Comparing PVCu and Aluminium Bifolding Doors – Which is best?

In this article we explain what to think about when deciding between PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors.  We will help you understand what to consider with both materials regarding security, strength, thermal efficiency aesthetics and costs. We also take into account some points about timber bifolds as well.

Considerations before you choose a bifolding door.

When considering a new bifolding door, some factors apply regardless of whether you these are PVCu or aluminium bifolding doors. Think about the primary function of the door. In terraced houses especially, the bifolding door may be the only back door in the house.  Therefore you will need to consider how your bifold door will work for you not just in the summer but all year round with mainly closed doors.

If you have a bifolding door to replace your old set of French doors or sliding doors the size of your door is less of a consideration compared to having a new extension built. For new extensions, the size will affect the long-term performance of the door. The bigger the door size, the more you may want a slimmer looking door to reduce the visible aluminium sight lines.

It may also be worth considering whether a sliding door may be the better option depending on your property type, style and desire for connecting your inside and outside spaces.

The same considerations apply for timber bifolding doors that come in the same styles as both PVCu and aluminium products.

pvcu and aluminium bifolding

Beware misinformation about PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors

First of all, it is worth mentioning that some websites comparing PVCu and aluminium bifolds, do the plastic material a disservice.  They also give out the wrong information about aluminium to make it appear substantially better than PVCu.  Our website has, for nearly ten years promoted all the advantages of aluminium as a material for the home and commercial buildings.  In that time the PVCu industry has made substantial improvements and enhancements to their products. In some areas, PVCu bifolding doors are comparable or equal to aluminium. As a result, a PVCu bifold door is no longer a bad product many make it out to be. 

Here are some myths around PVCu that we consider incorrect at worst or only applicable in specific scenarios at best.

  • That aluminium bifolds are handmade, and PVCu is not.
  • That aluminium bifolds are made-to-order and PVCu mass produced.  For homeowners, every bifold regardless of material is made to order.
  • That aluminium bifolds, unlike PVCu, don’t expand and contract with heat variation.  They do, just much less.
  • That PVCu bifolding doors are prone to warping. A sweeping statement rarely mentioned today by installers with the current generation PVCu bifold doors.
  • That PVCu is not environmentally friendly. Current PVCu material is.
  • That PVCu is easily damaged and gets scratched more than aluminium. Again subjective. PVCu foils are more durable than powder coated finishes in some cases.
  • That PVCu wood-effect or woodgrains looks cheap. Not the case any more with the great range of foils available.

We will address security considerations of PVCu vs aluminium bifolding doors in this article as well.

Importantly with current generation PVCu bifolding doors it is worth looking at who is behind them. There are substantial, well established and global brands for PVCu windows and doors including bifolds.  

Some websites give the impression that PVCu bifolds are cheap or substandard.  Large organisations such as Liniar, Rehau, Veka, Residence 9 and others have excellent reputations and brand perception.  They have not become successful designing low-quality PVCu products. Aluminium does have many advantages over PVCu but beware myths and incorrect facts about PVCu as well, written for the benefit of the aluminium business.  

Timber doors remain handcrafted products of exceptional quality as well. If you love the look and feel of the real wood product, then you should include this in your overall research.  Modern timber doors have multi-layered profiles from engineered timber. These too resist twisting and warping even though you will read differently on other websites. Timber doors function very well indeed in all weathers. 

PVCu and aluminium bifolding door aesthetics.

When comparing PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors, the key difference is aesthetics.  Aesthetics are, in our view the significant reason to choose an aluminium bifolding door. No other bifolding door material provides the broad range of aesthetics available.  PVCu bifolding doors generally come with a sculptured or ovolo profile. Aluminium does too but also comes in a variety of sight lines as well.

So when choosing between PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors, it is important you consider the sight lines. Aluminium bifolds will always give you a more extensive choice. Our comprehensive table of most brands of bifolding doors on the market explains the sight lines you can expect to get.

For PVCu bifolding doors you can expect sightlines well above those for aluminium.  For example, the Liniar bifolding door has meeting doors at 174mm. Eurocell and Rehau doors are also very similar.

Aesthetics also play a part in how big you can have your bifolding doors.  Aluminium has greater flexibility on the overall width of bifolding doors.  Several aluminium bifolds achieve door leaf sizes of up to 1350mm by 3000mm high.

With many PVCu bifold doors, you will find the overall sizes reduced. Liniar bifolding doors go up to 800x2150mm outer frame maximum width 4 metres aperture. Rehau bifolding doors are typically 900×2300 with a maximum aperture size of just 4 metres.  You may also find further restrictions apply to PVCu bifolding doors with a foiled woodgrain or other colour as well.

Aesthetic differences comparing PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors. 

