The sheer choice of brands and systems, as well as the sales or marketing messages around bifolds, can confuse. In this article, we concentrate on the choice of aluminium bi folding doors and offer some guidance. We’ll tell you what to look for and where bifolding doors are similar in many respects. Whilst the question of what is ‘best’ comes down to many factors, you’ll find out what brand of bifolds are better and why.
- How to choose the best bi folding doors
- Understanding who makes your bifolding doors
- Mid-range and high-end bifolding door brands
- The best bi folding doors available today
- The best slide and stack bi folding doors
- Bifolding doors for interior use
- What about Everest and Anglian Bifolding Doors?
- Bifolding Doors Quality & Standards
- Understanding bi fold door U-Values
- Powder Coating
- Bifolding doors in coastal and severe locations
- Bifolding door security explained
- Bifolding door weather sealing and protection explained
- Aesthetics, styling and sightlines
- Maximum and minimum sizes of bifold panels
- How to identify the best bi folding doors
- The bifolding door low threshold
- Guarantees and Service Levels for bifolding doors.
How to choose the best bi folding doors
As a product, bifolding doors are reliable, secure, functional and weather-resistant. It’s important to not only choose a competent installer but also a good manufacturer. Even the most affordable bifolding doors on the market provide a good solution for the home when made and installed correctly. The differences between these and a luxury or more expensive product are down to the design, performance and quality of its components.
It’s reassuring to know there’s no substandard or bad bifolding door on the market. Most if not all of the problems you may read about relating to bifolds are down to incorrect manufacturing, installation or a combination of both.
Importantly, always view the product you intend to buy. Whilst online information is plentiful about bifolding doors, only by seeing and moving full size working example do you get to understand many of the features and characteristics around these products. More on these later in this article.
A showroom with several bifolding doors on display is an excellent indicator of the calibre and quality of the business. Seeing more than one brand further explains some design, sightline and operational differences between the different brands.
Why you should invest in a bi folding door
The decision to invest in a quality bifold comes down to the synergy of several components. Not only are bifolding doors desirable, they also fulfil the design and lifestyle of modern homes, adding space with a new extension and creating a more open aspect compared with other types of patio doors.
Whilst bifolding doors work in any style of home, they’re particularly effective in smaller properties and where there’s often only one patio door leading to the patio area or bifold. The fully opening nature of a bifold makes the most of the available opening. At the same time it opens up the room and connects to the outside space better than other door types.
Today’s generation of aluminium bifolding doors are slimmer, more secure, more reliable and continue making a design statement.
Common features of all bifolding doors
Regardless of price point, you can expect to find the following features within any well-designed and made folding sliding door:
- A comprehensive choice of colours
- Bifolding doors tested to the latest security and weather performance standards
- Good insulation and energy efficiency thanks to insulated profiles and high specification glass
- Safety glass throughout
- Multi-point locking, security door cylinders and quality door handles
Virtually all bifolding door brands come in similar configurations, number of panels, an open or fixed corner design. Even better with bifolding doors is their ability to come as single or French doors. Therefore it’s possible to match a bifold to a single or double door elsewhere in the home.
Any bifolding door, in an even number of panels, folding in one direction has a floating mullion at the lock edge making the doors look thicker at this junction. It’s an inevitable feature of doors in this style. The best bi folding doors in this configuration and not having a thicker float mullion are Schuco.
Buying Bi folding Doors in the Steel-Look
For Art-Deco, Heritage or Steel-Look bifolds, there’s presently only one dedicated product. This is the Smart Systems Visofold 6000 provided with a heritage sash, similar to their French doors in the same steel look. You can also find the Visofold sold under different brands such as the Aluco product.
Every other bifolding door in the steel look is a standard product with applied bars only, giving the grid-like appearance or Crittall® style. Only the genuine Crittall steel product provides the exact look.
The general advice is, the slimmer the bifold profile at the meeting mullions the better these steel-inspired doors look. Origin OB-49, Schuco ASS70, Solarlux Ecoline and Sunflex bifolding doors we consider to give the best style as a standard door with slimline bars applied to the glass.
Understanding who makes your bifolding doors
Most of the installers providing bifolding doors buy these from their chosen supplier or manufacturer. The number of companies buying in bifolding doors outnumbers those making them by some margin. A reputable installer should not fear telling you the source of their products either by manufacturer name or system.
