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Bifold Doors: The Essential Buyer's Guide

Bifold doors by Origin
(Image credit: Origin)

The ever-increasing popularity of bifold doors means that there is now a huge range of materials, sizes and styles on the market which can make it difficult to know which option is right for your home. 

Here we explain everything you need to know about bifold doors, from how they work and the operating systems available, through to material and glazing choices on the market to help you determine the right bifold doors for your home.

(MORE: Get a quote for your bifold doors)

Are Bifold Doors a Good Idea?

 Opting for bifold doors in your home offers numerous benefits: 

  • They’ll flood your home with natural light: not only can this increase the sense of space in your home, but an increase in exposure to natural light has been proven to have a positive effect on wellbeing 
  • Bifold doors create a seamless visual and physical link to the outdoors: in the summer months, you’ll even be able to create the sense of an indoor/outdoor space which is a huge part of their appeal 
  • You can choose a style and configuration to suit your home: bifold doors can be designed to suit the aesthetic of your home 
  • In the case of aluminium bifold doors, they require little maintenance. Timber bifold doors may require more to keep them in tip-top shape.

How Do Bifold Doors Work?

Bifold doors by Origin

Origin's OB-72 bifold door is made from premium-grade aluminium and is available with a guarantee of up to 20 years. Prices start from £1,200-£1,500 per sash (Image credit: Origin)

Made of multiple leaves or panels, bifolding (or folding sliding doors) open by folding against each other like a concertina. The tracking system to which the panels are fixed allows smooth motion and ease of use. 

In your configuration, it is a good idea to include a master/traffic door to allow for entry and exit just like a single-leaf door does.

Which Operating System Should I Choose for my Bifold Doors?

bifold doors

Bifolds such as these aluminium doors from Kloeber allow natural light to flow into internal spaces and create seamless transitions between outside and in. (Image credit: Kloeber)

Two key terms you will come across when researching bifold doors are ‘top-hung’ and ‘bottom-rolling’; both refer to the way the weight of the doors are supported.

Look for systems that are specifically designed for bifold doors as they require hardware systems with a greater capability than sliding or hinged doors. Wheels that run in flat tracks give smooth operation when compared to grooved wheels on a raised track.

Pros of top hung bifold doors:

  •  Can conceal the bulk of the operating mechanisms in the frame head 
  •  Dirt and leaves are less likely to become lodged in the top track 

Cons:

  •  They require a sufficiently strong lintel or beam above the opening to take the weight of the doors 

Pros of bottom rolling bifold doors:

  •  Don’t pull down as much weight from the top of the frame 
  •  Easier to install 

Cons: 

  •  Door motion can be affected by dirt and leaves getting stuck in the bottom track 

Bifold doors by Origin

Bifold doors are a great way to create a seamless transition from inside to out. These bifold doors are from Origin  (Image credit: Origin)

Specification

What Type of Threshold Do I Need for a Bifold Door?

One of the biggest attractions to bifold doors is their ability to create a seamless transition between interior and exterior spaces so creating a threshold you don’t notice is key. Choosing a low threshold is naturally a great choice for a flush finish, but it is imperative to consider rain penetration, particularly on exposed south- and west-facing walls.

The answer is a correctly installed rebated, weather-tested threshold.

What Size Bifold Doors Should I Get?

When deciding on the size of your new bifold doors, you need to first calculate the aperture they will be fitted into and the tracks. If you’re getting someone to install the doors for you, they might come out and measure. Some people do choose to fit them on a DIY basis but this is really only a job for the skilled DIYers out there.  

Panel weight is affected by the size and type of glazing used, and it is important to note that hardware systems have maximum individual panel weight, width and height restrictions.

  • The minimum size of aluminium panels is advised to be a three panel set with a width of 600mm per panel, but typically the panel widths would range from 800mm to 1200mm so 2400mm is a more accurate reflection of the smallest size opening for bifold doors to be installed 
  • Standard aluminium panels standard can be double or triple glazed 1,000 x 2,800mm 
  • Specialist wooden doors can go up to 4,000 x 1,100mm and hold up to 16 panels in one frame depending on manufacture and tolerance. 

 The current trend towards wide run of glazed panels lets in the most light, as well as providing uninterrupted views outside. To avoid heavy looking profiles that restrict light, opt for slimline frames. There are many options out there with sightlines as slim as 115mm for aluminium frames. 

What Bifold Door Configuration Should I Go For?

Once you know the width of the opening, investigate widths of panes available. This will then determine the sort of configuration you can go with (suppliers will offer their advice and can talk through the different configurations with you).

Keep to an odd number of panels so they can stack and create a complete opening. With bifold doors, a 'master door' is a good idea to gain easy access without having to open up the entire door system.

Material

What Material is Best for Bifold Doors?

The material you choose for your bifold doors will determine not only the way they look, but also how they perform and how much they cost. 

Let's take a look at how much maintenance each material requires, how the installation might differ and, of course, what they cost.  

Aim to get at least three quotes for your bifold doors and compare quality of the material (especially with aluminium or timber) and ease of installation, as well as how the lead-in times will fit into your project’s schedule. Asking trusted sources for recommendations is also a great idea.

