shutters are generally the best option for use with bifold doors. Similarly, they also improve privacy, increase security, aid light control and add a distinctive style to the room. While they are a very traditional type of window covering, the colour options available mean they also blend into modern interiors just as easily.
They generally contain thicker slats than venetian blinds and are easily controlled by the attached adjustable rod. Just like bifold doors, shutters are generally made-to-measure which means you get a perfect fit that matches your requirements exactly. They are extremely low maintenance and when looked after last for a very long time.
Cleaning Your Bifold Doors
One of the great things about bifold doors is the low amount of aftercare they require after installation. Not only will they add more natural light into the house improving your quality of life, they also create a seamless link between the property and the rear garden.
However, despite being a low maintenance feature, bifold doors still need to be taken care of to ensure you get the most out of your new investment. Much will depend on the type of material you choose, whether a timber bifold door, uPVC bifold door or aluminium bifold door. Below are a few helpful tips to ensure you keep them in perfect condition for the long term.
Cleaning a bifold door
Most homeowners will only be required to clean their bifold door once every 6 months. If you live in an urban space nearer to busy roads, industrial areas, or close to the coast, cleaning may need to take place on a more frequent basis to keep them looking great.
How to clean a bifold door
Bi-fold door frames, hinges and edges can easily be cleaned using just warm water and a mild detergent or washing up liquid. Avoid using a scouring brush or abrasive cleaners as this could damage the material. A sponge or soft cloth will suffice to wipe away any marks and stains.
Cleaning the running tracks
Any small stones, pebbles or any small items that fall into the running track should be removed to avoid creating any problems when trying to close your bifold doors. Use a vacuum cleaner to clean inside the tracks on a monthly basis to prevent any build-up of dirt or dust that could affect the doors.
Choosing The Right Service Provider
As important as it is to find the right bifold door to suit your property, the biggest decision you will make during the entire process is which supplier to work with if you are not installing it yourself.
There are so many companies available on the internet to choose from it can get confusing knowing who to trust, and just because something is stated on a website, it doesn’t mean they offer a high quality service.
The good news is there are a number of basic checks you can make before you commit your money to ensure you get true value for your investment.
Always ask for references
A professional bifold door installation company should be proud to show off references and examples of their previous work. These should be from recent clients and, if you ask, they will normally put you in touch with the client to verify their claims. This is one of the best ways of ensuring the quality of their bifold door service.
Construction guarantees and insurance
A reputable bifold door installation company will have the required insurance to guarantee the quality of their work for a period after the job has been completed. Check this also includes parts and labour involved in the project. In many cases the guarantee should around 10 years at minimum. Also ensure they hold public liability insurance and are registered with FENSA which means the doors will be installed to meet local building regulations.
Find out about the entire process
The company will want to visit your home to look at the size of the job, allowing them to take measurements to produce an accurate quote. This is your chance to ask all the questions you need about the design, quote and construction. A reliable bifold door installation company will not hurry you and be happy to provide all the information you need to make a decision.
Ask about the construction stage
You should given a project manager for the installation of the bifold doors who will be your single point of contact and can keep you up-to-date throughout. This will make life much easier during the build and once construction begins you should also be made aware of who the foreman is in charge on site.
Almost every bifold door installation company will ask for a certain percentage of the final cost upfront. This will enable them to purchase the materials required for the job. This should never be more than 25% and only paid by card, never in cash. The money should be placed into a deposit protection scheme and a certificate provided so you know the money is held securely while work begins.
Check your quote
When you receive a quote it should breakdown the full costs involved in the job, including materials, labour, VAT, quote expiration date and an estimated completion time. Confirm whether the quote is a fixed cost or estimate and ask them to put it in writing. This should be an open and transparent part of the process with no hidden surprises later down the line from the supplier.
With the installation of these beautiful bifold doors onto the rear of your property comes a huge amount of glass. As with any glazing in your home you have to take energy efficiency into consideration to ensure insulation is optimised so energy bills remain at a manageable level.
Around 10% of the heat produced in your home will escape through your windows and doors (25% through the roof and 35% through walls and various gaps) so it pays to ensure you install high quality glazing into your new bifold doors.
Each type of glazing comes with its own U-Value. We will explain what this is and why it is important below before running through some of the more common glazing options available to you.
This acts as a measurement of the glazing’s thermal efficiency. The best number to look out for is at the lower end of the scale. The lower the U-Value number, the less heat is lost through the window. Current building regulations state that residential doors must all have U-Values of 1.8W/m²K or lower. The Window Energy Rating (WER) must also be at least C.