Some bifolding door brands are made by numerous and unrelated manufacturers. Others are exclusively made only by one company.
The Bi folding door “system”.
To find the best bi folding doors it can help to understand how they are designed, manufactured and supplied to the market.
In general terms Systems Companies supply aluminium bars, hardware, and accessories to nationwide manufacturers. Many of these manufacturers then sell the fabricated bifolding doors to the installers, home improvement firms, general builders, and companies specialising in home renovations. The public will usually deal with a home-improvement company (installers)
There are likely to be three scenarios:
- A systems company that controls the design, manufacture and route to market from start to finish.
- A systems company that designs the system but allows other companies (fabricators) to manufacture the product and sell it on to installers
- A fabricator who takes a system and then modifies it to supply to market via general installers or their own network of installers.
The systems companies support the fabricators and provide detailed fabrication manuals, technical support documents, tooling and machinery.
All reputable bifolding door fabricators adhere to the guidance in these technical manuals, ensuring the product comes manufactured, glazed and installed as intended by the systems company. This is important as in the event of a problem with the finished product the Systems Company only stands by and supports issues with their products when manufactured and installed correctly.
Where a system is fabricated by more than one company there can be a perceived risk that one may be better than the other. In reality, this is rarely anything to worry about. Some of the best names in bifolding doors such as Schuco or Reynaers come fabricated by many different businesses all over the country.
What buying though an Approved Dealer network means
Origin, Aluco, Solarlux, Sunflex, Sunparadise, aïr, and Dutemann. Just some of the brands where one manufacturer makes their doors and makes them available via a dealer network. Other brands such as Raüm (Reynaers) and REAL (Smart Systems) also operate via a dealer network but these systems are widely available elsewhere under the original brand name or others.
Buying through a dealer network has several advantages:
- You know exactly who makes your doors
- The Company fully trains and supports the dealer
- You usually get a longer warranty
- Your product is supported by both the manufacturer and installer
German-made and European bifolding doors
The current generation of Made in Germany bifolding doors gives you some exemplary products with a build quality and ‘over-engineering’ that’s first class.
Solarlux, Sunflex, Schuco and Weru are some of the best-known German bi folding doors brands. Of similar quality and reputation are Reynaers and Sunparadise Systems, two excellent European brands.
Sunparadise Systems come with Swiss design, engineering, and quality influences and are widely regarded as one of the upper-tier bifolding doors on the market. Some of the best installers operating in the high-end residential market use Sunparadise products.
Looking for a bifolding door with a window or feature gable window above? In most cases, you’ll need a steel or other supporting beam separating the bifolding door from the window. Its strength and rigidity making a support beam necessary. Sunparadise bifolding doors are unique having their own connection piece. As a result, you don’t need the supporting beam.
It’s a great design feature with significant cost and installation advantages. You don’t need the steel beam, neither do you need the pressings and insulation needed for cladding over it.
Mid-range and high-end bifolding door brands
We say there are no absolute best bi folding doors. Rather, the leading systems can be grouped for comparison. This list is to help you compare the various systems should you wish to do so. We have compiled this through our experience of having worked with many bifolding door products, the companies and their customer base.
The following Bifolding Door brands are considered by this website and many professionals to be the market leaders in terms of design, build quality, and service levels. Obviously, the price reflects this too in mid-range products. With so many brands and re-brands of existing systems, it’s obviously difficult to list every product. There are also several independent manufacturers to consider.
