Who is responsible for faulty bifolding doors?

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Nick Dardalis

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When a consumer purchases a set of Bifolding doors the finished product has not necessarily been made by just one company.  Whilst there are companies such as Origin who only make their own doors, the majority are made differently.  So when trying to resolve issues with faulty bifolding doors it is important to understand that the bifolding door supply chain is generally quite complex.  The process involves a combination of systems companies, fabricators, installers and glaziers.

diagram to track faulty bifolding doors

Most problems are installation related. Although there can be errors with bifold doors such as:

  • being configured incorrectly
  • trickle vents not being fitted
  • wrong colour hardware
  • wrong sizes or problems with the paint finish or the glass

Whilst that might seem like a long list of potential problems the point is that generally speaking the actual doors and mechanics of the doors are faultless.

Resolving problems with bi folding doors.

What are possible scenarios where things go wrong and what can you do about it?

This article is meant to give you general information about how the door and window industry tries to work together to resolve problems.  It’s probably fair to say that problems do not always get sorted out to everyone’s satisfaction but generally, it is all parties interests to get it right, even it is not on the first attempt!

If you are faced with a fault on your bifolding door as in an operational issue there is no reason why your installer shouldn’t correct this as part of their warranty.  Your door can have come from any number of sources so the more people or organisations that were involved in the supply of your doors the more complex it may be. Here’s a scenario.

  1. You’ve purchased your doors from a reputable company (The Installer).
  2. The installer purchased the doors without glass from a supplier (The Manufacturer).
  3. The installer also purchased the glass for your doors separately from a glass supplier (The Glass Supplier)
  4. The Manufacturer purchased the aluminium material from the Systems company.
  5. The Systems company painted the aluminium or The Manufacturer used their own paint supplier.

The above scenario is typical of how bifolding doors are supplied.  There are of course companies that manufacture and directly install their own products.  In the event of a fault the process is far simpler as you’re dealing with the installer and manufacturer directly.

Have your bifolding doors been wrongly made?

picture of bifolding door drawing.
A typical example of how doors are drawn in the supply chain typically viewed from the outside.

If your doors have been configured incorrectly the first thing you should do is look at your contract and see what it states and how the doors are drawn on the contract. The majority of the door and window industry uses sketches of windows and doors as viewed from the outside although some do still work on viewed from the inside. The contract should show the direction the bifolding doors should slide in and the location of the primary locking or access leaves.

Within a well designed and thorough contract there should be the colour stated preferably in an RAL colour code such as RAL 7016 Matt Grey and not a generic description such as “Graphite Grey’.  Generic descriptions of colour are still used by many window companies although these descriptions can cause the wrong colour to be provided as we explain in an article specifically about colour matching aluminium windows and doors. 

If your doors are wrongly configured for example have the trickle vents missing or have the wrong colour handles with some modification work this can be corrected depending on the complexity of the product itself. In these situations The Installer may arrange via The Manufacturer to have these corrected. Some work can be carried out in situ, other types of work will require the doors to be taken away again.

Dealing with faulty bifolding doors: colours and door glass.

There is one area where consumers are often left very frustrated and that is with the quality of glass and the quality of paintwork.  It’s understandable that a homeowner will closely scrutinise every aspect of their doors.  Minor scratches on the glass and some imperfections on the paintwork are often causes for complaint.  We’ve given advice on resolving issues with powder coated finishes on windows and bifolding doors. Glass is also covered by the Glass and Glazing Federation that offers good advice as well.

Several companies get involved when bifolding doors have problems.

Where the customer is not happy with an aspect of the bifolding door The Installer will in the first instance address the issue with The Manufacturer to try and get their feedback on it.  Some manufacturers have Service Engineers that they send out to try to resolve these issues on behalf of the company they supplied the doors to.

If this does not work and there is still no resolution often the systems company will get involved.  In these situations the systems company is quite strict. It does of course want to help the end user as much as possible but a lot of systems companies choose to stay detached from what are clear installation issues or manufacturing issues and no problem with the design of the door itself.  It’s often the case during these site visits that the systems company, seeing no evident fault with their product will refer the issue back to the manufacturer or installer.

The powder coater may also get involved if the doors were not painted by the systems company.  It’s very rare indeed but paint finish can fail.  The Installer is not at fault and neither is The Manufacturer – neither of these people was responsible for painting the bifolds. At this level, The Manufacturer will contact their powder coating company and again a site visit may be made.  The powder coating company is there purely to inspect the paint finish and won’t be interested in any other aspect of the door.  This is understandable as all they did was paint the aluminium. But it’s possible they may point out manufacturing or installation mistakes that directly affect the paint finish.

For the end user, it’s logical that they’ll place all the responsibility on who they bought their bifolding doors from and that’s The Installer. But as you can see the supply chain in bifolding doors and windows and doors generally is complex depending on where the doors were bought from.

