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What Types of External Bi-Fold Door Are There?

Bi-fold doors are a great, handy space-saver that look great, fit well in most homes, and are ideal for letting in lots of natural light and allowing you to enjoy a view of your front lawn or garden. There are a lot of different styles and design of bi-fold door to choose from. Here’s a quick look at some of the most common, and when you might want to choose them.

Panel Styles

Bi-fold doors fold onto themselves or slide to open and shut. This means that they take up far less space than standard doors compared to the size of the opening that they serve. They are designed for door openings that are quite large – usually starting at around 1800mm and going up to as wide as 6000mm. In general, the bigger the opening, the more panels you need.

Bi-fold doors have a minimum of two panels (although two panel designs are relatively rare), they have three, four, five or six. If you opt for a two panel door, then this will have one panel on each side, which will fold onto themselves.  With three panel doors, again, there will be three panels linked together, which will open to one side.

Four door set ups usually have one panel on one side and three on the other. Five door configurations often have five panels all linked together.  With six door configurations you have a choice of 5+1 panels, or 3+3 panels.

Think carefully about those options, and how they might suit your home.  If you’ll be putting things in front of the doors, you might prefer 3+3 so you can open either side, for example.



Bi-fold doors are usually double glazed glass with a frame that is made out of either uPVC (although this has fallen out of favour as people look to more ‘natural’ options for their home renovations), pine, softwood, hardwood, engineered timber, oak, or a wood and aluminium construction. Each of these options has its own benefits and downsides.

Solid wood doors look great, and they do carry with them a certain aspirational desirability, but they’re actually not that hardwearing, and they are quite expensive – which isn’t always a great combination. Engineered wood is more  hardwearing, and costs less, while still looking just as good as their solid wood counterparts, so in terms of price, durability and aesthetics they can be a good choice.

Wood veneers are similar to engeineered wood, but not quite as rugged. They feature a softwood or plywood core with a veneer of hardwood over the top. They are perhaps the most affordable option, but this comes at the cost of longevity.


Energy Efficiency

As you can imagine, if you are installing doors with large glass panels you will need to put some thought into the thermal insulation and energy efficiency of the door. When it comes to new builds, there are regulations that dictate the total energy efficiency of the property. With renovations, UK building standards require that all external doors have a U-value of at most 1.8 w/m2k.  Lower U-values mean that the door is more energy efficient, and better at keeping heat inside your home. 

It’s also a good idea to make sure that the doors are weather proof and secure – a strong seal that keeps out wind and rain is important, and having multiple locking points in the tracks will also be beneficial because it will make it harder for a would-be intruder to break in to the property. Ideally, the doors should be weather treated so that the frames do not easily damage or decay when exposed to the harsh British weather.


Opening Options

Another thing that you should think about is how the door opens – do you want it to slide to the right or to the left, or open from the middle? This may seem like a small consideration, but if the door folds on itself you will need room for the panels to swing. If the door slides, this could affect the layout of the room too.  Try to picture what the entire room will look like when you’re done decorating, so that the door fits the room well, rather than you having to design around the way the door opens.

You can always use floor planning software to help you visualize the layout and work out the logistics of the doors. In fact, it’s a good idea to plan any renovations like this, because it gives you a better idea of scale and size.



For most people, cost will be a fairly important part of their decision making process – unfinished veneered Bi-fold doors could be as much as half the price of solid wood doors with an appealing finish on them, with not that much difference in aesthetics. When you’re setting your budget, think about extra work, and think about things like energy efficiency (if the U-Value is significantly lower on doors that are only slightly more expensive, could it be a good idea to pay extra for the doors and save money on your heating bill over the next few years?

There are a lot of things to think about when you’re shopping for bi-fold doors – and the above are just a few of the most important considerations. If you’re planning on letting someone else fit the doors for you, get them to measure up the opening so you know that you’re getting exactly the right doors. If you’re doing a DIY installation, measure the door yourself – but take three measurements (one at each end, and one in the middle) for both the height and width, and make sure that the door you choose is within a 10-15mm tolerance of the smallest measurement. This will help to avoid stressful and awkward fitting issues, and make sure that the doors fit well, provide good thermal insulation, and are nice and secure too.


Hopefully you've now increased your knowledge in the area of external bi-fold doors, but if you still need to know more you can contact us on 020 3744 0704 and we'll be happy to assist. 

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