Two or three layers of glass ensure higher levels of thermal efficiency in the room. There are price differences between the two options, with triple glazing offering a U-Value of 0.9.
Solar Control Glazing
A good option for south-facing properties exposed to long periods of direct sunlight through the day. This glazing can help to reduce, reflect and absorb solar energy coming into the room. This helps to protect flooring, protection and skin exposure to UV light.
This glass contains Titanium Oxide which breaks down grim and dirt, aided by rain and sunlight, keeping maintenance to a bare minimum. It is often used for roof windows such as skylights or in conservatories.
This also helps to reduce UV rays and the temperature rising in the room. Unlike solar control, this isn’t transparent on both sides and provides a darker shade to the glass when viewed externally.
The extra laminated layer provides a higher level of security on the glass, making it more difficult to break. If the glass is broken, laminated glazing also helps to keep the glass bonded together rather than shattering into multiple pieces.
What shouldn’t be forgotten when installing bifold doors onto the rear entrance to the property is security. While the aesthetic appeal is one of the main areas of focus, a considerable amount of thought should be given to ensuring the bifold doors are robust and secure enough.
By design, bifold doors should provide enough security for your home. But you should also ensure the locking system meets the measures set out by police’s Secure by Standards programme.
At minimum the bifold door locking system should use a five-lever key cylinder and check the manufacturer’s locks are both insurance recognised and accredited. The weakest point of any locking system – and the area often targeted by thieves – is the cylinder, so check they offer resistance to picking, drilling, snapping and bumping. The best products include integrated multipoint locking systems featuring shoot bolts and hooked locks.
Doors and hinges are also important to check. Internal glazed systems offer the best protection, as external designs mean the beads and double glazing could be removed from the outside. Make sure the frame is firmly fixed to the walls and if the doors are too difficult or clunky to use then it may be best to look elsewhere.
Important areas of security to cover before investment include:
- All bifold door systems must be double-glazed, as laid out by the Building Regulations, with either safety or toughened glass.
- Base track systems offer higher levels of security as they are supported by the floor and often need little more than a timber lintel. Top-hung systems rely on gravity to facilitate their use but also require steel support to bear the weight of the doors.
- A single door access should be included so you can enter/leave without opening the full bifold door system.
- Check the units come with internal locking shoot bolts that lock at last 24mm into the frame and the hinges are also high security.
Common Issues With Bifold Doors
The importance of finding a reliable and professional installation company cannot be overstated because the most common problem homeowners face with bifold doors are a result of poor workmanship. Below are some of the most important areas of installation that must be dealt with correctly to avoid ongoing problems.
The apertures must always be straight and square with the fitment flush to allow for proper sealing and insulation. The methods used for installation are similar to windows but due to the additional weight of the systems, it requires more preparation to ensure they can operate perfectly.
In many cases, poor installation will lead to the door catching, or even grinding when the doors handles are in use. This is typically because the locks on the vent are out of alignment.
To avoid any big problems developing with your bifold doors, conducting simple maintenance could save you spending a considerable amount of money on repairs or replacements. This will include managing the various mechanisms to ensure it remains in great working order long term.
The moving parts of the latches will need to be periodically cleaned and lubricated. Where the internal components should remain in good shape, the latches, hinges and locks should be given treatment with the right oil or grease as these are more exposed to outside elements. Always check the product you intend to use as some can harm the seals if they are not correctly chosen.
If internal hinges are shuddering or rattling during operation, this could be down to loose or worn hinges. The hinges on timber bifold doors can often be replaced using basic DIY know-how, although a professional may need to be called for uPVC bifold doors or aluminium bifold doors. Loose fixings should be attended to quickly to avoid any long term damage occurring to the frame.
Bi-fold doors should always come with drain holes to allow water be expelled if the system is opened in the rain or snow (which subsequently melts). Keep an eye on the drains over time to ensure they are in working condition. This includes inspecting the rubber seals and interior brushes for any holes as these will need to be replaced. Brushes are very easy to replace, in most cases simply sliding in and out of position.
External locks and checks
You can purchase graphite powder from most DIY stores to lubricate the locks. If you are experiencing issues with the tumblers, then WD40 is the best option and allow at least an hour for the spray to penetrate the mechanism. Once back to normal, apply graphite grease to keep the lock lubricated. In the event that this doesn’t work then a professional locksmith should be the next port of action.
Timber bifold doors are more likely to be damaged over time due to their exposure to the outside elements. Any issues should be dealt with quickly as, if neglected, water penetration can lead to warping and the need for replacement.
Added: September 21, 2018 08:51:49