The guys at Origin bi-folds have been kind enough to supply a guest post for DGB about the pros and cons of the various types of materials for bi-fold doors. It’s a pretty good one this one, and I have made them make sure it’s not an advertorial ;-) enjoy!
In recent years, bi-fold doors have become a popular alternative to patio doors and have the benefit of being able to cover larger areas of the home with glass, creating a focal point for the room and letting natural light flood in. Although choosing the right bi-fold doors for a project isn’t complicated, it does require some careful consideration when it comes to aesthetics, longevity, security and maintenance of the material.
There are three main materials to choose from for bi-fold doors: uPVC, aluminium and natural wood. Each of these has its own benefits and drawbacks.
If you’re looking for standard doors which are low cost and require little maintenance then uPVC (or unplasticised Polyvinyl Chloride) is a good option. Although affordable, uPVC doors don’t have the best longevity as most will only come with a guarantee of 10 years and they can start to look tired well before this, gaining a yellow or pink tinge. Opting for low quality uPVC bi-folding doors can cost you more over time as uPVC isn’t the strongest material when compared to aluminium, for example. Low quality uPVC can warp and bend with age, especially if exposed to direct sunlight for long periods which can make them difficult to open and close.
A key benefit of quality uPVC bi-fold doors is that they require minimal maintenance and can be wiped clean with a cloth to maintain their appearance.
The biggest advantage of timber bi-fold doors is that they are naturally very beautiful and can be finished with a huge choice of stains or colours. The timber in quality bi-fold doors is usually engineered from a variety of different types of wood which are glued together in layers with polyurethane. This process produces what’s known as ‘engineered timber’ and ensures that the wood is less likely to be affected by the elements as the polyurethane protects the wood from moisture, making it more resistant to twisting or swelling. Engineered timber is more costly than regular timber but non-engineered timber is highly prone to costly problems with the wood’s structure. Although much tougher, even engineered timber can absorb moisture which can cause the door frames to warp, affecting the doors’ gasket seal performance.
Timber’s most obvious downside is that it does require much more maintenance than uPVC or aluminium doors, particularly if the doors receive direct sunlight for long periods.
The strength of aluminium is its biggest asset as the narrow frames are strong enough to allow for very slim sight lines. This means the frame doesn’t encroach on the glazed area and provides a superb view and unprecedented light levels. Compared to timber and uPVC, aluminium is more resistant to flex, expansion and contraction when in direct sunlight so therefore requires very little maintenance to stay in good working order.
A previous downside to aluminium used to be that options for colour finishes were limited to black, white and metallic shades. However, there are now multiple options for coloured finishes for bi-folding doors including the collection from aluminium door specialist Origin which includes 9 different colour palettes featuring every shade from candy pink and bright yellow to deep blues and greens.
Aluminium doors are generally more expensive than timber and uPVC options and the higher price tag can put many people off. The easy maintenance of aluminium bi-fold doors means that in the long run, they are likely to be a better value option than lower priced uPVC or timber doors, especially if these are also low quality.
Depending on your budget, aluminium is the best all-round choice for bi-fold doors and well worth the investment. Timber doors are also a good option but require more maintenance than uPVC or aluminium. For a standard, low cost bi-fold option then, go for uPVC, although bear in mind that uPVC doors don’t measure up in terms of aesthetics or longevity when compared to the other materials.