Posted on: 28 November 2016Share
Bi-fold doors can be a great addition to any conservatory, providing an excellent combination of visibility, natural light and security. However, any door, bi-fold or not, is only as good as the materials it is made from, and bi-fold doors are available in a wide variety of building materials suited to different purposes. As such, you should take stock of the advantages and disadvantages of each individual material before deciding which is best for your new conservatory door.
This classic choice of door material fits wonderfully well into rustic and traditionally style conservatories, and it is particularly well suited to timber-framed conservatories. However, timber isn't all style and no substance -- as long as your timber is chosen well, it can also provide enormous strength and security, while weathering the worst of what the weather can throw at it during less comfortable seasons. With the right surface treatments and oils, timber bi-fold doors can also be made thoroughly resistant to mould, fungal rot and the attentions of wood-boring insects (such as termites).
However, the type of timber you choose for your doors will make a big difference, and as a rule you should generally avoid the cheaper and more fragile softwoods -- these woods have less structural strength than more valuable hardwoods and can be susceptible to warping and rotting (warping should be avoided at all costs, as the contortions of the wood can swiftly shatter panes of glass). Instead, you might wish to consider opting for pre-treated wood, or wood taken from hardy tropical trees that is naturally resistant to mould, but these woods are generally much more expensive and can be difficult to source.
Bringing the strength and durability of metal to the table without the usual corrosion risks, aluminium can be an excellent material for bi-fold door building. Thoroughly immune to rust, mould and insects, aluminium's strength also allows it to be used in smaller quantities, allowing smaller frames and larger windows in your door for maximum visibility. It is also surprisingly light for a metal, allowing easy door operation even for the elderly and infirm.
Unfortunately all of these advantages come at a price, and aluminium bi-fold doors are likely to be among the most expensive available to you. Aluminium can also look unsightly when contrasted with more traditional building materials and may not be suitable for traditionally styled conservatories -- a number of paints and surface coatings are available that can effectively mask aluminium's metallic nature, but they will require occasional (and expensive) renewal.
uPVC is a form of PVC plastic with added ultraviolet-resistant compounds, allowing it to effectively resist the perishing that PVC can suffer under intense sunlight. As such, it retains all the advantages of plastic bi-fold doors while eliminating a key disadvantage, and uPVC bi-fold doors can be remarkably long-lived if treated well. Corrosion, mould and insect damage are non-issues. Also, uPVC is also a relatively cheap material, and uPVC bi-fold doors can generally be picked up for very reasonable prices.
Unfortunately, uPVC looks just as 'plasticy' as any other form of plastic, and some people may find uPVC doors unsightly (particularly when contrasted against a timber or metal conservatory). To avoid this problem, uPVC is available in a wide variety of colours and designs, including convincing wood-grain effects, but these can fade when the doors start to age. Also, uPVC is also particularly environmentally unfriendly compared to timber and aluminium, so if you are the environmentally-conscious type you may wish to spend extra on doors made from recycled uPVC.