|MID-RANGE BIFOLDING DOORS||HIGH-END BIFOLDING DOORS|
|Alumina by Liniar||Sunflex Bifolding Doors|
|Smart Systems Visofold Range||Air 800 Bifolding Doors|
|AluK Systems Range||Schuco ASS 70 and ASSSystems|
|SAPA Building Systems||Reynaers Aluminium Systems|
|Senior AliFold||Dutemann FD85|
|Greenways Architectural||Sunparadise Supertherm 80|
|Kestrel Aluminium Systems||Origin|
|Comar Aluminium Systems||Solarlux Range|
|Kaye Building Systems KBS||Frameless Glass Curtains|
|New Wave Doors||Centor Bifolding Doors|
|Panoramic Doors||Express Bifolding Doors|
|DeWall Doors by Debar||Alumil Supreme SF85|
|Cortizo Bifolding Doors||Sieger Systems & Sieger Lux|
The best bi folding doors available today
Taking into consideration the most important factors around any bifold, here are the best bifolding door brands available on the market today. All of these brands have one or more of these factors or characteristics, promising a bifolding door brand, product, and bifold experience in the home over and above others on the market. These factors are:
- Design, Engineering and Operation
- Manufacturing quality and origin
- Features, customisation and hardware quality
- Product Guarantee and brand reputation
Centor Bifolding Doors
It’s the way Centor manufactures their luxurious and exclusive products making them one of the best bi folding doors. All bifolding doors are made in virtually the same way apart from this brand. Find out more about Centor bifolds.
Centor might not be the slimmest on the market, and they’re expensive. However, when it comes to flawless build quality you can see, fine details and distinctive looks and style, no other bifolding door on the market is made like a Centor product.
Solarlux Bifolding Doors
Whichever of the Solarlux bifolding doors you choose, aluminium or hybrid, all of these promise a luxurious and high-end product. Solarlux is also the best engineered and made on the market. It’s also one of the slimmest at the mullions and comes with multiple threshold solutions.
Made in Germany, having features no other bifolding door offers and meticulous attention to detail and smooth folding action. A Solarlux bifold costs more, but the investment is well worth it.
Schuco ASS70 FD and ASS 70 FD HD
You only have to operate a Schuco bifolding door, then try another mid-range brand and the quality, design, and engineering are obvious. Contemporary lines, slim sightlines, high-end door handles, and German engineering and design, but made in the UK. Most glazing professionals regard the Schuco brand as one of the best too.
The ASS70 FD HD model comfortably provides panels up to 1.5m wide giving the look of a slimline sliding door with the functionality of a bifold. Some manufacturers such as Dutemann specialise in making Schuco products and even offer this brand with a 20-year guarantee. There are numerous installers of Schuco doors so get in touch for details of one near you.
Sunflex Bifolding Doors
Another Made in Germany prestige bifolding door brand delivering some of the slimmest sightlines and incredible product quality.
Award-winning Sunflex bifolding doors are available in aluminium or aluminium and timber versions as well as offering some of the highest specifications on the market.
aïr800 bifolding doors
The premium aïr800 bifolding door is a re-engineered system and exclusively made by Everglade Windows, one of the longest established aluminium manufacturers in the UK. The experience and reputation of Everglade as an aluminium specialist is evident in these doors for build quality and product support.
With excellent specifications, some of the most luxurious door handles available and contemporary lines, aïr doors come with a 25-year guarantee and through an exclusive dealer network.
Origin bifolding doors
No other mid-range aluminium bifolding door on the market comes with the personalisation and colour options of Origin OB-72 or OB-49 models with ultra-slim 110mm sightlines. Made in the UK exclusively by Origin and available nationwide through a quality dealer network, Origin folding sliding doors are the top choice of mid-range bifolding doors.
The handles, running gear, excellent woodgrain finishes, and brand reputation make Origin one of the best bi folding doors brands at a more affordable price point. Origin also provides their doors faster than any other company.
Smart Systems Visofold bifolding doors
As a mid-range brand, Visofold bifolding doors are tried and tested, widely used, and are some of the most affordable. The Visofold 6000 model, in particular, comes with 94mm sightlines, even beating the German and high-end brands at the top of our list.
Another reason for Visofold being one of the best bi folding doors is this reinforcing that this brand provides one of the most authentic steel-look bifolding doors on the market today.
Reynaers bifolding doors
Reynaers bifolding doors are another prestigious brand similar in reputation to Schuco. Accompanying its bifolding doors range, Reynaers also offer some of the best sliding doors and aluminium windows.
The styling of Reynaers products is modern, appealing and works in any setting. It’s this consistent look making this system desirable.
The best slide and stack bi folding doors
Different from the concertina-style of folding sliding doors are slide and stack doors. The slide and stack design involves independent panels, moving together individually and stacking to one side just like a bifold.
