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Bi fold door advice  >  Materials  >  Making the case for aluminium bifold doors

Making the case for aluminium bifold doors: the ‘miracle’ metal complete guide

aluminium bifold

On behalf of Vufold and its customers - thank you Hans-Christian Oersted!

aluminium

The Miracle Metal

Image Credit / Source:

Wikipedia - Aluminium

care of Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

The man that first extracted the metal Bauxite (Aluminium) from the earth’s crust can never have imagined he was unearthing for the very first time what would go on to be called the ‘miracle metal’.

Aluminium is a metal that has incredible attributes including being lightweight yet strong, non-toxic, corrosion proof, heat and moisture resistant, durable, low maintenance and now – cheap. It is also highly recyclable – incredibly, 75% of all aluminium ever produced is still in circulation today.

What’s more, Aluminium doesn’t deteriorate – it is a metal that can go on for well……ever!

If you add to this fact the inherent benefits aluminium has brought to the world of production in terms of weight savings in areas such as car production, reducing building AC costs and more recently being used to make batteries for electric cars – you can see why aluminium has been dubbed the ‘miracle metal’.

In fact the carbon footprint of aluminium production has not only dropped by 37% since 1995, but as long ago as 2009, had covered 90% of its own carbon footprint via fuel efficiency savings in the car industry alone.

And it also looks incredible in door and window frames around the home.

Homeowners are assured then that by using aluminium frames, they are using not only a sustainable material, but one that simply looks beautiful – and when compared to alternatives on offer, specifically UPVC, there is no doubt that your patio area, garden and living spaces will simply come alive when fitted with aluminium bifolds.

In this guide we:

  1. Explore why aluminium bifold doors have become a more affordable option for homeowners.
  2. Learn more about the metal itself and why it’s a great option for Bifold doors.
  3. Compare key customer considerations against other frame options UPVC and Hardwood.
  4. Look into standard sizes & configurations – we walk you through the most popular options available to homeowners.
  5. Discuss colour options (RAL), powder coating and our security standards.

Aluminium Frames – The Benefits

Cost

In the past decade, the cost of aluminium bifold doors has reduced significantly. What was once considered only by the affluent, can now be afforded by many. In this section we look at factors that have helped Aluminum become the gold standard in external windows and doors.

Did You Know? In its raw state of Bauxite, Aluminium is the most abundant metal on earth. In fact 8% of the earth’s crust is made of Bauxite, making aluminium a widely available and sustainable natural resource.

According to the London Metal Exchange, the cost of aluminium per tonne has rapidly reduced – from a high of US$3,000 in 2009 down to under US$2,000 in 2019. This cost also helps reduce the cost of recycled aluminium.

Expert Quote:

“Even though prices have dropped considerably in the last decade, it was still cheaper pre 2009 to buy Aluminium than it is now, however demand has increased in that time as Aluminium is used in a lot more industries now, particularly Automotive.”

Rick Collins, Director, Vufold

As Rick states above, increased demand of course helps reduce costs - in the past 10 years you can see an explosion in the interest amongst home owners thinking of purchasing aluminium bi-fold doors:

google trend

Source: Google Trends Data. United Kingdom only.

Expert Quote:

As the graph shows, demand for Aluminium bifolds has shot up in the last decade. The biggest reduction to consumers in Aluminium doors and window prices is mainly down to increased competition between suppliers. Aluminum has gone from a small amount of specialist suppliers to become almost a commodity product like uPVC.”

Rick Collins, Director, Vufold

In terms of upfront cost, UPVC is by far the cheapest material on the market, but for many, UPVC has become an unwanted environmental issue given it is highly toxic, intensive to manufacture and more difficult to recycle.

The world’s eyes are open to the impact of plastics and in truth the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ also applies. In comparison to Oak and Aluminium, they simply look cheaper and are also prone to warping when exposed to heat.

Table: Comparison of materials cost for a standard Status / Master range Bifold Door in Anthracite Grey available to buy from Vufold:

 

Aluminium Anthracite Grey

Hardwood Anthracite Grey

*UPVC Plain White

*UPVC Anthracite Grey

1.8 Metres

£1849

(2 door)

£1599

(3 door)

*£1249

(3 door)

*£1749

(3 door)

2.4 Metres

£2649

(3 door)

£1879

(3 door)

*£1499

(3 door)

*£1999

(3 door)

3.0 Metres

£2749

(3 door)

£2419

(4 door)

*£1749

(4 door)

*£2249

(4 door)

3.6 Metres

£3449

(4 door)

£2879

(5 door)

*£1999

(4 door)

*£2499

(4 door)

* Source: Flying Doors. Vufold do not sell UPVC bifold doors.