We have attended site visits in the past and it’s most frustrating to a consumer when they’re told something is ‘to standard’ or ‘within tolerances’. This gives them the impression they are being fobbed off that what they consider a fault is deemed acceptable by someone else.  It’s worth reassuring these customers that there is no bias towards the installer during these site visits, it’s the company acting as they should.  All products and especially glass and paint fall within tolerances. There has to be a benchmark somewhere and whilst the consumer often doesn’t like what they hear those of us involved in doors and windows understand these benchmarks.

If you purchased your doors from a builder who bought the doors from a trade counter then you’ll see how the chain of responsibility again can get longer.

So what can you do in these situations?

It really can depend on a number of factors and nature of the problem.  There are those installers that will consider doing what’s required even if it’s at their cost to ensure a happy customer.

Other businesses may feel justified that they are at no fault and simply proceed through their chosen channels of recovering any monies outstanding although this is done reluctantly.   There are schemes such as The Double Glazing Ombudsman Scheme that offer a mediation and arbitration service to work with both parties in reaching a resolution. Many bifolding door firms choose to be members of these schemes, federations and industry associations, most of whom offer some service where disputes occur.  These organisations are there to serve both their members and to provide the right help and advice to consumers as well.

Of course, it may be the case that there genuinely is a problem with the finished product and the customer remains dissatisfied with explanations from the installer, manufacturer or systems company.  Ultimately the customer has the option to turn to the courts for redress.  This would most likely be in the form of a counter claim in response to an action to recover outstanding monies by the installer.  If this happens the customer will be relying on their enhanced rights under the Consumer Rights Act, although the onus will still be on them to prove that the doors in question are sub-standard.  Whilst the installer may rely on an expert opinion from the manufacturer or systems company ultimately their contract is with the consumer.

We are often contacted by people that feel they’re getting nowhere with either party.  Every fault is different and if your window company appears to apportion blame elsewhere the reality is they’re probably relying on who they bought their doors and glass from. If they’re not getting the service from their supplier when a fault occurs it can make them appear like they’re doing nothing. The reality is they’re probably as frustrated as you.

There is no best scenario as generally issues are few and far between.  Speak to any professional and they’ll reinforce what we believe that incorrect installation rather than the doors themselves is often the cause. Bifolding doors are complex products but at the same time they are simple. A bifolding door frame is assembled in only one or two ways. The same applies to the door panels themselves.  The fitting of locks and hardware regardless of colour is largely the same every time. Bifolding doors aren’t mass produced but the way they’re made is consistent with a very thorough fabrication manual which is always adhered to by a reputable manufacturer.

Avoiding mistakes with bifolding doors.

Every bifolding door company operates different administration procedures to ensure doors are correctly ordered and correctly supplied.  Those of us that work in the manufacturing side of the door industry are very used to The Manufacturer sending out an order acknowledgement. No manufacturing is started until The Installer sends back this order acknowledgement signed.  This is the manufacturers security that they’ve interpreted the order correctly and its a great way of working to send back their interpretation of the order and get it signed off by the people that ordered it.

Some Installers also work on this basis after a contract has been signed. The doors will be surveyed and a further acknowledgement will be sent back to the customer confirming the survey and final specifications.  Not every window company works in this way and if there is no additional paperwork other than your contract we see no reason why you can’t ask for it so you are absolutely clear about how your doors will be made, configured and specified.

A reputable company should have no issue in providing this information to you and it can go a long way to avoiding problems with bifolding doors being spotted on the day of installation rather than well before.  A great opportunity to double check that everything is how you expect it to be is to ask for a further confirmation of your doors after they’ve been surveyed.

How a bifolding door survey can avoid mistakes.

A survey will normally be carried out after your contract is signed.  The survey is very important.

Firstly it is there to establish that your doors are suitable either for the new or existing opening they’re going into. It’s often the case that your survey sizes will be different from the sizes stated on your contract.  This is because a salesman isn’t a Surveyor and doesn’t possess their knowledge in establishing what are the correct manufacturing sizes for your doors.

The Surveyor will ensure the correct sizes, will establish any special requirements for fitting your doors such as access either through your home or via a side or rear entrance if one exists. The sizes of the door will take into consideration any requirements for flush floor levels in and out.  He’ll also check that the opening is correct and ready to accept the new doors. A Surveyor will also check that the specification and configuration of your doors are as you ordered them.

Finally, a survey is also very important in saving the company money and you inconvenience. Because many doors are a special colour they’ll often also require trims, additional add-on pieces and other painted parts depending on the installation.  Ensuring any extra materials are painted at the same time as the doors can save delays and money.

So the Survey is your perfect opportunity to request a further confirmation from your bifolding door installer to double check that your doors will be correct.  Most good companies will provide this but if they don’t, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t ask for it.

If you’d like any further information or have any particular questions with regard to dealing with faulty bifolding doors and you think we might be able to help, please contact us.

Have your say.

Are you a consumer that has experienced similar issues with your doors to those above? How did you resolve them and where you happy with the outcome?

If you’re an installer of bifolding doors, can you also resonate with the above points and what do you do in these situations to help your customer and your business? We’d be keen to hear your comments. This should be an interesting conversation.