The benefit of a slide and stack door is it doesn’t encroach on the inside or outside spaces when you move them. Instead, these doors slide on their track all the way to the end, then swing outwards. As a result, they’re excellent for moving the panels creating air-gaps as well as placing furniture right up to the doors. The only disadvantage of this design is opening the doors involves more operations.
There are a handful of best bi folding doors brands on the market in the slide and stack design. Here there are three products that are stellar, based on design, quality and reputation.
FGC Frameless Glass Curtain
Made by Frameless Glass Curtains in Kent and available nationwide is a rather unique bifold in the slide and stack design. FGC’s high-end glass curtains have no visible aluminium or mullions at the door meeting points with the doors in the closed position. All you get is glass-to-glass edges with full weather sealing and excellent security.
These doors also provide wider door panels, one of the lowest thresholds, and a unique bifolding door look and feel, no other product can match. Whether you want a bifold or a slide and stack, the FGC product is the thinnest bifold on the market at the door mullions, because it has none.
Vistaline by ID Systems
Another luxury sliding door with super-slim sightlines and flawless build quality is the Vistaline door, made and installed nationwide by ID Systems.
Swiss design combines slim frame profiles with individual design features. Fully sealed, minimalist, and functional doors in the innovative slide and turn design.
Sunparadise Monoslide 80
The unique feature of Sunparadise Monoslide 80 doors is their ability to move around corners and tuck away completely out of sight when open, even into a separate storage area.
The clever engineering and design behind Sunparadise Monoslide doors ensure these doors provide more of the available clear open and especially when used as an open corner design.
Bifolding doors for interior use
You’re probably better off considering a dedicated interior system for bifolding doors inside the home as most bifolds are exterior-grade doors fitted inside the home with a low threshold.
Exterior-grade doors are perfectly suitable inside the home but you’re also getting a thermally insulated system and double glazed units – two items of no benefit inside a room.
What about Everest and Anglian Bifolding Doors?
We must mention the two biggest home improvement firms in the UK and their bifolding doors. The reality is there is very little information about them as Everest and Anglian don’t reveal much. They rarely provide detailed information when asked so we can review the products.
It is our understanding that the Everest Bifolding Door uses the SAPA bifolding door with minor modifications to make it ‘unique’ to Everest. Anglian, we believe uses modified AluK bifolding door profiles.
Bifolding Doors Quality & Standards
If the sheer choice of bifolding door brands and products seems like a minefield, we give some clarity. The technical specifications of many bifold doors are similar. Thanks to the many industry standards in place to produce doors and windows, bifold door material and components specifications are broadly the same.
Paint finish, aluminium profiles, glass and gaskets, locks and handles all come from high up the supply chain. Therefore, our advice is to concentrate on the aesthetics and personalisation options as the material quality is pretty much the same.
All bifolding door manufacturers operate within strict guidelines for material quality, glass specification and security standards. Other companies will have their own in-house Quality Assurance Systems and procedures to ensure product and manufacturing quality is consistent and of a high standard.
|Feature||Relevant Industry Standard|
|Quality of aluminium profiles and extrusions||Aluminium Alloy 6063.T6 to BS EN 755 Part 9: 2008 or BS EN 12020|
|Quality of polyester powder coated finish||BS EN 12206-1:2004.|
|Quality of glass||BS 6262 and Approved Document N|
|Quality of glass||BS 6262 and Approved Document N|
|Security||PAS 24, Document Q, Secured by Design, BS7950, BS EN 12209|
|Weather resistance||BS 6375: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3:2009|
|Water resistance||BS 6375: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3:2009|
|Air permeability||BS 6375: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3:2009|
|Quality of rubber gaskets||EPDM Rubber manufactured in accordance with BS3734.|
|Quality of woolpile seals||BS 7386:1997|
|Polyamide Thermal Break||PA66 GF25|
|Anodised colours||Silver or bronze anodised BS3987 (AA25).|
Understanding bi fold door U-Values
A U-Value is the name given to how heat transfer is measured through a building material such as a door or a window. In simple terms, it is a measure proving how-how energy efficient a door will be including its glass. This is to comply with new Building Regulations that came into effect in October 2010.
