In the UK, bifold doors are ideal to flood interior spaces with natural light; they open up the home into the great outdoors and create striking indoor/outdoor spaces.

However, bifolds can be quite an investment and it can be fairly daunting trying to find which system is right for your house with so many retailers and manufacturers embracing this move towards maximised glazing.

There are huge swathes of choices in materials, sizes, screening additions and operating systems, not to mention variations in cost, sizing and colour so knowing which option offers best value for money and which design will suit your home – in both practical and visual terms – can feel like a bit of a gamble.

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

What Material is Best for Bifold Doors?

Timber Bifolds

A beautiful and classic option for those creating a traditional-style home or looking to install in a period property, timber 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.

wood clad extension with contemporary bifolding doors

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

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
bifold doors with master door in contemporary home

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

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.

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.

bifold doors in contemporary home exterior

IQGlass state they have the slimmest sightlines of any aluminium bifolds on the market

How Big Should My Bifold Doors Be?

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.

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.

aluminium bifold doors

Everest‘s bifold doors come with a child-safety system that prevents trapped fingers in the hinges

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

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
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 Should I Configure Bifolding Doors?

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.

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.

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.

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Bifolds are usually specified for their ability to merge inside and out (as in this instance from Origin) — but make sure the threshold is as level as possible

(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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