Which Material Is Best for Bi-Fold Doors: Aluminium, uPVC or Timber?

Stylish finish, panoramic views and versatility are a few of the benefits of bi-fold doors. They’re a popular choice for many projects because they’re customisable and durable, bringing a space to life. However, this is only possible with the correct material.

Choosing the perfect material for bi-fold doors is essential and if you don’t choose correctly, you’ll compromise on quality, aesthetics and, in the long run, frustrate your clients. All materials have benefits and drawbacks, and it’s important to know each one so you can make informed decisions for your next project. 

How do you choose the perfect material? What are the pros and cons of each one? Don’t worry, we’ve put a handy guide together with all the information you need.

We’ll cover:

uPVC: Pros and Cons

Easy to clean and lower maintenance than timber, uPVC offers a variety of benefits. However, it equally has just as many drawbacks. Although plastic may be easy to maintain, it does look like a budget alternative, especially when manufactured into bi-folds.

Your clients want the very best, and so do you, so you can’t compromise on quality no matter the size of the build. It’s not a particularly robust material either. The structural appearance and performance of uPVC bi-folds can be flimsy. This isn’t ideal when structural stability and reliability are essential. But let’s have a look at some of the pros and cons of uPVC in more detail.

Pros:

  • Affordable pricing: uPVC has a low upfront cost, so it’s easier to stay within the budget for the short term. 
  • Smaller properties: if panoramic views aren’t a necessity, uPVC is perfect for smaller builds.
  • Thermally efficient: some uPVC bi-fold doors can be more thermally efficient than other materials, but this differs between manufacturers and suppliers.

Cons:

  • Replacements required: although the initial upfront cost is cheaper, uPVC isn’t advised for the long-term. This material will need replacing more frequently, which could hike up the long-term costs.
  • No panoramic views: if you’re wanting panoramic views, uPVC bi-fold doors won’t achieve this. They have a smaller surface area due to their wide sightlines.
  • Loss of structural integrity: uPVC frames are more likely to warp affecting the aesthetic look and feel. This will also impact the thermal efficiency and performance of the bi-fold door.
  • Regular maintenance needed: although some uPVC doors come with a 10-year warranty, they can often look worn after only a few years and will require more upkeep than aluminium frames.
  • Sunlight exposure: uPVC can degrade when exposed to extreme sunlight. Although this isn’t always a concern in the UK, it’s worth bearing in mind. Anything that can affect the quality and longevity of a product is essential to know before purchase.

Different coloured uPVC frames, such as grey and black, are becoming more popular, as they have the appearance of aluminium. However, even in the UK sunlight, these can fade quickly, making them look outdated and worn.

  • Lack of flexibility: uPVC is less flexible in comparison to aluminium bi-folds. This will affect the overall performance of the bi-fold door and will cause limitations in the long term.

Limited customisations: uPVC bi-folds can be the least popular of the three materials because they are available in fewer colours and are typically bulkier in appearance.

Timber: Pros and Cons

Wooden bi-fold doors are the more classic option among the three. They work well for traditional builds. Although there are definitely some positives, the cons outweigh the pros. Wooden bi-fold doors are created with dated manufacturing methods and therefore come with limitations. 

Regular tedious maintenance is required, and timber is more likely to rot, warp, and bow. Whereas modern bi-fold doors can resist these problems if they’re correctly looked after and maintained. To put things into perspective, we’ve listed the main pros and cons below.

Pros:

  • Classic appearance: wooden or timber bi-fold doors are the most classic of all three materials. They offer a versatile appearance – whether they’re finished with a dark stain naturally highlighting the grain of the wood or painted a feature colour.
  • Natural insulator: timber is a great natural insulator whilst also being relatively strong and durable.