Aluminium Bifold Doors

bifold doors

Aluminium bifold doors come in a huge range of RAL colours — meaning they will suit all homes. These aluminium doors are from Kloeber (Image credit: Kloeber)

Aluminium bifold doors are versatile because of their strong but lightweight composition and are a great choice for more contemporary-style homes as they can come in a very slim frame. 

Benefits include:

  • Slimmer sightlines 
  • Easy to maintain 
  • A lifetime-lasting powder-coated finish 
  • Can be made wider than timber doors (meaning fewer doors are required within the frame) 
  • Finish options for frames include an array of RAL colours 

 Engineered Timber Bifold Doors 

bifold doors

Engineered timber bifold doors are the ideal choice for those renovating or building a traditional or period property. In this Border Oak house, bifolds have been combined with French doors.  (Image credit: Border Oak)

Engineered timber bifold doors are a beautiful and classic option for those creating a traditional-style home or looking to install in a period property. Engineered timber is better than solid timber as it has more dimensional stability.

Softwood doors products are cheaper than hardwood, but some lower-end models can still be prone to warping over time when exposed to heat and moisture, meaning they will stick in their frames or won’t close.

They will require regular painting or varnishing to maintain their appearance.

Composite Bifold Doors

If you really can’t decide between the practically of aluminium and charm of timber bifolds, opt for composite bifold doors. These usually consist of an aluminium frame with a timber internal facing, offering the best of both worlds.

Always thought of as the cheap and cheerful option of windows and doors, PVCu (also written as uPVC) are low maintenance but don’t come with the slim sightlines and quality of finish as timber or aluminium.

Glazing Options for Bifold Doors

Choosing the Right Glazing for Your Bifold Doors

Although increased glazing holds a reputation for heat escaping, modern developments in the past couple of decades means homeowners shouldn’t fear cold spots created by windows as they once did. Look for products with low U values for extra assurance or even research triple glazing which in recent years has become more mainstream and readily available.

(MORE: Window Styles

How Much Do Bifold Doors Cost?

Bifold door costs vary hugely, based on factors such as their size, material and quality.

As a rough guide, be prepared to pay around £1,200 per linear metre of overall frame width (for a good-quality system with a good spec of glass and ironmongery).

Don't forget to budget for VAT and installation costs and, in some cases, delivery.

Some companies will ask you to put down a deposit when ordering, with the full amount payable on installation or delivery.

Off-the-shelf doors have short lead-in times, whilst high-quality bespoke sets can take up to eight weeks from order confirmation to delivery or installation.

Editor's Note: If you're looking for a quote for your bifold doors, simply tell us a bit about your project in the questionnaire below and we’ll match your requirements with the services and prices that our partners offer. And don't worry, only partners that match your needs will reach out to you.

Rules and Regulations for Bifold Doors

Do I Need Planning Permission to Add Bifold Doors?

Planning permission isn’t needed when installing bifold doors in most houses, but where the house is listed or in a conservation area, is best to check with your Local Planning Authority before you make any decisions. 

Bifold Doors and the Building Regulations

Victoria Brocklesby, COO at Origin, said: "There are several building regulations relating to the installation of bifold doors, and it’s important to check the relevant legal requirements for your project before beginning work.

"There are strict thermal efficiency standards in place for all new build and renovation projects. For windows and doors, this efficiency is measured in U-values, which show the amount of heat lost in watts per square metre of material. The lower the number, the better the thermal efficiency. Newly-fitted bifold doors must have a U-value of at least 1.8W/m², however, a high-quality bifold can offer U-values as low as 1.2W/m²."

Security Standards

"When it comes to security, new bifold doors must conform to PAS 24:2016 security standards as a minimum. 

"This certification confirms that the manufacturing and design of the doors has been assessed by a UKAS-accredited certification body and meets security requirements. 

"For ultimate reassurance, homeowners should opt for doors that are accredited with the police-approved Secured by Design standard, although this isn’t a legal requirement."

Curtains and Blinds for Bifold Doors

The simplest and most obvious way of screening bifolds is to install full-length curtains, but this does not mean it is necessarily the best option. They prove unpopular as they block light coming through the glazing even when the curtains are open, distracting from the sleek look offered by bifolds.

Another option is to house vertical blinds in a unit on the wall or build them into the ceiling but can hinder access from inside to out.

Some glazed units come with built-in venetian blinds which sadly partially obscure the glass but others offer screens and shades that move horizontally and can be drawn from the door jamb when needed, moved aside for access and retracted when not in use. 

Blackout blinds on bifold doors

These blackout blinds from DotcomBlinds offer privacy and complete darkness once the sun goes down.  (Image credit: DotCom Blind)

Internal Bifold Doors

Open plan spaces are all the rage in modern renovation, conversion and self build projects, but in recent years homeowners are becoming more design savvy when creating spaces designed specially for their lifestyles.

Including internal bifolding doors is an ideal way to lean into the open plan aesthetic without disputing a home too much. They offer a flexibility of being able to simple fold away the partition when guests are visiting, or parents want to keep an eye on the kids while cooking dinner, while also allowing rooms to be shut away when privacy or a sense of cosiness is desired.

bifold doors

The perfect way to divide up open plan spaces and ideal for playrooms or home offices, these internal bifolds are from Kloeber (Image credit: Kloeber)

Choosing options with a glazed panel takes this idea one step further, in that natural light can still flood the spaces, while the practical functionality if internal doors is observed.

(MOREInternal Doors: How to Choose)