Bifold doors open up the home to the great outdoors and are ideal for filling interior areas with natural light; there’s no question as to why they are the cherry on top of many self-build, extension and renovation projects.

There are huge swathes of choices in materials, sizes and costs so it can be fairly daunting trying to find which system is right for your house. Retailers and manufacturers have embraced homeowners’ desires to maximised glazing and light and airy spaces, but how do you pick which one for your house?

Arming yourself with knowledge and investigating which option offers best in term of operating systems, screening additions, materials and aesthetics will help you pick the best for your budget.

Take a look at our UK suppliers of bifold doors and find the right design for your project

extension with glazed link and bifold doors

The four-pane aluminium bifolding doors in this project by IQ Glass makes the most of the patio and garden

How Much do Bifold Doors Cost?

As with all window and door products, this varies hugely on size, material and quality.

Expect 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).

You will also need to factor in VAT and installation costs to the total price, and possibly delivery.

Some companies will ask for a deposit on ordering, with the full amount payable on installation or delivery.

Lead-in times

Off-the-shelf doors have very little lead-in times but more high-quality custom-made sets can take up to 8 week from order confirmation.

What Material is Best for Bifold Doors?

Aluminium Bifold Doors

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
aluminium green bifold doors

These windows (supplier by Origin) have been customised green to the exterior and off-white to in the interior

Timber Bifolds

A beautiful and classic option for those creating a traditional-style home or looking to install in a period property, wooden doors come in various finishes. Engineered timbers are ideal as they have more dimensional stability than solid timber doors.

Softwood 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.

Wooden bifold doors complete the charming look of this modern oak-frame home

Composite Bifolds

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

PVCu Bifolding Doors

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.

Standard Sizes and Measuring Up Bifolds

When designing how large you want your bifolds to be, you need to work out the size of the aperture and the tracks. If you’re getting someone to install the doors for you, they might come out and measure but a DIY enthusiast can normally fit them quite easily.

Panel weight is affected by the size and type of glazing used and 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.
bifolds in contemporary barn conversion

To fill this barn conversion‘s original openings, the homeowners decided to include bifold doors paired with fixed windows above to maximise natural light

Slimline frames

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

Choosing the Best Operating System

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.

Top-hung

Pros

  • 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
wood clad extension with contemporary bifolding doors

The German made SUNFLEX SF75 aluminium bifold doors from IDSystems includes a single access master door (Image: Reach Photography)

Bottom-rolling

Pros

  • 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 Opening Options and Configurations

Once you’ve established the width of the opening, investigate widths of panes available. This will then determine the sort of configuration you can go with. Companies 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 masterdoor is a good idea to gain easy access without having to open up the entire door system.

slide and turn bifold doors

IDSystems offer a ‘Slide and turn’ door for those who can’t decide between the practicality of bifolds and the uninterrupted views of sliding doors

What is the Best Method for Screening 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.

wooden bifolds with screening system

This discreet screening system from Centor retracts completely into the doorframe when not in use  

Low Thresholds: What You Should Look For 

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.

bifold doors with master door in contemporary home

This self build includes wide format bifold doors and a low threshold that mean the home feels connected to the outside

(More: Patio Doors: Bifold, Sliding or French?)

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Many thanks to Origin for working with us on the video above.

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