Expert Quote:

Most people accept that uPVC will be cheaper initially but bear in mind that uPVC costs can jump up should you want anything other than white. You may end up with a better colour and finish therefore, but you remain stuck with the drawbacks of the material generally.”

Rick Collins, Director, Vufold

Did you know:

The extended life span of Aluminium bi fold doors can also help boost your property value. Experts estimate this to be in the region of 5-10%. Any initial cost difference therefore against UPVC is likely to be returned via your homes valuation.

Strength = More Glass

Aluminium is light and strong – and although much heavier than for example Oak in its raw form, its inherent alloy strength means that it can be supplied in a lightweight frame. This means easy handling at installation and most importantly more glass and more light for you to enjoy.

Comparing our 2.7M Status (Aluminum) and 2.7M Master (Hardwood) Bifold Doors:

Table: Comparison of frame depths and sight lines for a standard 2.7M Bifold Door available to buy from Vufold:

 

2.7m Aluminum Status

2.7m Hardwood Master

* 2.7m UPVC

Overall Weight

115kg

159kg

120kg

Door Depth

75mm

54mm

70mm

Glass Width/door

732mm

724 mm

719mm

Sightlines

123mm

140mm

145mm

* Source: Flying Doors. Vufold do not sell UPVC bifold doors.

As can be seen, Aluminium frames can be slimmer than their Wood and UPVC counterparts and as a result, sightlines are reduced.

And who doesn’t want more glass!

bifold door

Image: Vufold 4.8mtr Bifold Door with low profile sightlines and frames.

Guarantee & Life Span

Aluminium (being the miracle metal it is) doesn’t corrode and therefore Vufold is able to offer longer product guarantees than we can on our Oak / Hardwood doors - as long as the doors are not situated close to the sea (see product specification sheets for details) you can enjoy 15 years peace of mind.

With typical 2.7 metre door costs starting from £2,750, an extra 50% product guarantee is not something to be taken lightly, if you excuse the pun.

Table: Comparison of guarantees and expected life spans of bifold doors. Status v Master

 

Aluminium

Hardwood

UPVC

Typical Guarantee

15 years

10 years

10 years

Expected product life span

45 years

20-30 years

20-30 years

* Source: Flying Doors. Vufold do not sell UPVC bifold doors.

Expert Quote:

“It very much depends on maintenance done on the products and your location. Hardwood bifolds, if properly maintained can last for just as long as Aluminium but most people however do not want to put that amount of effort in. Aluminum just needs less up keep, as does upvc.”

Rick Collins, Director, Vufold

Maintenance & Cleaning

Oak or Hardwood is beautiful, it’s also highly resistant to moisture and you can have it in a range of stunning colours - but the onus is on you to maintain its looks.

Although uPVC and Aluminium can also have issues with weathering, the main advantage of both is a reduction in overall maintenance. The below table gives a run down on some of the main things to think about when buying your doors.

Table: Comparison of day to day maintenance requirements between Aluminium, Oak and UPVC.

 

Aluminium

*Oak/Hardwood/Timber

UPVC

Sealing / finishing

Not required. Powder coated finish has 15 year guarantee.

Finished:

Every 2 – 5 years

Unfinished: Before installation then every 2 – 5 years

Not required.

Cleaning

Yes – we recommend a sponge and warm soapy water

Yes – we recommend a sponge and warm soapy water. Vufold  wood care milk should be applied every 3 months

Yes – we recommend a sponge and warm soapy water

Jet Washable

NO

NO

NO

Scratches & Abrasions

Requires scratch repair pen or professional re finishing.

Requires re sealing / finishing. Easily done DIY.

Requires a scratch repair pen or professional re finishing.

Thermal Efficiency (U-Values)

Here is one area that Oak and Hardwood beats Aluminium – thermal efficiency. All our doors exceed the UK regulations of 1.8 W/m2K but there is no getting away from it – Oak and Hardwood comes out on top in the thermal efficiency stakes.

U-Value thermal efficiency is measurement of how much heat is lost through a specific material. This is measured as a U-Value, with lower numbers demonstrating superior thermal insulation.

Here is a basic comparison across our ranges:

Table: Comparison of U-Values across the Supreme & Status bifold door ranges.

