Win-Dor Opens Up New Market

California replacement company finds success with new vinyl bi-fold system

Affluent homeowners, particularly those in coastal areas, are increasingly taking a pass on traditional French doors for flexible solutions that open their indoor living areas to outdoor spaces and make for a better view. While a variety of manufacturers have targeted this high-end segment of the market, it's not typically the realm of replacement window companies.

One that has entered this business, however, is Win-Dor Inc., a manufacturer/installer with a 75,000-square-foot plant in Anaheim, Calif., that serves the Southern California market with showrooms in  Anaheim, Irvine, San Diego, Ontario, Los Alamitos and Redondo Beach. Not too long ago, the company unveiled what is says is the first vinyl bi-fold glass door, which folds easily and smoothly accordion-style.

Upper-end homeowners are swapping out traditional French doors for bi-fold doors, allowing for flexible indoor/outdoor living spaces.

"Bi-folds are among the most innovative and stylish products recently created for homes,” says Gary Templin, co-owner of WinDor.  "They are becoming more and more popular every day for high-end homeowners, and it is actually taking over a good percentage of the French Door, multi-panel door market,” adds Wolf Wirthgen, the company's other co-owner.

Bi-fold doors can add dramatic dimensions to homes, opening up entire rooms to backyard patios and gardens, as well as seascapes and mountain views. “It completely transformed our home,” says Greg Gilliland, a homeowner in Laguna Beach, Calif., and a Win-Dor customer. “It opens up and extends the living space, and brings the outside in—literally. It’s truly magnificent."

The Win-Door owners wanted to unveil bi-folds eight years ago because of “the uniqueness of the product,” Templin says, but the technology for bi-fold doors was not where it is today. As soon as better technology improved and evolved, Win-Dor jumped in and created its bi-fold line.

“We saw the potential for it,” Wirthgen notes. “We saw an opportunity for people to enlarge their living space and it intrigued us. Early on, you had to use interior hardware for an exterior product. Now we have exterior hardware for an exterior product.”

“We have always been one to say, ‘How can we make things better,’ and when we looked at the bi-fold door, it fit the bill," Templin adds. "It also filled a void in our product line.”

Win-Dor’s bi-fold design was developed by making changes to its vinyl French door system. The company designed special tooling to manufacture the system, incorporating a 1 3/8-inch sash, which is smaller than industry standard. The doors are also generally larger than traditional patio systems, reaching heights of 8 feet and widths of 12 feet.

The company offers the bi-fold systems as a retrofit option for existing openings, as well as to builders who want to incorporate them into new construction residences. The doors are usually factory finished, making installation easier for WinDor’s specially-trained crews.

On the retrofit side, the company reports that while bi-folds can be created to fit existing openings, many homeowners are stretching the openings to accommodate larger sizes.

“It’s breathtaking, and people love the openness of it,” Wirthgen says. “Homeowners want to open up certain parts of the house to the backyard so we can have a larger entertainment and living area.”

One WinDor customer replaced sliding doors with bi-folds, the co-owners report, and now the family watches a widescreen TV from the outside alfresco area. Another client in Carlsbad, Calif., installed bi-folds at both ends of an interior swimming pool, they say. “Now it’s both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool,” Templin says. “It’s incredible.”

It’s nothing now to see six bi-folds in a new house in Newport Coast,” Wirthgen says. “And people are going, ‘Holy cow. There’s a lot of room here.’ It literally opens up the entire house.”

Templin adds, “People spend thousands of dollars on their backyard and this allows them to bring the backyard into the house.”  And the cost is decreasing for these types of doors as demand rises. What used to be in the $8,000 to $10,000 price range has slid to $5,000 to $6,000, the company reports. While volume is driving prices down, prices are also decreasing because bi-folds, which used to be entirely custom-made, are now being produced in more standard sizes.

The bi-fold systems are increasingly incorporated in new construction dwellings, but companies like Anaheim, Calif.-based WinDor are allowing homeowners to retrofit their patio openings with bi-fold configurations.

Bi-folds end up being a unique attribute to the home, increasing its value and enabling a conventional living room or den to become a special area because it can open seamlessly to outdoor living spaces.

Homeowner Gilliland wanted bi-folds for years, he says, but there wasn’t a local company able to provide it. With the Win-Dor product, Gilliland now has bi-folds that spill out to a huge outdoor deck where he barbeques and entertains. The deck is the length of the entire house and it features a view of the Pacific Ocean. “It changed our home completely,” he says. “When family, friends and company come over, they all go, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’”

"Bi-folds are a great enhancement to an existing home,” Templin concludes. "These days, “doors are about style and flexibility,” Wirthgen says. “And that’s what bi-folds are all about."  Both see significant continued growth potential for the company's new line. 

That view is shared by at least one of its customers. Prior to installing bi-folds, Gilliland had sliding French doors. “I can see most people with ocean views or beautiful landscaped backyards tearing out their French Doors and installing bi-folds,” he says. “What it does for a home is out of this world.”