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Bi-fold Doors vs. Sliding Patio Doors: Which is Best?

Bi-fold doors vs sliding doors: what is the difference banner image

At Paradise Windows in Oxford, our customers often ask us about choosing bi-fold or sliding patio doors. Essentially, both types have their pros and cons. So deciding between the two styles can seem challenging. Available space, the layout of your property and your own needs, tastes and budget will all play their part in your decision.

Not so long ago, we wrote an article comparing French doors and sliding models. So we thought readers might like a similar post comparing bifold doors with sliding units.

What Are Sliding Patio Doors?

As frame profiles grow thinner and more technologically advanced runners make opening smoother, modern sliding doors are increasingly the smart choice for a seamless border with the outside world, whether you’re upgrading existing windows and doors or have a new-build home or extension.

Patio doors can also replace smaller, older units such as French doors or a single-panel back door to help bring the outside in.

When it comes to materials, take your pick from affordable uPVC or the slim sightlines of lightweight but long-lasting aluminium. Then, when it comes to colours, take your pick from smart white to stylish dark or trendy pastel shades. (Glossy black is also increasingly popular.)

These units tend to be back doors, typically overlooking a garden or patio area. With most models, one pane is fixed while the other slides over it.

Sliding doors suit similar spaces to bi-folding units, while the spaces they fit especially well tend to be bigger, than those for French doors. But because of this similarity with bifold models, choosing between the two is harder.

One thing you won’t have with patio doors is access to the full width of the opening; instead, you may have half the access. But you can add large fixed panels at the sides to maximise window spaces in very large areas, or choose to have more than one set of sliding doors.

What Are Bi-fold Doors?

In the same way as their sliding counterparts, these are typically back doors overlooking a patio or garden. And like patio doors, they can replace older smaller windows or doors, such as French doors, or a one-panel back door, blending the outside and inside perfectly.

While they can be used in differently sized spaces, they are great for larger areas.

Broadly speaking, the same range of colours and materials is available, with perhaps a slightly stronger preference for aluminium doors.

Unlike sliding patio doors, however, the way these units work, you have full access to the whole width of the space available when the doors are opened, so you couldn’t do any more to bring the outside indoors. (With sliding doors, of course, one panel remains fixed in place.)

Finally, bifold doors can go on both sides of your property, creating what’s called a ‘floating corner’, where two doors go at right angles to each other forming an apparently wall-less space.

Sliding Doors: the pros…

Firstly, let’s recap why sliding doors could be the perfect stylish addition to your property:

  • Ideal for larger spaces or homes or larger door openings
  • Replacing Windows: Patio doors make good replacements for smaller or outdated windows and doors, creating a wider glazed area that allows more natural daylight inside – you can also reposition your back door, say from the kitchen to the living room
  • Elegant & Stylish: These models look effortlessly stylish and elegant and are a particularly good idea if you do a lot of alfresco entertaining in the summer months or just like to let a summery breeze circulate when it’s warm
  • More Window, Less Frame: Compared to the multiple panels of bi-fold doors, you have a wider view on the outside world with a smaller area of frame blocking that, even though you lose some of the opening due to the fixed panel

..and some of the potential downsides

Sliding patio doors may not always be the best choice. Here are some considerations:

  • Extra panels and windows can be fitted on either side, but the two-panel set-up means French doors may not be the best option in larger spaces where you need an opening.
  • Smooth operation: These models may not always open as smoothly as sliding patio doors, which suit some householders better, especially the elderly or disabled.
  • Frame thickness: Typically, sliding doors have thinner frames than French doors. Of course, it depends on personal taste and style of building, but this is something to bear in mind.
  • Locking: You usually need a key to lock these doors, even from the inside. Some sliding models can only be locked from the inside, but no key is needed.

Advantages of Bi-folding Doors

Clearly, many of the points discussed above apply here. But to sum up, bifold doors:

  • Are easy to open and close, and give you access to the full extent of the opening
  • Enjoy the outdoors from inside: Allows you to sit inside and enjoy your garden
  • Are ideal for large spaces and where outside space is limited, since they fold to the side rather than opening inwards or outwards – these models can take up as much or as little spaces is available
  • Their thinner frames help maximise natural light
  • Once they are opened to their full extent, you create a sense of being outside… indoors!
  • Great for dining areas: Again these models are ideal when leading into or out of inside or outside dining areas

And what about the disadvantages?

When it comes to potential downsides, they can cost a little more, plus there are more panels, therefore you’re working with a larger frame area. And, like sliding patio doors, older models may eventually develop issues after years of use, although newer models typically offer better, longer-lasting performance.

In summary, bifold doors may offer more options for smaller spaces. However, sliding doors could be perfect if you’re lucky enough to have more space and want to maximise the natural light flooding your home. Equally, with their smaller frame areas, you’ll have a clearer, wider view of the outside world. The choice really is yours, and there are advantage and snags to both types.

In summary: the main differences

In summary, bifold doors may offer more options for smaller spaces. However, sliding doors could be perfect if you’re lucky enough to have more space and want to maximise the natural light flooding your home. Equally, with their smaller frame areas, you’ll have a clearer, wider view of the outside world. The choice really is yours, and there are advantage and snags to both types.

Looking for a New Set of Bi-fold or Sliding Doors?

At Paradise, we offer both types of doors in a range of styles and materials including uPVC and aluminium. Meanwhile, our Solidor composite French doors could be just what you are looking for if you need a smaller set of doors or to enhance a smaller space.

Get a free, no-obligation quote from us today and we’ll do the rest. We’re well placed to offer expert advice on what would best suit your home. Look forward to superlative customer service and high-performance products, from a highly reputable local provider, not to mention a 10-year guarantee on labour and parts.