Aluminium Range

U-Values

Supreme

1.7 W/m2K

Status

1.7 W/m2K

Table: Comparison of U-Values across the Elite & Master door ranges

Oak / Hardwood Range

Oak / Hardwood U-Values

Elite

1.5 W/m2K

Master

1.5 W/m2K

As can be seen, Oak and Hardwood have the edge over Aluminium meaning that they will retain more heat and less cold. However in real terms, the difference between the two is minimal and is unlikely to be felt in the home.

If thermal efficiency is your main driver however – then take a look at our composite bifolds. These mix the best of both Oak and aluminium and have an incredible U Value of 1.0 W/m2K - making them the most thermally efficient doors in our range and some of the most thermally efficient in the UK.

Warping, Sticking & Cold

Are Aluminium Bifolds Cold?

One of the common concerns of aluminum is that since it’s a great conductor of heat, then it will also do the same in reverse - and bring in the cold. In fact all aluminium bi-folds are fitted with a polyamide thermal break between the aluminium sections – this means that the cold is kept out and the heat is kept in. It also means that the doors are not cold to the touch.

Will my doors warp or stick?

Aluminium reflects a huge amount of light and heat and is moisture resistant making it a bombproof option for those homeowners worried about the impact of heat in term of warping or concerns over the doors becoming sticky during hot weather.

UPVC on the other hand expands 2.5 times more than aluminium meaning that at certain times of the year, UPVC doors can temporarily possibly stick. And whilst we all want our doors open during the summer, being able to shut them again at the end of the day is preferable. UPVC can become an annoyance therefore with force sometimes needed to close them during hot weather periods.

Hardwoods such as Oak have similar thermal expansion issues to uPVC. Again this is temporary and limited to extremely hot conditions.

What about drafts?

Bifold doors are built to BS6375 standards meaning that they will be clear of annoying drafts that flutter the blinds or let cold air into your home. Drafts however remain a complaint on forums and the most likely cause of them is damaged seals or poor maintenance.

Expert Quote:

“A professionally installed set of quality bifold doors will not suffer any issues with drafts. The most common cause of drafts comes from seals pulling out or poor maintenance over time. If your initial installation was botched, then this could also be a cause.”

Rick Collins, Director, Vufold

Environmental Friendliness

Unlike UPVC, aluminium can be recycled, and this makes for a really environmentally-friendly material. Once recycled, incredibly, the material results in an equally quality aluminium product, and the entire process utilises only about 5% of the energy used to create the initial metal.

Even though there are other metals that can be recycled, not many can retain their structural integrity the way aluminium does.

Aluminium recycling prevents up to 90 million tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere every year.

Sizes, Configurations & Prices

Opening Style

If you’ve looked up the different configurations of bifold doors, you’ve probably come across numbers like 5-4-1 and wondered what they represent. Well, these refer to the number of panels that can open to the left or right.

The first number (5) represents the total number of panels in the bifold door. The second number (4) indicates how many panels open to the left while the last figure (1) shows how many panels open to the right.

Whilst this may seem obvious, it’s worth checking against the layout of your home. If for example, you have steps, drops or garden furniture close to your new bifolds, the configuration could impact the use of your doors.

Door Configurations

Bifold doors are configured in pairs. Most come with between 2 and 6 door panels. A pair, which consists of 2 door panels, is the smallest number of panels that can be fitted into a living space.

But for efficiency, we recommend adding at least 3 panels so that there’s one panel serving as a traffic door. The traffic door opens independently, either inwards or outwards. Keeping in mind that a standard panel IN ALUMINIUM has a width of 800 mm to 1300 mm, here are the configurations available for each size:

Aluminium:

Aperture Size

Panels/Doors

Up to 2 metres

2

2 to 3.6 metres

3 or 4

3.7 to 5 metres

4 or 5

5.1 to 6 metres

5 or 6

Wood and upvc are from 570mm to 1000mm so door configuration sizes are below.

Wood/UPVC:

Aperture Size

Panels/Doors

Up to 2 metres

3

2 to 3.6 metres

3, 4 and 5

3.7 to 5 metres

5 or 6

5.1 to 6 metres

Not available

Essentially you can have your doors configured in any of the above standard sizes.

Useful to know….

As can be seen from the above, Aluminium bifolds can have less doors for a given width than hardwood or upvc. This therefore means less sight lines and more glass.

 ‘While fewer doors over a given width will provide more light, individual door widths over 1100 mm should be carefully considered. The doors can be very heavy to operate and also protrude substantially into the outside space which can in some cases cause obstructions’ Rick Collins Vufold

Door Prices – Supply Only

Aluminium - Status Range

Our Status bifold door range is designed with narrow sightlines, while maintaining durability with maximum security.

