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Bi-fold doors tend to come in three materials—aluminum, vinyl and wood (although it's possible, but not common, to find doors in steel).
This page looks at aluminum—specifically:
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There are a number of things to consider when choosing the material for your bi-fold doors:
By design, bi-fold door frames must be able to support large (and heavy) panes of often toughened, tempered or laminated glass. Aluminum is so strong that the frames need only be slim to provide this support.
And the more glass making up the doors—essentially creating a glass wall—the more expansive the view onto gardens, patios or other outdoor spaces.
The frames must also be durable enough to take the wear and tear that comes with constant use, and withstand any bad weather.
High-quality aluminum bi-fold doors will be hurricane-proof and weatherproof. Look for doors which have passed High Velocity Hurricane Zone testing standards, meaning they can withstand the strongest wind and rain.
Aluminum gets its strength from its chemical composition and how it’s manufactured. It’s mixed with high-strength alloys and additives and processed in a way which inhibits the movement of its atoms. This makes the metal extremely strong.
Powder coating is the process of applying a dry powdered paint then heating it in an oven at extremely high temperatures so it hardens and forms a durable coating.
This tough powder coating ensures doors last for decades, and is available in numerous colors and finishes, meaning you can choose an exact shade for your aluminum bi-folds.
Aluminum bi-fold doors are easy to maintain and need only occasional cleaning. Each of the folding panels has just a frame and a pane of glass, which you should wipe down every now and again to keep them looking their best.
Use light, soapy water (dishwashing liquids or solvent-based cleaning products aren’t recommended) and a non-abrasive cloth to wipe dirt from the doors. Don’t use abrasive cloths (such as scouring pads) as these can scratch the doors.
Use a small brush to loosen any debris from the tracks, and then vacuum this up. Try not to allow debris to build up in the tracks as this will affect how smoothly the doors open and close.
Aluminum bi-fold doors can be powder coated in a wide variety of colors, whether it’s the traditional black or white, a more modern gray or a contemporary bright color.
Many manufacturers use the industry-standard RAL color chart, which has a range of over 150 tones and shades, including different wood-grain finishes.
Origin also uses the Kynar 500® & Hylar 5000® ranges of coatings and finishes.
Some door manufacturers create their own color palettes, mixing shades based on a particular theme. This makes it easier for you to choose colors that complement your décor or provide a bold contrast according to your individual style.
Black is another classic color for bi-fold doors. It matches a wide range of color schemes used for interior décor. You can also choose a very dark gray or deep navy if a jet-black finish will be too strong.
White is neutral, and hugely popular, and can give a room a lightness that gray or black can’t.
Bronze is an extremely attractive color, used to convey strength and longevity and to give a property a feeling of character, luxury and prestige.
Wood-grain colors let you achieve the look of wooden doors but with none of their problems, and all the benefits of aluminum—for example, no maintenance, no expansion in hot weather and no warping.
The finish is applied through a special process.
The best-quality aluminum folding door systems typically incorporate a thermal break—a section of plastic that separates the aluminum frame into two pieces. It acts as a barrier, restricting the flow of heat through the door.
With this thermal break in place, the doors keep your home better insulated and lower your energy bills as a result.
And because of their strength, aluminum bi-fold doors can be fitted with glass options such as double or even triple glazing, whose thickness helps make your home even more thermally efficient.
Aluminum bi-fold doors can be configured so that:
You can also decide whether your folding glass doors open:
And since aluminum is a very flexible material, it can be manufactured in a wide range of sizes and shapes. Suppliers of high-quality bi-fold or folding patio doors usually offer doors made to measure, meaning you specify the exact size you need and they make the doors according to the dimensions you provide.
The number of panels you need will depend on the size of opening you have to fill. There are aluminum bi-fold doors in configurations of single doors, three-panel doors, four-panel doors, all the way up to 10-panel doors. The range is huge.
Aluminum is also ideal for corner bi-folds, where two walls of the home are removed and replaced with doors. Find out more about corner bi-folds on this page.
Although aluminum bi-fold doors are often more expensive than vinyl, they are less costly than wooden bi-fold doors. And because they last much longer than both alternatives, they can be considered better value for money.
It’s possible to buy wooden bi-fold doors that come cladded with a layer of aluminum. The idea is that the cladding gives the doors all of the benefits of both wood and aluminum—good energy efficiency, strength etc.—while protecting the wood from weather damage. They also tend to be slightly cheaper in price than aluminum doors.
However, although wooden doors are said to perform better with aluminum cladding than without, they are still no substitute for bi-fold doors made solely of aluminum.
Most bi-fold doors are high-quality, custom-made products that should always be installed by professionals with the proper knowledge and expertise. However, sometimes things do go wrong.
While there aren’t really any problems associated with aluminum as a material, aluminum bi-fold doors can suffer the same issues as doors in vinyl or wood.