All parts whether windows, doors or building materials that contribute to the overall energy efficiency of a home must achieve a U Value. Generally, the lower the U Value, the more energy-efficient the product. The current Building Regulations require the overall door energy rating to have a U value of less than 1.8wM2K. On bifolding doors, U-Values will vary from system to system, but each must meet the minimum standard as determined by the Building Regulations product to product as well, but each should meet the minimal standard. As a result, several good doors offer great U-Values when glazed with a standard double glazed unit.
Presently some of the best U-Values on bifolding doors come from Schuco, Reynaers and Solarlux.
The powder coating process and the way aluminium doors are coloured and finished is one of the most appealing features of aluminium bifolding doors.
Most leading systems companies such as Smart Systems, Senior Architectural Systems and others have invested in their own powder coating plants. Other systems will outsource the painting of their aluminium doors to approved and expert powder coating companies.
It does not matter who paints your doors as long as it is to recognised industry standards. Most powder coaters have Qualicoat Approval as well as other relevant accreditations.
Some of the best bi folding doors come with thicker paint finishes for enhanced durability. Great for exposed or coastal locations.
Bifolding doors in coastal and severe locations
For doors installed in a coastal or swimming pool environment, it is imperative that the powder coating applied takes into consideration the location. Any bifolding door system can, therefore, come with an extended paint guarantee. This guarantee protects powder-coated bifolding doors against salt, chlorine and other contaminants.
Several brands come with this enhanced powder-coated finish (coated to thicker microns) as standard. Be aware that guarantees are offered only by the powder coating applicators. There is a difference between a thicker grade paint finish without a warranty and one where an application for a special guarantee to the powder coater needs to be made.
Bifolding door security explained
Most bifolding door systems are tested for security. Expect to find multi-point locking, security rated key cylinders and quality door handles.
The testing carried out varies across the brands with some having many different but related standards, European standards only or British. Some bifolding doors meet Secured by Design accreditation; others do not. We suggest you always ask about testing and certification with your doors and most brands provide a lot of information around security.
Bifolding door weather sealing and protection explained
Weather performance on bifolding doors is also carried out to established industry standards. Some doors will have a more severe weather rating than others. This does not imply that the bifolding doors with the lesser standard will leak!
sYou may wish to consider a door with a higher weather rating for doors in an exposed location. If your doors are simply for an extension to a typical terraced house, the lesser standard should suffice.
It’s rare to hear of bifolding doors leaking. Where they do is often down to incorrect installation or adjustment. Most doors come already engineered against water ingress. Seals, gaskets and drainage allow any water to drain correctly to the outside.
Aesthetics, styling and sightlines
We’ve collated virtually every bifolding door brand available in the UK, where you can see how bifolds compare for mullion sightlines. The slimmer bifolding door is not always the best, although in recent years product improvements usually result in a slimmer product and especially at the door mullions.
Most of the dimensions stated for bifolding doors are indeed at the middle points where the door panels meet in the closed position. Expect the outer frame to be usually thicker as this must house the locks, rollers and guides. Bear in mind also, some open corner bifolds are thicker with some brands.
Some bifolding door brands come with a choice of a contemporary flatline or more rounded traditional aluminium profile. There’s no ‘best’ solution here. A slimline modern door looks just as good as one with chamfered lines.
Do your research, see several brands and this will help you decide what aluminium profile style is best for your home or new extension.
For grey colour doors, the flat appearance of some systems looks better. A wood effect aluminium bifolding door looks more authentic with rounded profiles.
In our experience, security, performance, thermal efficiency and product guarantees are significant to buyers. At the same time, aesthetics is highly important and will often be the critical decision when buying a bifolding door.
Maximum and minimum sizes of bifold panels
Bifolding door systems vary in what minimum and maximum door leaf sizes you get. Some bifolding door systems stop at 2500mm to 2700mm high. Other door systems come in a maximum height of 3 metres or even 3.5metres. As a result, bifolding doors for larger openings create either floor to ceiling glazing when closed or even larger open apertures in the summer.
Then there’s the decision whether to go with the widest possible panels and the benefits these may provide. Therefore, if you have a particular requirement, make sure you seek advice. If your local bifolding door suppliers offer a system at smaller maximum sizes, look at other brands if you want bigger panels. These provide more glass, better views and more light into the room. Of course, the slimmer the bifold door profile, the better these can look too.
Bear in mind some of the published maximum widths and heights may mean narrower but taller doors or wider but shorter.