  • Colours - grey, white, black or grey/white.
  • Thermally broken aluminium - superior energy efficiency.
  • Easy install - doors come ready glazed, with drill bits and fixings.
  • Glazing - double or triple.
  • Cill options - standard or projecting.

Table: Comparison of prices across the Status bifold door ranges.

Size

Guide Price

Express 3 day Delivery available?

Status 2.1m External

£2,549

yes

Status 2.4m External

£2,649

yes

Status 2.7m External

£2,699

yes

Status 3m External (most popular)

£2,749

yes

Status 3.6m External

£3,449

yes

Status 4m External

£3,549

yes

Status 4.2m External

£4,259

no

Status 4.8m External

£4,399

no

Status 5m External

£4,499

no

Status 6m External

£5,699

no

The above prices inc VAT, are for delivery only, subject to change and exclude installation. This cost is additional and should be arranged locally. Vufold do not provide an installation service on standard doors but provide a wealth of installation support on our website.

Aluminium - Supreme Range

The Supreme range is our stunning top of the range aluminium external bi-fold doors. They feature a unique bottom roller system that is self-cleaning, fully adjustable and effortless to operate.

  • 15 year guarantee.
  • Self-cleaning track - impossible to block the track.
  • Easy install - doors come ready glazed, with drill bits and fixings.
  • Self adjustment - no need for a specialist fitter.
  • Interlocking doors and frame - complete weather protection.
  • Thermally broken - superior energy efficiency.

Table: Comparison of prices across the Supreme bifold door ranges.

Size

Guide Price

Express 3 day Delivery available?

Supreme 2.1m External

£3,289

no

Supreme  2.4m External

£3,329

no

Supreme  2.7m External

£3,389

no

Supreme  3m External (most popular)

£3,439

no

Supreme  3.6m External

£3,699

no

Supreme  4m External

£4,499

no

Supreme  4.2m External

£5,229

no

Supreme  4.8m External

£5,329

no

Supreme  5m External

£5,329

no

Supreme  6m External

£6,489

no

The above prices inc VAT, are for delivery only, subject to change and exclude installation.

Door Prices – Installation Costs

This cost is additional and should be arranged locally. Vufold do not provide an installation service on standard doors but provide a wealth of installation support on our website.

Vufold only offers Installation on bespoke products:

3 door Bifold fitting inc survey from £635.00 dependent on location

5 door Bifold fitting inc survey from £725.00 dependent on location

Good to know…

To enlist the services of an installation professional, this will cost in the region of £300 - 500 if you’re getting a small to medium size set of bifold doors installed. For a larger door of about 4.7m+, you’ll incur at least £700.

Finish & Security

Powder Coating

One of the most enjoyed features of an aluminium bifold door is its beautiful colour and finish, achieved through a powder coating process. Some of the benefits opting for powder coated doors include:

  • Powder coated surfaces are deemed more resistant to damage that can occur both naturally via the elements or from accidental damage that may show scuffs and scratches on other finish types.
  • Powder coating colours stay vibrant for longer and generally will avoid the weathered look for longer.
  • Powder coatings contain no solvents and thus are generally better for the environment than liquid finishes applied to UPVC doors.

Prime Billets

Billet aluminium refers to aluminium in a semi-finished solid form. Made in a square or circular pattern, this material attains its shape through either continuous casting or hot rolling.

Vufold generally uses prime billets in its frames and although some suppliers suggest recycled aluminium can sometimes impact the powder coated finish, we have no specific evidence to support that claim.

‘From my experience the quality of powder coating is completely unaffected by the use of recycled aluminium vs prime billets. Powder coating is a complicated process and ensuring the aluminium is correctly prepared before the powder is applied can have a much greater impact on the quality of the final finish’ Rick Collins, Director

Glazing

glazing

Image: Vufold triple track slider

Double and triple glazing on an aluminium bifold door are both vital as they offer thermal and acoustic insulation. The only difference is that a triple-glazed bifold offers greater insulation and acoustic.

The price of triple-glazed doors will add in the region of £100 per door to your order. Triple glazing is available on both our Status and Supreme ranges.