Feature<

Aluminium

PVCu

Door Sight Lines

From 48mm to 160mm

Rarely slimmer than 160mm

Door Panel Sizes

Up to 1350mm wide and 3000mm high

Most systems from just 800mm up to 2300mm high

Profile Design

Choice of flat or profiled sections

Flat sections rarely available.

Hardware

Discreet door hinges and hardware

Bulkier hinges and door hardware often needed

Overall door aperture

Typically up to 6 metres or more

Many systems restricted to 4 metres wide

Open corner bifold door sets

Widely available

Not available

Steel-look bifold door

Available

Not Available

Colour choices when comparing PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors.

With both aluminium and PVCu bifolding doors colour choices are extensive.  With aluminium bifolding doors you get a much bigger choice of colours from several powder manufacturers. You may come across the RAL colour chart as the most popular range of shades for aluminium.  There are also Syntha Pulvin, BS Colours, NCS and others colour ranges. Add to these, metallic finishes, dual colours, textured paint finishes and even matching to specific colours such as Farrow and Ball.   

Therefore when it comes to colour choices, the polyester powder coating found in aluminium bifolds is hard to beat.

It is easy to think that PVCu bifolds only come in white or woodgrain. The current range of foils, textures and woodgrain finishes is far more varied than any aluminium offering.  So if you are looking for doors to match your PVCu windows, you may find there is far more choice with PVCu than aluminium.  There is more choice in wood-effect types with PVCu bifolding doors as well.

Both PVCu and aluminium colour choices and methods of colouring should provide you with an extended guarantee.  However, when it comes to bifold doors for swimming pools, coastal or exposed environments, aluminium is recommended over PVCu every time.  Because powder coating comes with a guarantee to suit these severe exposure applications, you get a product as a result.  

Feature

Aluminium

PVCu

Swimming pools and coastal locations.

Aluminium recommended with a dedicated marine warranty

Not recommended

Range of standard colours

The biggest choice with nearly 200 to choose from

Typically 20 standard RAL colours

Colour matching to bespoke colours.

Available at a cost/special order.

Generally not available

Colour matching door hardware

Available with most aluminium systems

Limited availability

Woodgrain colours

Few systems offer wood-effect and lengthy lead times.

Renolit foils offer greater choice and shorter lead times

Metallic and dual colours

Widely available

Not available

Door security for  PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors

Much is made around the strength of aluminium as a material compared to PVCu, and this is true.  Aluminium does offer greater strength to a bifold door, more structural integrity and more rigidity.

For bifolding door security, systems companies will submit their products for independent testing.  Current standards include:

  • PAS24
  • Secured By Design
  • Document Q for new build properties

The message around bifolding door security is simple.  The testing carried out to certify the security of a door set is the same, irrespective of material.  Therefore regardless of the stronger aluminium material, if a PVCu door passes the same test, the certification is the same as is the method of attack.

 

Aluminium

PVCu

Tested to PAS24

Yes

Yes

Tested to Secured by Design

Yes

Yes

Tested to Document Q

Yes

Yes

Therefore security of your bifolding doors should necessarily be a deciding factor when choosing between aluminium or PVCu.

Both aluminium and PVCu bifolding doors come with multi-point security locks from established lock manufacturers. Some products offer enhanced security through better door cylinders, patented locking systems even laminated glass.

Even timber doors have multi-point locking systems and quality components. The solid sections of timber doors also make them these doors very secure. 

slimmest bifolding doors available to buy

Thermal performance considerations for PVCu and aluminium bifold doors

You can expect comparable thermal performance figures quoted with both PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors.  Bear in mind these are simulated figures that depend upon the door configuration, the glass specification and other factors.

When it comes to U-Values, both PVCu and aluminium bifolds meet the current requirements of the Building Regulations. That is 1.8Wm2K. Here is how some doors compare. U-Values will vary depending on the glass specification such as triple glazing.  

Aluminium

U-Value wm2K

PVCu

U-Value wm2K

Origin Bifolding Door

1.6

Liniar Bifolding Door

A+ WER

Visofold 1000 Bifolding Door

1.7

Rehau Bifolding Door

1.8

Warmcore Alufold Door

1.4

Eurocell Bifolding Door

1.4

Schuco Bifolding Door

1.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

PVCu and aluminium bifolding door maintenance.  

Both aluminium and PVCu are low maintenance materials.  Again there can be misinformation around both PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors in that they are somehow a ‘fit and forget’ product.  The reality is they are not.  

To get the best out of your bifolding doors, regardless of material, routine cleaning of the frames is good practice.  A leading bifolding door website says “only need cleaning once a year” for their aluminium bifolding doors.  Once a year cleaning of a powder-coated surface we consider to be terrible advice.  Aluminium needs more regular cleaning and especially if your bifolding doors are in an exposed environment such a city centre, the seaside or a swimming pool. 