How to identify the best bi folding doors
You won’t identify a quality bifold just by looking at it. However, how smoothly and well the door set moves is one of your best indicators of its quality. And this is all down to the running gear. The rollers at the bottom and guides at the top are some of the essential components in a bifolding door.
Bifolding doors with the weight on the bottom are more reliable than those bifolding doors that “hang” from the top. A bifolding door is a complex product and reliability is essential. The best bi folding doors come with reliable, quality running gear taking the weight on the bottom with guides at the top.
Some bifolding door manufacturers use proprietary running gear. Other companies such as Solarlux, Centor and Schuco developed their own running mechanisms, unique to their doors.
The same applies to door handles and hinges. You’ll find bifold handles that are obvious in their quality others less so. Again this is an excellent indicator of quality. There is diversity in the hardware you get. Some bifolding door manufacturers differentiate themselves with the high quality construction, design and feel of their door handles. The door handle, the intermediate pull handles between the doors remain visible at all times. Therefore you have to be happy with how the handles will look.
Origin, Reynaers, Solarlux, Centor, aïr bifolds and Schuco in our view provide some of the best door handles for quality, operation, look and feel.
Finally look at the small details. The best bi folding doors take care of what you see and what you don’t. For example, how the seals come together at the corners, the way the lock keeps fit into the frame. Look at the fit and finish of the corners and how the hardware fixes to the frame without the exposed screws of cheaper systems.
The bifolding door low threshold
The threshold on bifolding doors is important as most people want as flush as possible threshold. Also required is the inner floors level with the bifold track and then level with the outside decking or slabs.
The dimension of the low threshold will vary by millimetres from system to system. Find out more about Thresholds on Bifolding Doors. Therefore always speak to your builder, door provider and architect if you’re looking to achieve an ultra-flat look to your door threshold.
You’ll find most brands only offer a standard and a low threshold. The best bi folding doors brands provide even more. Reynaers, Schuco, Solarlux and Sunflex are some of these.
Again beware of the marketing literature. Many systems will state they offer a slimline or ultra-low threshold. Always check the small print that this threshold is suitable for external applications.
Many systems offer this very low or flush threshold only on doors intended for internal use or in non-exposed locations. As a result, you may find weather tests and security tests carried out apply to a product with a standard threshold. This doesn’t necessarily mean your doors will leak or be easy to break into, but it is worth checking if this factor is important in your buying decision.
Guarantees and Service Levels for bifolding doors.
Almost all bifolding door brands provide good guarantees. You will find differing service levels and customer care from company to company. Some manufacturers give a guarantee to their installers, assuming a correct door installation. Installers offer their own guarantee (typically ten years). All of these guarantees will largely depend upon the door system.
Remember glass or glass with integral blinds often comes with only five years guarantee. Check with your bifold door provider.
Therefore there is no disadvantage to the consumer with doors supplied and guaranteed via several parties.
Origin Doors have a 20-year guarantee. Aïr 800 bifolding doors have a 25-year guarantee. Schuco doors made by Dutemann also come with 20 years. Some installers even choose to provide a longer guarantee than their suppliers, standing by their doors, quality and installation.
Of course, a guarantee of fewer years does not imply that door is any less reliable. It merely means such companies who make their doors have greater control of all their processes internally, involving fewer parties. However, the guarantee provided remains a deciding factor for many choosing the best bi folding doors.
Builders often buy doors via a trade supplier or trade counter. Trade Suppliers do not offer much beyond the powder coating and hardware guarantee. Consequently, you always get a better warranty when buying bifolding doors with the full supply and installation service. Builder-supplied doors may be cheaper than an installer, but the latter gives you better peace of mind.
This article aims to help you understand the various features of some of the best bi folding doors and what to consider. We’ve also highlighted some of the best bifolding doors on the market based on design, quality, price and features. Hopefully you now also have a better understanding of teh supply chain, how the guarantees work, along with information around specifications.
We hope this article provides the information you need as well as giving you the tips to study your potential bifolding doors in more detail, ask the right questions and fully understand the answers.
A reputable and experienced home improvement company will be able to advise you about bifolding doors fully. Similarly, a company providing a range of bifolding door systems will explain the features and benefits of each. Our advice is, be happy with the product, the price, and your chosen supplier.