Handles & Hinges

Vufold offer a range of handle options within its Status & Supreme ranges:

Status Handles:

Black Handles & Hardware

black handle black hardware

White Handles with Black Hardware

white handle white hardware

Satin Nickle Handles & Hardware

satin handle satin hardware

Safety & Security

Here is a quick run-down of the safety and security featured deployed by Vufold to give its customers maximum peace of mind:

  • Our aluminium bifold doors all come with toughened glass that meets European glass safety compliance standards BSEN12150 and BSEN12600.
  • Our doors have multi-point central locking systems that meet PAS24:2012 requirements.
  • Our door security meets Document Q for new builds and change of usage (requires special order).
  • Vufold doors meet the forthcoming EN14351-1 2006 security standard.

Tracks & Operation

track

Regardless of which frame material you choose, Vufold will supply a beautifully constructed door glide system using precision engineered components. Our doors are smooth and require an almost effortless touch to open and close.

Cill or No Cill – That is the question…

track

As with most suppliers, Vufold offers its customers two main options when it comes to cill specifications. Either the bottom track can be flush to the brickwork with a drainage path or supplied with a cill providing a second drainage escape for water:

diagram

Image depicting the options open to homeowners in terms of the Status range cill operation.

No Cills

A flush bottom track will create more of a seamless connection between the exterior and interior of your home and is a better option when considering trip hazards and general access.

With Cills

The main advantage of this approach is improved drainage as water is moved naturally away from the doors and brickwork. It does however create a step and this can be problematic for some members of the family. If you wish to go with this option, then an additional charge from £60 will apply to your order depending on size.

Colours

Finally the fun bit – choosing the colour. Depending on the supplier, you’ll be able to choose from either the RAL or B.S. chart. The standard colours offered by Vufold are as follows:

  • Hippca White (RAL 9910)
  • Anthracite Grey (RAL 7016)
  • Jet Black (RAL 9005)
  • Dual Colour Anthracite Grey/White (RAL 7016/9910).
diagram

Jet Black (RAL 9005)

bifold door

Our newest colour. Black provides a contemporary and trendy addition to your home. It also blends nicely with different colour schemes and is well suited to modern kitchen and living spaces or for those looking to make a strong statement. It has become a popular choice for young home owners and those living in and around major cities.

Anthracite Grey (RAL 7016)

bifold door

Grey is, without a doubt, one of the most popular colours for aluminium bifold doors and is by far our most popular colour option. The fact that it’s a neutral colour means it can match with almost anything and adds a touch of class to any living area. The colour works perfectly with most, if not all contemporary living spaces and blends well into your home if you are not intending to make a statement with your colour choices.

Hippca White (RAL 9910)

bifold door

If you’re looking to add a bit of lightness to a space or to make it feel bigger, a white aluminium bifold door is your best bet. This colour brightens up a room while still leaving enough room for important furnishings to shine.  The only drawback of a white bifold is that it collects dirt more easily, which can make cleaning and maintenance more of a regular activity. But look at these doors – is that really much of a problem?

Dual Colour Anthracite Grey/White (RAL 7016/9910)

bifold door

Why not get the best of both worlds with our dual colour option? Create the perception of increased space on the inside and get the contemporary look on the outside. What’s more, you can keep the maintenance down as the doors will need less cleaning.

Perfect!

Not keen on these colours?

colours

If you would like something not in our standard range, we can provide many other choices although additional charges may apply. Take a look at the options available on the RAL colour chart.

We can pretty much accommodate most requests so give us a call or send an email to discuss your design ideas in more detail.

Purpose of the Space

If you’re looking to use the room where the bifold door will be installed as a place to relax, then neutral tones are a great choice. Similarly, bold colours like jet black work really well in a sleek and modern space where you may think of entertaining or throwing expansive dinner parties.

Final Verdict

So let’s recap on the main benefits of aluminium bifolds:

  • You are installing a sustainable material that is responsibly contributing to its own carbon footprint globally and reducing our growing environmental concerns over the use of plastics in society.
  • Aluminium is a safe bet when it comes to the elements and is less likely to warp or stick in hot weather than UPVC or hardwood.
  • It is strong, reflects heat and light and is impervious to moisture. It is essentially a perfect material for external weather facing frames.
  • It will not need consistent maintenance and comes with a guarantee 50% longer than even our best pre factory finished oak and hardwood doors.
  • Critically you can expect to see more of your garden and less of your frames by choosing aluminium.
  • It is powder coated to form a stunning and vibrant addition to your home. There is very little that UPVC has to offer which can compete with aluminium in terms of finish and presentation.

Lifetime costs of ownership are comparable with Oak, Hardwood and UPVC given the expected life span achievable of the material.

Sources and helpful further reading:

Aluminium Use - Aluminium.org

Aluminium Life Cycle - Hydro/

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