Clean your exposed aluminium bifold doors just once a year and you are likely to be declined in the event of any warranty claim on the powder coated finish.  The reason will be you didn’t clean it often enough. It is the powder coaters and powder manufacturers that stipulate cleaning schedules to honour their paint finishes, not the bifolding door manufacturers.

Next time you are in a twenty or thirty-year-old shopping centre or supermarket take a look at the aluminium screens and doors. Some will have faded from many years exposed to direct sunlight.  While arguably out of the powder coating warranty, we disagree with websites stating that powder coating does not discolour or is resistant to fading.   Again this is a false statement. 

When comparing PVCu and aluminium for bifolding doors, both materials require routine cleaning.  Routine cleaning keeps the powder coating in the best condition, prolonging its life and quality of colour.  The same goes for PVCu to ensure it resists fading and contamination for longer.

Again we encourage you to look at timber bifolding doors as an alternative if you like this product.  You will read a lot of information around how high maintenance timber doors are and that they will require repainting often. Here are some facts around paint finishes for fairness and balance.

Timber doors also benefit from painting technology and innovation. Expect to find with most products advanced micro-porous coatings applied in factory environments. Multiple coats of paints or stains provide excellent protection to timber with very low maintenance.

You will read that timber doors need painting and repair should the paint surface get damaged.  The same applies to powder coated finishes on aluminium.  Leave paint damage unattended to on aluminium and the metal will start to corrode over time.

Finally, it is quite likely your bifolding doors, in any material, will at some point require adjustment.  The likelihood of this depends on how much you use them and general wear and tear. 

How much do PVCu and aluminium bifolding doors cost?

How much your bifolding door will cost, whether PVCu or aluminium depends on many factors. These include:

  • Whether your supplier buys in or manufactures.
  • The brand you are buying.
  • The profit margins applied to material costs and labour charges.
  • The colour of your doors.
  • Any bifolding door extras and accessories.
  • Regional price variations.

Aluminium bifolding doors are going to be more expensive than PVCu doors for many valid reasons not just the material market price.  Aluminium bifolds have a more complicated supply chain in painting, manufacturing, and are more costly to fit as well.

How typical sized bifolding doors compare in price.

Based on white powder coated or standard white PVCu doors with standard glazing, supplied and installed.

Aluminium

approximate £

PVCu

approximate £

2-panel up to 1800mm

2500

1600

3-panel up to 2700mm

3400

2800

4-panel up to 3600mm

4500

3500

5-panel up to 4500mm

5600

Limited by size

6-panel up to 5400mm

6100

Limited by size

Many homeowners have a smaller budget when renovating their homes with price the primary consideration.  As a result, PVCu doors are ideal if a property is refurbished to sell on, for rental properties or developers.   

Timber doors will be more expensive than aluminium as these too have a largely hand-made construction and different processes.  

frameless bifolding doors by fgc

Summary

Historically, PVCu bifolding doors have not enjoyed a good reputation with installers.  Many PVCu window and residential door installers are happy to provide quality plastic doors and windows but prefer aluminium for bifolding doors.

PVCu bifolds were historically challenging to fit, prone to expansion, thick, clunky and unreliable.  Most of the early issues with PVCu bifold doors have been mainly engineered out with the latest products on the market.  However, those that are out of touch with current generation PVCu doors will try to dissuade you from the product.  We say talk to the right people and make an informed decision based on facts not prior lousy experience.

Choose one of the better brands of PVCu bifolding doors such as Rehau,  Veka, Eurocell or Liniar.  As long as they are well made and correctly installed, there is no reason why they would be unfit for purpose.

Where more thought goes into a bifolding door purchase, aluminium justifies its higher price.  You get varied and significantly better aesthetics. You also benefit from doors to fit bigger door apertures, larger door panels and overall a substantially slimmer appearance.

Therefore, as good as PVCu doors are today, aluminium bifolds provide an altogether different proposition.

Aluminium Advantage

PVCu Advantage

Ideal for high traffic and exposed environments

Cost effective where a good, basic bifold is required

Bigger range of products available.

Choice of woodgrains bigger than aluminium

Door panels up to 1.35x3m high

As secure as aluminium doors when certified and tested.

Substantially slimmer profiles and bigger glass

The better choice for investment property

Colour matched hardware and bigger choice of door furniture

Can be more thermally efficient

Matching Single or French Doors available

Better replicates the aesthetics of PVCu windows

Longer term still the more reliable product

 

Substantially bigger choice of colours and colour options

 

Aesthetically the better looking, more premium product.

 

Less thermal expansion means tighter tolerances and better sealing.

 

We have made references to timber products throughout this article to provide another product to consider.  If budget is not restricting you, there is no reason not to compare timber bifolds with aluminium. However, for this article, we predominantly focus on comparing PVCu with aluminium bifolding doors.

Contact us for further information, to answer any questions and to put you in touch with local providers of aluminium bifolding doors.