Budget is obviously an important consideration for anyone buying Bi-Folding doors.
Consumers often ask us for advice about the quality of various Bi-Folding door systems. In fact, it was one such question that prompted us to write the article comparing Origin and Schuco bifolding doors.
More recently we’ve been specifically asked about the after sales service offered by Aluk and Origin. A homeowner sent this enquiry:
…we have been researching Origin doors and have found a supplier and got a price, but our builder is recommending ALUK which are cheaper. I know that Origin has very good after service, do you know anything about the after service ALUK offer?
I am torn between trying to choose the best and saving some money!
The interesting aspect of this question is the particular reference to after-sales service. It is natural to want to save money, but in this instance budget was not necessarily the deciding factor. So how do you go about comparing AluK doors with Origin Bifolds?
What aftercare is available with bifolding doors?
It is our belief that there are no bad bifolding doors systems on the market. Any Bi-folding door will meet or exceed the current standards for weathering, security, quality of aluminium and the quality of the paint finish. Certainly some systems are better designed and better engineered than their competitors.
Moreover, some of the hardware options, such as locks and handles are of a superior quality on some of the most expensive systems. The way they can be manufactured can be different. For example, some doors will use quite basic joints in their construction, and others will use a more sophisticated or heavier duty method. The basic joint doesn’t make a bad door when both types of jointing often pass the same tests.
By the time you’ve compared the overall quality of a few different bifolding door systems, you will almost certainly spot the similarities and differences. Technical details aside, you will most likely make a choice based on the look and feel of the doors, and what just feels right for your home.
So, if the systems are all of a comparable standard what are the differentiating factors. Is the choice down to price and after-sales service?
Understanding the Bi Folding Door supply chain.
It is important to understand the supply chain before answering the specific question on the service levels between AluK and Origin bifolding doors,
In the case of Origin, they control the supply of the product. Origin design and manufacture their Bi Folding doors and provide the finished product to a network of approved installers.
AluK doors (and the majority of other systems) are supplied by the systems companies in bar length to manufacturers. Some manufacturers only make one system while others manufacture a variety of bi-folding doors. It is not uncommon to see manufacturers offering Smarts, AluK, Schuco or Reynaers so as to provide the widest choice.
Many different fabricators can manufacture the AluK door, or it can even be sold directly to the installer via a trade counter.
The systems company approves these manufacturers and ensures that their staff are suitably trained, with tooling provided. The systems companies usually support their network of fabricators very well. Examples include making them aware of updates to their products through technical bulletins.
Systems companies can only offer a limited after sales service on bifolding doors.
With a vast network of fabricators buying bar length aluminium, hardware and accessories it is hard to see how a systems company can offer an after sales service to end users. The reality is they probably can’t in the same way that a direct manufacturer can.
A systems company has no idea who has purchased their doors. They only know which fabricator has bought their bar length material. So how does this affect the end user customer?
So does the quality of an AluK bifolding suffer as a result?
The answer is no. AluK are a reputable (global) company with vast experience in designing bifolding doors, windows, entrance doors, sliding doors, curtain walling and much more besides. Of their fabricators, some are better than others or longer established. Doors from each particular systems company are made as per their technical manuals. The systems company is there to support the fabricator to ensure that their doors are properly made and correctly installed. Their reputation depends on it.
A further complication arises as some manufacturers choose to enhance the basic AluK door with their own handles. Some decide to source the hardware elsewhere to save money on fabrication. Others do it to make their door visually different from every else’s AluK door. There are then some that choose to rebrand it under an entirely different name as well.
Also, there are the smaller components such as the screws and rivets used on doors. These can easily be sourced more cheaply than from the systems company. It is worth stressing that these items in themselves do not make for an inferior product as long as the right types are used as specified in the technical manual.
Lets also mention the bifolding door systems with a very long and established reputation and a perceived or actual ‘high end’ brand. Examples include Reynaers and Schuco. These two systems companies market their brand to the discerning and high-value customer. Both Reynaers and Schuco operate a business model of supplying bar length to their manufacturers that operate in the same way as AluK does.
So which company offers the better after sales service?
The glib answer is the one that has the fewest post-installation problems. If a systems company can manufacture a bi-folding door that is fabricated properly and installed correctly they are unlikely to get many phone calls from customers.
Origin offers a 20-year guarantee because they can. They are in control of their product from design to installation. It’s logical that a company in control of their supply chain is in a better position to offer customers a level of after-care either directly or through their dealers.
AluK have a different route to market, so they have less control. But that does not mean that their product is inferior. They rely much more on their manufacturers to make it right.
In an ideal world, there is no reason why an AluK door could not come with a 20-year guarantee. Hypothetically a 20-year guarantee could be provided conditional upon all components being sourced from the systems company, the door made and signed off as such, with no alternative source of supply of any components including the powder coating of the product.
In fairness, this would be a nightmare to enforce.
Does it matter where your bifolding door comes from?
The after sales service you’ll receive from an AluK door provider will be what they choose to provide and typically this is a ten-year guarantee that most reputable window companies offer.
This probably highlights the need to be confident in your choice of installer. AluK will stand 100% behind their product if they are satisfied that it has been correctly made and installed. This might not be the case if it transpires that an installer or fabricator has cut corners to save costs.