Cons:

  • High maintenance: timber will require regular maintenance to ensure optimal performance is guaranteed both aesthetically and operationally. Regular checks every six months are recommended to ensure you notice any deterioration before it becomes a long-term problem. If not maintained, the finish can result in problems such as bowing and splitting.
  • Water leaks: although wood is tough, it is more susceptible to water leaks and contaminants. Over time, this will cause long-term defects – including exterior and interior damage. Again, this will contribute to increased maintenance costs.
  • Loss of structural integrity: timber frames absorb water compared to other modern materials – causing rotting and warping over time. Wood can also become infected with fungus and wood beetles requiring professional treatment – another costly consideration.
  • Higher price point: timber is one of the most expensive frame options you can choose. Although other modern frames are worth the investment and higher, it’s clear that timber has multiple drawbacks.

Aluminium: Pros and Cons

Aluminium bi-fold doors are precision-engineered, and they are designed to stand the test of time. They have slimmer frames and sightlines compared to other dated materials giving a sleek and modern aesthetic. 

Out of all materials, aluminium is the most robust, making it the perfect choice for a bi-fold door – optimal security, performance, and durability. Although aluminium does have some minor drawbacks, the positives will always outweigh the negatives, especially when it comes to longevity and performance. We’ve listed the fantastic benefits below and highlighted some of the negatives too.

aluminium windows

Pros:

  • Optimal security guaranteed: security is essential for any property and offering your clients optimal security is essential. Aluminium bi-fold doors will provide just that and more. This material offers incredible levels of strength, so it’s perfect for bi-folds, offering optimal levels of safety and security from burglaries.
  • Robust: aluminium is known for its robust qualities, allowing it to stand the test of time in all weather. While it’s sleek and modern in aesthetic, style never ever compromises over performance with aluminium bi-fold doors.
  • Long-term investment: although the initial cost of aluminium bi-fold doors is more than uPVC, aluminium is a cheaper long-term investment. Aluminium requires less maintenance and repairs, and it could potentially increase the value of a property. We must add – aluminium bi-folds are guaranteed to last up to 40 years!
  • Environmentally friendly: aluminium is 100% recyclable and, depending on the recycling process, it can retain all of its original properties. So if sustainability is a priority for your client, you can provide aluminium bi-folds as the perfect option or replacement.
  • Precision-engineered: aluminium achieves its strength from its chemical composition during manufacturing. Once manufactured, it can cater to complex layouts, offer exceptional levels of security, sustain aesthetic and operational performance and more.
  • Thermally efficient: aluminium bi-fold doors are thermally efficient profiles. They resist the elements, they are incredibly waterproof and won’t warp, decay or rot over time. They will keep the inside insulated without wear and tear. Aluminium bi-folds are fitted with thermal breaks -lowering the U-value and increasing overall thermal efficiency levels. Because aluminium is so robust, aluminium frames can be fitted with triple-glazing for added warmth.
  • Diverse customisations available: the possibilities are endless! Whether you want different colours, handles, thresholds and more – you can customise aluminium bi-folds with all of the added touches. After all, the small details can make a big difference. 
  • Low maintenance: aluminium bi-fold doors are designed to last, so minimal maintenance is required. They may only need occasional cleaning with light soapy water – make sure to check with your manufacturer for more details. 

Cons:

  • Higher price point: aluminium bi-fold doors have a higher up-front cost compared to other materials. However, there are good reasons for this, as listed above. Price points and budgets are important – so it’s worth noting this down when weighing up the positives and benefits of each material and comparing this to the budget available.

Our Verdict

In conclusion, the choice of bi-fold door your client chooses will be informed by their taste, needs, and priorities. It’s clear that aluminium bi-fold doors offer incredible levels of thermal efficiency, security and durability, whilst not compromising on aesthetics. They’re a clear winner in this comparison.

It’s important to consider both the pros and cons of all materials and compare these against budget, energy-efficient standards – and more. Some materials perform better in certain locations and settings, but if manufactured correctly and accurately, aluminium will present the most impressive long-term performance.

At FrameX, we’re aluminium specialists with quality, functionality and leading innovation at our core. If you’re in the trade, are a builder, architect or property developer, we can help you meet project deadlines efficiently, stay within budget, and exceed expectations.

Now you know the pros and cons of three different materials, you might be left with a few questions. Fear not, we’ve got an expert team always on hand to help answer queries you have. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today!

In the meantime, a few of your bi-fold door queries may be here, so make sure to check out our previous articles for more information and industry insight and expertise.

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