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Bifold Doors: How Do They Compare To Other Door Types?

OK, so you're almost 100% sure you want to install some bifold doors in your home? Before we congratulate you on your marvelous decision, you might want to consider the alternatives before you take the plunge, because, as aesthetically pleasing, space-saving and interesting as bifold doors can be, they might not be to all tastes, or suit all situations/budgets. Here, besides offering a few options and scenarios to mull over, we'll also be discussing the benefits and drawbacks of certain bifold door types, which will hopefully help you make up your mind.

Bi-fold doors versus french doors

French doors are classic. Even the name itself speaks to sophistication and beauty. However, they might not work in every situation, and they can certainly have their drawbacks, especially when compared to the more flexible and secure option of a bifold door setup. The primary differences between the two are quite easy to spot, even if you're not looking particularly hard. For starters, bifold doors feature multiple panels, which concertina back to open up an aperture fully, without any obstruction, for this reason, they are often installed either externally leading out to a garden or patio, or internally covering a wardrobe or pantry, where space is at a premium. French doors, meanwhile, generally comprise two, separate doors which open outwards, and will often be found in older houses leading out to patios or conservatories. For this reason, they are often also referred to as “patio doors”, although this term can encapsulate other door types too. Regarding which doors will better suit your situation, you must first understand what a set of bifold doors could do for your home, especially externally. For example, installing a set of bifold doors leading our from your kitchen (for example) to your garden will bring a lot more light into the home, and will provide a much clearer and more attractive view of your outdoor space. This could add some significant value to your property (if you're looking to sell), but will also make your time spent in the kitchen feel less of a chore because sometimes, a good view makes all the difference!

In contrast, the only major con regarding bi-folding doors is that, as they are made up of a number of different panels, the gaps in the glass can break the view up when the doors are not folded back. They do, however, offer the advantage of opening up the whole side or back of your home when they are fully open and folded back. This is something simply not possible with a conventional french door and wall configuration. In terms of flexibility, french doors can also generally only be hung to open inwards or outwards, and that's about it. Bifold doors, however, can have a different number of door panels (as many as you'd like) and can be designed to all open in one direction, to open in the middle or in multiple other configurations to suit your individual needs and preferences. French doors might be better suited to older properties, as there are generally more options available regarding framing and styles of glass, but bifold doors are becoming more popular in older properties, even though they are perceived by many as a more modern alternative, especially in older homes with modern extensions.

The main benefit of french doors, meanwhile, is that they are generally more affordable and easy to install. Also, chances are you already live in a home that has a french door installed, in which case, removing the old door and installing a new one is a simple and cost-effective solution, whereas to install bifold doors would probably mean tearing out a rather large chunk of wall! Of course, we've only talked externally here. Internally, the differences matter a little less but are still comparable. For example, if you were considering replacing the french doors leading to your wardrobe or kitchen pantry with bifold doors, it wouldn't be half as complicated a job. Many of the pros and cons listed above would still apply, though, minus the 'lighting' and 'view' points of course. There's also the option of partitioning off your living room and kitchen/dining area with a set of bifold doors, but in this case, we honestly can't see any reason why you'd even consider french doors!

Bi fold doors versus sliding doors

While the differences between french doors and bifold doors are pretty cut and dry, when it comes to sliding doors, the differences are no so immediately obvious. They are there, however, and they are important. To begin with, sliding doors tend to be made up of larger panes of glass, which slide behind on another. They offer just as much of an open, outside view as bifold doors, but are also a little less secure, as they tend to only lock from one point, whereas bifold doors lock from multiple points. The way they are built also means that they will, unfortunately, provide an interrupted view of your garden, even when fully open, because one door slides behind the other so you can never fully open up your home to your garden. There's also a major aesthetic downside with sliding doors, in that they can’t open out completely, so the space between the inside and outside of your home will always be at least partially restricted. They also tend to have thicker frames in order to support larger glass panels, and these frames can be ugly and intrusive.

There are, however, a number of options available with sliding doors. For example, one door could slide behind the other door, or you could have two doors that open in the centre, sliding out over other fixed, outer panels. Due to the configuration of sliding doors, however, they can’t easily be installed into bays, so if you have a bay opening you need filling, bi-folding doors are generally a much better choice. Another major benefit of bifold doors, especially in an exterior configuration, is that, unlike with sliding doors and french doors, there is no lip on the door, with the track nearly flush to the floor. This means that there is a level threshold, and your exterior and interior will be flush with one another. If you've ever had the misfortune of tripping over the lip of a sliding door and landing on your face, you'll understand what a major benefit this really is!

In summary, bifold doors offer wider, clearer openings, a greater choice of options, the ability to easily install blinds (something we didn't touch on before, but is a major benefit), and give a wider opening when folded back. Compared to sliding doors, however, there is more framework and less glass, and structurally, the demands are far greater. Ultimately, both are wonderful options, though sliding doors might be seen as more 'traditional' by many, and would also work with blinds and even curtains. For our money, however, the sheer flexibility and sociability of bifold doors make them a safer and more desirable option.

Bifold Door Materials

There are three main types of bifold doors, here we'll be discussing the pros and cons of each. Remember also, that the material you choose for your doors, rather than the design or anything else, is likely to have the largest impact on the overall price. As you would expect, the quality of each material impacts on every aspect of the doors, from how they look, to their maintenance and longevity. Whatever option you choose, bifold doors will be the most expensive option (compared to sliding or french doors), and the material you choose for your bifold doors will have a huge impact on the price, simply because they are so much larger than the other options. But, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” rings truer here than perhaps anywhere else!

Aluminium – The strongest, and perhaps most popular choice. Depending on your budget, aluminium is definitely the best all-round choice for bifold doors, especially external bifold doors. The sheer strength of aluminium is its most obvious benefit, as the strength of the materials means the frames don't need to be quite as large, giving you more window space. It's also material that won't warp or bend when exposed to sunlight, so very little maintenance is required. Colour options are obviously a little more limited that with wood or UPVC, but they are nowhere near as limited as they used to be, and because they are more durable, they will look better, for longer, regardless of which colour you choose. The only real downside to aluminium bifold doors is the price, but when it comes to your home, why accept anything other than the best?

UPVC – If you’re in the market for a low-cost option that will require little maintenance, then UPVC (Unplasticised Polyvinyl Chloride) is a good choice. Longevity is an issue with this option, though, as they can start to look dodgy within just a few years, gaining a yellow tinge. Opting for low quality UPVC bi-folding doors can cost you more over time too, as UPVC isn’t the strongest material when compared to the other options. It can warp and bend over time, especially if exposed to sunlight. So. Whilst UPVC might seem like a cost-effective choice for bifold doors, if you're looking for exterior bifold doors, other materials will last for much longer. 

Wood – The wood used to build most bifold doors is generally timber, which is a very attractive wood that can be finished in a variety of stains or colours and still look surprisingly natural. The timber found in bi-fold doors is engineered from an 'engineered wood' made from a variety of different types of woods glued together in layers with polyurethane. This means the wood will be far more durable than conventional wood, though it will still retain some moisture, which can eventually lead to warping. Wooden bifold doors will also require more maintenance than aluminium doors, but a little less than UPVC.

Conclusions and final tips:

As you can see, bifold doors are a fine and smart alternative to french doors and sliding doors that shouldn't be overlooked just because they might end up setting you back a little more. Ultimately, it's a price that's worth it, and we promise you'll be enjoying them for years and years to come!